His first single, Never Gonna Give You Up, hit No. 1 in 16 countries including Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Australia and the U. In Britain—his home turf—it was the biggest-selling single of 1987. The album, Whenever You Need Somebody, debuted at No. 1 on the British charts. So why hasn’t anyone sent Rick Astley his copy of the 1987-88 Rules for Quickie Hitdom and Pouty Pop Posturing?
Violation No. 1: The big-voiced 22-year-old doesn’t like to have his picture taken. “Don’t feel confident about it,” he says in his thick Lancashire accent. “It’s not really me. All I have done is played the drums, become a singer, blah-dee-blah, gone through the process of record companies, blah-dee-blah, and all of a sudden you’ve got to have your photo taken all the time.”
Violation No. 2: He’s shy and doesn’t take himself too seriously. “People say, ‘Oh, Rick Astley, blah-dee-blah, isn’t he a big star?’ But I don’t think it’s altered me personality.”
Violation No. 3: Astley doesn’t take his music too seriously, either. “Blah-dee-blah,” he shrugs, sounding a little like Annie Hall redux. “It’s me first album, and I’m not particularly trying to put any messages across. I’m not Peter Gabriel. We can’t all be.” Heresy.
A Background Break: The first-time offender, whose second single, “Together Forever,” has also gone to No. 1, was born Richard Paul Astley in the Lancashire town of Newton-le-Willows, not far from Liverpool. His father, who ran a garden center, and his mother were divorced when Rick was 5. Always musical, Rick took up the drums at 15 and joined a band, where he was content to stay in the background. Just before Christmas ’85, producer Pete Waterman heard the then 19-year-old singer in a working-class club in Lancashire. “He had a phenomenal voice,” says Waterman, who has produced albums for Bananarama, among others. “It was like hearing a 40-year-old black man while seeing this 19-year-old white, pimply kid.” Waterman signed Astley and tutored him in songwriting and performing for 10 months before starting work on the LP.
Violation No. 4: He stands by his longtime girlfriend. Astley shares a two-bedroom London flat with Jackie Price, 22, whom he’s dated for years. He says he believes in high fidelity. Besides, he adds, “I am very shy with girls.”
Violation No. 5: Demonstrates wide-eyed enthusiasm for his success. “You know, it’s brill,” Astley marvels. “Really. You can’t compete.” No blah-dee-blahs attached.