The Lancashire ’80s pop icon and the Stockport band made headlines last week when they appeared on stage together at Blossoms’ headline show at the O2 Kentish Town Forum in London to play surprise covers of The Smiths’ ‘Panic’ and ‘This Charming Man’, before announcing two special one-off tribute shows to the Manchester indie legends in London and Manchester.
Not long after, former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr gave his verdict on the stunt – describing their collaboration as “funny and horrible at the same time,” before adding that Blossoms failed to tell him about their gigs upon meeting and that he “had no problem” with covers or Astley. However, he did add that there was a “backstory” behind his grievance.
Now Astley, who adorned the cover of Morrissey’s 2013 re-release of ‘The Last of the Famous International Playboys’ in a photo of himself with the frontman taken backstage at Top Of The Pops in 1989, has revealed how the covers show idea came together.
Speaking to The Guardian, Astley said that he first met Blossoms when they played together with Noel Gallagher and Courteeners at the re-opening of Manchester Arena following the terror attack in 2017 before appearing on their Pubcast podcast. From there, their shared love of The Smiths emerged.
“My older brother Mike introduced me to the Smiths,” said Astley. “We’d been busking in Manchester, saw [bass player] Andy Rourke with his girlfriend and I’m ashamed to say followed him, because it was an actual, live human, from Manchester – a stone’s throw from us – who made music we loved. We shouldn’t have followed him around the Arndale centre … Christ knows what would’ve happened if we’d seen Johnny Marr or Morrissey…
“So I confessed: one day, I just want to do a gig where I sing my favourite Smiths songs, walk off stage and go: ‘Ticked that box. Thank you very much.’ A few weeks later, they sent a message: ‘We can be the other part of that equation’.”
On the topic of the pressure of the shows themselves, Astley continued: “I do understand that the Smiths mean an awful lot to people, so I don’t want to tread on that history. I know the words to pretty much every Smiths song. I’ll sing them in the shower, but it’s another thing in front of 2,500 people.
“Plus, the arrangements don’t go: intro, chorus, verse, bridge, chorus. They’re unconventional. I’ll have the words on a monitor. I’ll have a karaoke machine if I have to.”
Later in the interview, Astley gave Morrissey permission to cover his viral hit ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’, as well as adding: “I’m just paying homage to some amazing music that still means so much to a generation that I could be their dad.”
Earlier this week, Astley gave another interview where he compared Blossoms to The Smiths.
“The Smiths were everything,” he said. “They just did something that was completely different and it turned me on in a major way.
“What is amazing is that Blossoms do exactly the same and they weren’t even born. That just goes to show The Smiths could have passed on but their music would still be here.”
This comes after Morrissey’s website recently shared an opinion piece on the matter, in which one fan wrote: “Maybe Rick Astley will perform well in the upcoming shows, and perhaps they will be successful and enjoyed by fans – but make no mistake, no other artist can bring to the table what Morrissey can. (Let’s face it, there is a reason why artists today like Astley still cover and perform songs written by Morrissey).”
Astley is no stranger to such surprise rock n’ roll antics, having turned up to join Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl on stage at Club NME at London’s Moth Club in August 2019 to run through some Foos classics and a rendition of ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ – before doing the same at Reading Festival.
Blossoms and Rick Astley will perform the songs of The Smiths at Manchester’s Albert Hall on October 8 and London’s O2 Forum Kentish Town on October 9. Blossoms and Johnny Marr will also share a bill this weekend when they support Courteeners at Old Trafford in Manchester.