RICK ASTLEY’S comeback has caught the public imagination.
From a No1 album and sold-out dates to joining Foo Fighters on stage and the Rickrolling phenomenon, the Eighties star was welcomed back by fans with open arms.
Rankin After the success of 50 Rick Astley says: ‘I’ve definitely had a lift, thinking, ‘It’s all right, loads of people like the last one so let’s push the boat out a bit and turn up the tempo’
Beautiful Life proves that his previous album, 2016’s 50, was no fluke. Astley still has more to give.
Again, the former Stock Aitken Waterman alumnus made the record on his own at his Surrey home — v. He produced the record too.
“I’m really proud of it,” says Astley over lunch at a South London restaurant.
“I did talk to my label about whether this was the time to approach some bigger song-writers but after I’d finished touring — and my wife Lene, who is also my manager was away — I went into my home studio to just chill out and worked on some ideas. Those ideas became this album.”
Joanne Davidson/SilverHub / Rex Features Rick looks much the same as he did when his career was launched more than 30 years ago
When I meet Astley, he is just back from doing promotional work in Berlin.
Dressed in a dark shirt and shades, he looks much the same as he did when his career was launched more than 30 years ago — with just a few more wrinkles and laughter lines.
It might be a bit pretentious sometimes, but you have to go, ‘I’m an artist and I’m going to do what I’m going to do’.
If the platinum-selling 50 marked the first phase of Astley’s comeback, is Beautiful Life his proverbial “difficult second album” — though it is his ninth studio album?
The chatty singer says: “Don’t get me wrong, I’ve definitely had a lift, thinking, ‘It’s all right, loads of people like the last one so let’s push the boat out a bit and turn up the tempo’.
Rick Astley – Never Gonna Give You Up (1987)
But if you start thinking about it too much, you start making a record for everyone else.
“Sometimes bands fall foul because everything has gone well and they include similar-sounding tracks.
“But I’m a Northerner so I can see a half-empty glass any day of the week.
“I’m a realist and can see a grey moment in the sky when no one else can.
Rankin Rick believes the strength of second comeback album Beautiful Life is that ‘I made this record how I wanted it’
“So it might be a bit pretentious sometimes, but you have to go, ‘I’m an artist and I’m going to do what I’m going to do’.
“I believe the strength of this record is that I made this record how I wanted it.”
Beautiful Life is a hugely personal work for the Merseysider, with songs about Lene and their daughter Emelie.
Astley says: “My wife has been instrumental in everything — and being a believer. She had more faith in my songs than me. So that has been amazing. And my daughter, who is at university in Copenhagen, has been so supportive.”
Astley, 52, met Lene Bausager, a Danish film producer, 30 years ago while she was working at his record label.
Rick Astley’s new single – Keep Singing
He says: “The song She Makes Me really means something to me lyrically. And I’m not ashamed of saying I cry when I’m writing sometimes.
“She’s an amazing woman who I’m lucky to have married. Without her I wouldn’t be here talking to you, as she really believed in me.
“There’s another song on the new album called Try, which is about giving it a go. I credit Lene for her role.
“If I hadn’t made 50 — or what I call ‘my midlife-crisis album’ and gone to see my record label BMG, I would’ve tried to put out the record myself for a few fans on the internet. But I didn’t and I’m so thankful.
Getty – Contributor Rick Astley, 52, met Lene Bausager, a Danish film producer, 30 years ago and says she has been instrumental in believing in his comeback material
“There’s a line in Try that says, ‘All you’ve to lose is pride’. A lot of people are probably quite scared, nervous to try again.
“There is a bit too much pride in music sometimes. I’ve got an ego — I have to have one to do what I do — but I have to let go of it sometimes.
“When my ego is getting out of control, I start thinking about jet-washing my wheelie-bins. That brings me right down.”
When my ego gets out of control I think about jet-washing my wheelie bins
Astley says he never takes any of his success for granted.
“I’ve been relevant and I’ve been irrelevant, so now it’s all about enjoying it,” he says with a smile.
