Rick rolls Down Un­der

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RICK Ast­ley was first ‘‘ Rick­rolled’’ in 2008.

‘‘ I thought my friend was just tak­ing the p--- out of me, I didn’t un­der­stand,’’ says Ast­ley, one of Bri­tain’s big­gest, clean­est pop­stars of the ’ 80s to come from Stock, Aitken and Water­man’s song­writ­ing pur­ple patch.

For those join­ing us four years late, the Rick­roll phe­nom­e­non started as an in­ter­net meme bait- and- switch when peo­ple wanted to trick their friends with a hyperlink to some­thing sup­pos­edly rel­e­vant.

You click the link and BAM: all of a sud­den you’re watch­ing a vin­tage Ast­ley clip most likely Never Gonna Give You Up.

‘‘ What’s re­ally hard to fathom is be­ing the ‘ Rick’ in the Rick­rolling,’’ he laughs. ‘‘ For­give the pun but you just have to roll with it – it could have been any cheesy ’ 80s song.’’

But that’s where Ast­ley is wrong. The rea­son it took off is a com­bi­na­tion of a re­lent­lessly- pos­i­tive pitch, a con­crete ginger quiff, a sway­ing grey trench­coat and those wrig­gling- up- and- down- in- apleas­ant- shiver dance moves.

‘‘ There was one [ Rick­roll] where peo­ple edited Obama’s Speeches so he was singing Never Gonna Give You Up. Ge­nius,’’ Ast­ley says.

‘‘ And the kids study­ing at Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy in Bos­ton sent me a pic­ture of some­one who’d climbed on a huge fuel tank and put up the first seven notes to Never Gonna Give You Up. You have to be able to read mu­sic to un­der­stand the joke.’’

All this Rick­rolling means Ast­ley ( pic­tured), a well pre­served 46- year- old, is rel­e­vant again and tour­ing.

‘‘ I don’t know about that word you’ve cho­sen there, Mikey I don’t think I’m rel­e­vant,’’ he re­torts.

‘‘ Peo­ple don’t wanna hear a song I made last year.

‘‘ They just want to hear the hits and I’m to­tally fine with that.’’

His friends def­i­nitely still want to hear the hits as well, es­pe­cially on their wed­ding days.

But has he ever had a re­quest for his come­back sin­gle, of sorts, Cry For Help. ‘‘ No, not at a wed­ding, but I nearly did

Beauty and The Beast,’’ he re­calls. ‘‘ A friend of mine, who is a record pro­ducer, was get­ting mar­ried and his wife is a mas­sive Dis­ney fan. So we were go­ing through the reper­toire and he started

Beauty and The Beast.

‘‘ It’s such a great pop song and then we got to the cho­rus and we just looked at each other and said: ‘ We can’t do that’.

‘‘ I’ve played some swing sets at wed­dings too that was great fun.’’

And that’s ‘‘ swing sets’’, not ‘‘ swingers wed­dings’’ – it’s im­por­tant to make that clear.

The buoy­ant bouf­fant still ‘‘ pot­ters around with mu­sic’’ but quit the mu­sic busi­ness prop­erly 20 years ago, af­ter feel­ing dis­il­lu­sioned.

Ast­ley got tired of mim­ing his songs on TV shows in coun­tries he’d never heard of.

‘‘ Ob­vi­ously I’ve got an ego and love to be fa­mous for my own songs again but there’s a rea­son I quit. I got out of it be­cause I hated it,’’ he says, bristling. ‘‘ Even if my mu­sic ca­reer was to take off and they said: ‘ we wanna do a Take That with you’. Yeah right, you still need loads of ther­apy in the end!’’ So what has he been do­ing for 20 years? ‘‘ I haven’t got a great an­swer. I haven’t been build­ing schools in Africa,’’ he says.

‘‘ I’ve been one of the luck­i­est dads you can imag­ine, my par­ents di­vorced when I was re­ally young. And I’ve been there for peo­ple. That sounds pompous, but I don’t care what peo­ple think.

‘‘ I haven’t had a job, I haven’t been work­ing my ass off. Time is the ul­ti­mate com­mod­ity. Money buys you time. And that’s what it’s done for me.’’

In a way, Ast­ley has Rick­rolled the mu­sic in­dus­try he grew to de­test.

‘‘ A lot of it felt false and do­ing it by- thenum­bers. Yes, I wouldn’t swap it but a lot of it was so bor­ing. Now I’m get­ting my own back by play­ing live every­where I go.’’

Mikey Cahill re­ports

Rick Ast­ley is hav­ing the last laugh on the mu­sic in­dus­try he grew to de­test, as he tours on the back of his in­ter­net fame, as

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