NEW YORK — Most pop stars take some time before they hit the big time, putting out a few albums before one sticks. With Rick Astley, it took just his first song.
“With me, it’s like, song one — Boom! No.1 all over the world,” he says via Zoom. “I was just trying to write something that you could sing along to in the chorus.”
That album was 1987′s multi-platinum debut “Whenever You Need Somebody,” with, of course, that single “Never Gonna Give You Up” that went from radio earworm to internet prank sensation.
It’s been 35 years since Astley’s debut and BMG is marking the anniversary in May with a two-CD set and digital release that boasts the remastered original album plus B-sides, remixes and Astley’s own reimagined versions of the album’s original singles.
Astley was only 20 and 21 while recording “Whenever You Need Somebody” with the songwriting and record production trio known as Stock, Aitken and Waterman, who had crafted songs for Bananarama and Dead or Alive.
“I was just happy to be in a professional recording studio, making noises with guys who were having hit records,” says Astley, who came from a small town in the north of England. He knew nothing about the recording process. “I was inexperienced, I guess, and naïve.”
“Never Gonna Give You Up” spent two weeks at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and “Together Forever” spent a week atop the same chart. The songs “It Would Take A Strong Strong Man” and “She Wants To Dance With Me” also made it into the top 10. Listening to it again, the album fits today’s ‘80s-vibing, dance soundscape very well.
He would make more albums, leave the business for many years and then reemerge with the strong albums “50″ in 2016 and “Beautiful Life” in 2018, dogged by rick-rolling — when a promised link on a website turns out instead to be an Astley video — but making his peace with it.
Shortly after the anniversary release of his debut album, Astley will join New Kids on the Block, Salt-N-Pepa, and En Vogue for the 57-date “Mixtape 2022″ U.S. arena tour. He credits “Whenever You Need Somebody” for all of it, for basically making his career.
“The overwhelming thing is just gratitude. If I’m honest, it’s simply that. I’ve had a really nice, comfortable existence because I got to make a pop record in 1987.”
By MARK KENNEDY, AP Entertainment Writer