“I’ve had a pretty amazing life and I’ve been lucky. The last two years have been crazy and I’m grateful. That’s what the song Beautiful Life is about.
“When we learned 50 was going to be a hit, we were amazed. How could we possibly have a Top Ten record? That was nuts.
Getty – Contributor Beautiful Life is Rick’s ‘difficult second album’ at the same time as being his ninth studio album
“Then it was No1, which was bizarre. When we found out, our kitchen had flooded. So there were four of us in the kitchen, celebrating with a really nice bottle of Italian wine while we mopped the floor.”
Astley has just announced a new UK arena tour for November.
Fans who haven’t seen him play live should be prepared to laugh between songs at his funny stories.
He says: “When we play the old songs, I’m almost painfully honest with the audience that we are all older and are here to remember what it was like back then. The crowds seem to enjoy it. I’ve got a brilliant band so it’s a real mix. It goes down well.”
Rankin Astley has sold more than 40million records worldwide and Never Gonna Give You Up was No1 in 25 countries
For Astley, it was vital to strike a balance between old and new on Beautiful Lie.
He says: “I am very aware of writing uptempo songs without trying to be ‘young’. I write songs and sit back with my producer, head-on.
“Sometimes I’ll go for walks and listen to a rough demo and make sure I’m not trying too hard or forcing it. I love rock music but I’d never make a rock record.
“I was brought up on prog rock. The first gig I ever went to was Camel at the Free Trade Hall In Manchester.
“I am more experimental on this album. Rise Up shows our funkier side and Shivers has a contemporary feel, which I struggled with for a while. But radio is a real mix these days.
Getty – Contributor Rick enjoyed huge international success over the next five years but retired at 27, disillusioned with the music business
“In America, they have adult contemporary stations with Justin Bieber all over it!”
Album closer The Good Old Days references Rick Wakeman, The Beatles, Elton John and Queen.
Astley says: “I was brought up in a family with two older brothers and an older sister. We had one record player and used to fight over music. I wanted to play The Jungle Book and my sister wanted Rick Wakeman.”
Astley has sold more than 40million records worldwide and Never Gonna Give You Up was No1 in 25 countries.
He enjoyed huge international success over the next five years but retired at 27, disillusioned with the music business.
He says: “I’m older now and I know what I want and don’t want to do. Back then, I was thrust straight into this other world.
“I enjoyed it but when I had the huge success, I was being taken to Michelin-starred restaurants where I didn’t know which fork to pick up.
Rick admits that at the height of his celebrity ‘It got to the point where I said, ‘What the hell am I doing? I don’t want to do this any more
“I spent most of my time doing interviews, miming on TV and sometimes taking three flights a day. It got to the point where I said, ‘What the hell am I doing? I don’t want to do this any more’.
“But I never fell out of love with music.”
Astley has enjoyed playing some of the big festivals and a high point came last August at Japan’s Summer Sonic festival when Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl invited him on stage with them.
“That was madness,” he laughs.
“I didn’t know what was happening. We’d played much earlier in the day and I really wanted to see the Foos, so I found a nice spot at the side of the stage.
“I was jetlagged and enjoying a beer and watched the band. Then Dave Grohl started coming towards me, so I looked around wondering who he knew.
Rick says, ‘There will be a point when I think, ‘I’m done with this. But until then, I’m enjoying every minute of it’
He came over, gave me a big hug and whispered, ‘We’re going to play Never Gonna Give You Up but play it like Smells Like Teen Spirit’.
“I thought to myself, ‘Come on, you motherf***er!’ but ended up screaming that to 50,000 people in a baseball stadium.
Getty – Contributor Dave Grohl said to Rick, ‘We’re going to play Never Gonna Give You Up but play it like Smells Like Teen Spirit’
“It was so surreal and very special and I’m glad I’d had a beer or two.
“We went for drinks with them and my band were playing with the Foos in the warm-up room.
“I had no idea clips of us singing had been picked up and were on the internet. Overnight my phone melted.”
The Rickrolling meme — directing unsuspecting web users to a video of Astley’s 1987 megahit — bolstered his profile too and has even been used to prank Barack Obama.