In Does Rock 'N' Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz a grizzled artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them. This week: Rick Astley
1: According to Noel Gallagher, what do you scribble under your ‘RICK ASTLEY’ dressing room door name sign at festivals?
“(Uproarious Laughter) How do you know that? Fucking hell! What I tend to do is I go around writing things under my own name because I think it’s funny, like ‘RICK ASTLEY….is a tit’ or whatever. Take your pick – there’s about five of them.”
CORRECT. He says you added ‘Is shit’ to your own name.
“It was at the re-opening of Manchester Arena, which we were both playing. He told me that he’d got a bollocking. The security guards came into his band’s dressing room and said, ‘Right you fuckers, who did this? That’s bullying!’, and I just had to explain ‘no, no, no -it was me’. There’s certain ‘80s people like Kim Wilde that I’m friendly enough with to write it under their name as well. We take the piss out of each other all the time.”
2: Morrissey’s re-issue of ‘The Last Of The Famous International Playboys’ features an image of Mozza and you backstage at Top Of The Pops. But which artist were you a replacement for?
“I was a big Smiths fan through one of my older brothers. ‘Cos they were from Manchester, down the road from us, they made you think ‘It can happen on your own terms, taking no prisoners.’ So that was pretty crazy. But I remember the photograph. Somebody came into my dressing room and said: ‘Morrissey wants to have his photograph with you’. I’m like (Disbelieving ) ‘Fuck off!’. Sure enough, he came to my room and we had a photograph and boom, that was it. I have an ambition which people would probably want to smash something or even throw-up upon hearing. I want to play a gig – probably in Manchester – where we only play Smiths songs. That would be a special evening. But then I’d also like to own a bar in Italy on the beach and just sing Sinatra songs when I’m old and grey, so I do have these flights of fancy.”
Morrissey’s cancelled his umpteenth recent UK tour, so now’s the time….
“I’m in! I’ll do it!”
3: What is the name of The Wonder Stuff track that references you?
“Awww…I’m not sure I could tell you. If you told me, I might be able to remember.”
WRONG. It was ‘Astley In The Noose’ (sample lyrics: ‘I wouldn’t kill you even if you paid me….from you and your peers it’s abuse to both my ears’)
“‘Astley In The Noose’. There you go. I do vaguely remember that – I’m not trying to actively not remember it. It’s a bit of a Smiths title, if you ask me.”
4: The BBC quiz Pointless gave 100 people 100 seconds to name as many things that Rick Astley is never gonna do. What was the best answer on the board?
“(Laughs) Out of the lyrics you mean? ‘Never gonna run around’.
WRONG. The best answer is ‘Tell a lie and hurt you’. Only 12 people knew that. 24 people knew ‘Run around and desert you’.
5: What did you film a commercial for in Japan?
“Ooh, I remember it well. I did four of them actually. It was Mitsuya cider, which was kind of like a lemonade. It’s got nothing to do with cider really.”
CORRECT. It contains “hajikeru powa” or “the power of fizziness”.
“We shot one at Liberace’s house in LA, one in Australia, one in the South of France and one, I think, in Japan. Believe me, it was like being in the movie Lost In Translation. When that film came out 20-or-so years later, my wife and I watched it and couldn’t believe it because it almost frame-for-frame like what happened to us.”
What was Liberace’s house like?
“It had a piano swimming pool. There’s no more that needs to be said.”
6: Which organisation did the Foo Fighters Rickroll in 2015?
“I can’t remember what the bleeding church is called and I’ve tried to not even think about them. So I’m going to say that church, and I think I deserve points for that.”
CORRECT. It’s the Westbro Baptist Church. As the ‘God Hates Fags’ prejudice-mongers picketed one of the band’s gigs, Dave Grohl and co cruised past on a pick-up truck blasting out ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’.
“I try not to get involved in it because I don’t want them having a go at me next.”
You were the teaboy at Stock, Aitken and Waterman who were synonymous with hi-NRG and worked with gay icons like Divine, Donna Summer and Kylie. What was the most brilliantly gay thing you witnessed there?
“To come from a really small working-class town like I did [Newton-le-Willows] and one of the first people you’re confronted with is Pete Burns, that felt like ‘What the hell?’. When I made tea for him and the rest of Dead Or Alive, he was this really amazing, witty, clever guy. He had an edge. My God, he was something to behold!”
7: Who wrote ‘The Love Has Gone’ from your debut album ‘Whenever You Need Somebody’?
“Oh sorry! (Laughs) Dick Spatsley.”
“I had this whole thing about people spelling and pronouncing my name wrong. I used to get called Lick Ashtray when I went to Japan. People trying to say Astley – even English people – would be calling me Ashley or Astree and all kinds of bleeding things. In the end, I just said ‘Right for one song, I’m just going to call myself Dick Spatsley.”
8: What number was ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ voted in VH1’s 50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs…Ever?
“(Sighs) I’ve got no clue so I’m gonna say six.”
WRONG. It was 28…
“Middle ground. Typical me!”
What do you think the number one was?
“Oh Christ, ‘99 Red Balloons?’”
It was Starship’s ‘We Built This City’
“They can’t have that at number one! I would challenge anybody born in any decade to have that song played extremely loudly in a field through a massive PA and not join in with everybody when they sing: ‘We built this city/We built this city on rock’n’roll.”
9: In Peter Kay’s Britain’s Got the Pop Factor… and Possibly a New Celebrity Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar Strictly on Ice, which fictional band did you duet with?
“They weren’t fictional by the way. They were very much real to me. I duetted with 2 Up 2 Down.”
“I’d met Peter Kay a couple of times and he said ‘I’m doing this thing – I’d love you to cameo in it’. I said ‘I’m in! I don’t care what it is’. He’s a genius. It was a surreal day. I’d got back from America the night before and my call-time was 5am. As I’m sat there eating toast in my dressing room, there’s a knock on the door and Peter’s stood there in just his underpants and an open dressing gown. I thought ‘This day’s just got better already!’.”
10: Which blockbuster film did you turn down the opportunity to sing the theme tune to?
“Which I still don’t regret doing. At the time, Roy Orbison had only just passed. It felt like hallowed ground and something I needed to be careful about, so I said no. Also, when they explained the story – “So it’s about a billionaire who meets a hooker….’ – you’re like ‘That’ll do! I don’t need to hear anymore thanks!’. (Laughs) When it became one of the biggest films of that decade, part of me thinks ‘Hmmn, maybe I should have sung it and bugger whether it was an all-time classic’. But I’m glad I didn’t because you never know how it would have turned out. If I’d done it and it had become the biggest song ever, the risk is that every sentence that’s ever mentioned about that film is: ‘Yeah but wasn’t Astley’s version of that song shit?!’”
The verdict: 7/10
“I’ll take that.”