x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Rick Astley's surprise Dubai comeback

The singer, featured at this weekend's 80s Rewind Festival concert along with ABC, Howard Jones, Heaven 17 and T'Pau, tells us what it's like to be rick rolled.

"You have some children ... and you realise that you don't want to be that guy that is running around," says Rick Astley of his 1993 retirement. Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images

The emails began five years ago.

Rick Astley began receiving YouTube links from American friends where clips randomly broke into the video of the pop singer's 1987 signature hit Never Gonna Give You Up.

"I just didn't understand why they were sending me my own videos," he recalls.

"A friend would email me a video of the Super Bowl winning point or something and then suddenly my video just comes on. It was just a bit weird."

In short, Rick Astley just got rick rolled: an internet phenomenon that began in 2007. More than 18 million people took the bait.

Not that he minded. Astley was already into his second stint as a solo artist after emerging from a near decade-long retirement in 2002.

The growing popularity of rick rolling resulted in a career resurgence for the Lancashire-born singer, propelling him to headline 1980s music festivals and solo shows across Europe, America and Australia.

Astley is scheduled to make his UAE debut on Friday with the 80s Rewind concert alongside his former pop competitors Howard Jones, ABC, Heaven 17 and T'Pau.

"I was already comfortable singing again when rick rolling came along," he states. "It only did me favours as it introduced me to young people instead of mums listening while ironing the clothes."

Astley's dry wit and affable demeanour stem from a man who is enjoying his career. While he dominated the late 1980s with two albums that spawned hits - which, alongside Never Gonna Give You Up, included Together Forever and Whenever You Need Somebody - Astley was less than content.

The incessant touring and media schedule associated with a global superstar proved too much for someone whose first taste of the music industry was as a drummer for a local soul band.

"In a way, you feel like an athlete because you have a small window of opportunity," he says. "During that time you have to give it your all and every waking moment of your life. You would spend hours doing interviews or running from this show to that and your mind just becomes numb."

The birth of his daughter Emilie in 1992 pushed Astley to quit his career a year later at the age of 27.

While his fourth album, 1993's Body & Soul, was considered a flop, Astley's decision to retire shocked the music industry, which expected the still-young singer to bounce back. However, Astley was more realistic about his prospects.

"What happens, especially in pop music, is that you are the flavour of the month, which in my case lasted five years," he says. "And then you have some children and you become more comfortable and you realise that you don't want to be that guy that is running around doing every single thing. But when that happens, there is always a new young artist just behind you that is ready to do everything just like you did."

Astley describes recent tours as less hectic affairs, with crowd expectation now replaced with friendly nostalgia.

"Back then it was so much pressure because you wanted people to like you," he says. "Crowds now don't come with the attitude of, 'Are you as good as the artist we saw last week?'"

As for the rick rolling movement, Astley publicly acknowledged its effect when participating in a real-life rick roll in front of stunned New Yorkers as part of the 2008 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

"That was a bizarre experience. I was on a bus with SpongeBob SquarePants," he laughs.

"It was a lot of fun and, honestly, I got paid a lot of money to do it."

80s Rewind featuring Rick Astley, T'Pau, ABC, Heaven 17 and Howard Jones will be held tomorrow at Festival Park, Dubai Festival City. Doors open at 5pm, show starts at 8pm. Tickets start at Dh295 and can be purchased online at www.timeouttickets.com

sasaeed@thenational.ae

80s Rewind

Rick Astley is not the only Eighties star coming to Dubai. He will be joined by four other artists encompassing the glitter and glamour of the era.

T'Pau The name may refer to the UK pop-rock group but in reality, the moniker is used by the sole remaining member, Carol Decker. Which is not a bad thing really: the singer has been the face of the album covers and star of the video clips. While the band released four albums (their last album, Red, came out in 1998), their 1987 debut Bridge of Spiesbecame their calling card with the hits China in Your Hand, Heart and Soul and I'll Be with You.

ABC Also falling victim to their own success, this synth-pop group hit the bullseye with their 1982 debut The Lexicon of Love, which was home to the smash hits Poison Arrow, The Look of Love and Tears Are Not Enough. The band struggled to reach similar peaks with follow-up releases. The singer Martin Fry is the only original member left.

Howard Jones The English singer-songwriter who mixed bright pop hooks with chilly synth sounds, Howard Jones arrives with his own string of hits including Like to Get to Know You Well, Pearl in the Shell and What is Love. Jones also had some success behind the scenes, writing hit songs for the German dance group Propaganda and joining Ringo Starr as part of his All Starr touring band.

Heaven 17 If they sounded like Human League, that is totally understandable. Glenn Gregory (pictured) and Martyn Ware formed the group after acrimoniously leaving Human League to gain more creative freedom. With Gregory on vocals, the trio scored a few hits, including Temptation and Come Live with Me, but the band never reached the success of Human League.