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Web Scout exclusive! Rick Astley, king of the 'Rickroll,' talks about his song's second coming

01:37 PM PT, Mar 25 2008
Astley in London in November 2007. (Photo courtesy of TD Promotions)

Astley talks about discovering the "Rickroll"

On a frosty Canadian morning, a masked crusader tromps across a parking lot, over a snow bank and onto the sidewalk. He has a loudspeaker strapped ominously to his chest.

He halts, aiming the speaker toward the building across the street. “This is a song by some dead guy,” he says. And then, music booms forth:

“Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and desert you.”

It’s an anti-Scientology protest, and across the street, a dozen or so warmly dressed young people begin to dance and sing along, waving their picket signs in rhythm to the familiar tune.

“It’s a bit spooky, innit?” said Rick Astley, the singer who made the song famous in 1987 and who is not dead. With considerable help, including assists from RCA Records, the webmaster of Astley’s U.K. fan site, and his manager at Sony BMG, I tracked down Astley at his home in London last weekend. He spoke for the first time about the phenomenon called Rickrolling, best described by example: You are reading your favorite Hollywood gossip blog and arrive at a link urging you to “Click here for exclusive video of Britney’s latest freakout!!” Click you do, but instead of Britney, it’s a dashing 21-year-old Briton that pops onto the screen. You, sir, have been Rickroll’d.

Over the last year or so, Astley has watched with puzzled amazement as “Never Gonna Give You Up” has been mocked, celebrated, remixed and reprised, its original music video viewed millions of times on YouTube, all by a generation that could barely swallow its Gerber carrots when the song first topped the pop charts.

“I think it’s just one of those odd things where something gets picked up and people run with it,” Astley said. “But that’s what's brilliant about the Internet.”

Saying he thought "Anonymous" Rickrolling Scientology was "hilarious"

Search for Astley’s name on YouTube and you’ll find dozens of instances of the campy, infectious video, which features a heavily coiffed Astley bobbing and swaying behind oversized sunglasses. He’s flanked by two blond backup dancers (one of whom apparently didn’t have the footwork down), and a male bartender in short shorts who excels at spontaneous back flips.

Rickrolling is an example of an Internet “meme” (defined by Wikipedia as “any unit of cultural information ... that gets transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another"). Its less sophisticated memetic forebear is the “duckroll,” where the roll-ee is misdirected to an image of a duck on wheels. And the Rickroll has sired many memelets, including the Fresh Prince roll, the rainroll (plopping you in front of a video of Tay Zonday’s "Chocolate Rain") and even the Reichroll, where Astley’s song is spliced with footage of Adolf Hitler for an unsettling sort of lip sync.

With all the online momentum it’s gathered, the Rickroll has now trundled its way into the real world, too. The spectacle of trench-coated pranksters blaring the song into unsuspecting crowds has become a symbol of harmless, geeky rebellion. As the blog LAist.com noted last week, and the New York Times reported Tuesday, a recent basketball game at Eastern Washington University was interrupted by a dancing Astley imitator, and there’s now a small YouTube library of the anti-Scientology group “Anonymous” Rickrolling different church locations.

Why have people picked up on the song so much?

For his part, Astley was nothing if not modest about his new cultural role. “If this had happened around some kind of rock song, with a lyric that really meant something -- a Bruce Springsteen, "God bless America" ... or an anti-something kind of song, I could kind of understand that,” Astley said. “But for something as, and I don’t mean to belittle it, because I still think it’s a great pop song, but it’s a pop song; do you know what I mean? It doesn’t have any kind of weight behind it, as such. But maybe that’s the irony of it.”

Astley would never put the song down, mind you. It’s just that, as he says, “If I was a young kid now looking at that song, I’d have to say I’d think it was pretty naff, really.”

(Wikipedia on “naff”: British slang for “something which is seen to be particularly ‘cheesy’ or ‘tacky’ or in otherwise poor aesthetic taste.”) “For me it’s a good example of what some of the ’80s were about in that pop sort of music way. A bit like you could say Debbie Gibson was absolutely massive, but if you look back at it now ... do you know what I mean?”

Yes, I think we do. But even still, with all the renewed attention to his work and his — albeit 20-year-old — image, does Astley have any plans to cash in on Rickrolling, maybe with his own YouTube remix?

“I don’t really know whether I want to be doing that,” he said. “ I’m not being an ageist, but it’s almost a young person’s thing, that.”

“I think the artist themselves trying to remix it is almost a bit sad,” he said. “No, I’m too old for that.”
Astley, who will be touring the U.K. in May with a group of other ’80’s acts, including Bananarama, and Nick Heyward, Heaven 17, Paul Young and ABC, sums up his thoughts on his unexpected virtual fame with characteristic good humor:

“Listen, I just think it’s bizarre and funny. My main consideration is that my daughter doesn’t get embarrassed about it.”

Are you going to try to capitalize on the whole thing?

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» Rick Astley is a Dignified Elder Statesman of Pop Music from Stupidfool.org
I love Rick Astley even more after reading his thoughts on Rickrolling in this LA Times interview. “Listen, I just think it’s bizarre and funny. My main consideration is that my daughter doesn’t get embarrassed about it.” The thing is,... [Read More]

I'm surprised that no mention is made of Nick Lowe's song "All Men Are Liars", which makes fun of Rick Astley's song. From memory:
Do you rememeber Rick Astley
He had a big old hit it was ghastly
He said: I'm never gonna give you up or let you down
I'm here to tell you that Dick's a clown

The refrain-
All men, all men are liars
Their words aren't worth no more than worn-out tyres
Hey girls, bring rusty pliers to pull this tooth,
All men are liars, and that's the truth

(All misrememberings or misspellings are mine and mine alone)

This is hilarious. Great find, LAT. =P

All the links here should be rick roll ones......... lol, I was so surprised seeing this as the headline... Rock on... or should I say Rick on......
I dont think the internet is going to give you up for a while.
I am happy to hear about this.

@Joseph Piantadosi

Why on earth are you surprised no one mentioned that? WTF?

I'm surprised no one mentioned Sympathy for the Devil, because that's my favorite Stones song.

We're no strangers to love
You know the rules and so do I
A full commitments what I'm thinking of
You wouldn't get this from any other guy

I think Rick Astley is a pretty cool guy. Eh makes good pop music and doesn't afraid of anything

@ Elmo Hutchinson


I just wanna tell you how Im feeling
Gotta make you understand....


Never gonna give you up
Never gonna let you down


Awesome interview. Great job tracking him down.

The people I work for -are- strangers to love. :(

Rick Astley is a great guy. Here's an interview with him back in 1987.


Long live the King!!

i think rick astley is a pretty cool you wouldnt get this from any other guy and doesnt afraid of anything

These audio clips are decent, but this video clip of Rick explain the rickroll is better - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHg5SJYRHA0

What about me guise?

I heard he likes mudkips c/d?

Here's what has to be my favourite Rickroll remix- Rickroll + Chrono Trigger: http://rickrobo.ytmnd.com/

EDITORIAL INTRUSION: This is David Sarno (the author of the post) speaking. I'm approving this comment with a serious caveat. The rickroll this commenter has posted is vicious, and will take over your browser. But I have to approve it for journalistic reasons because it's so extreme.

http://smouch.net/lol/ is the best of all the rick rolls

Holy crap at that vicious rickroll. You weren't kidding about it taking over the browser. WHY DID I CLICK.

On the other hand, very cool to see Rick Astley finally commenting on the rickroll - everyone's been dying to hear his thoughts!

I'm glad that Mr. Astley doesn't mind us using his song for his protests. It is nice to see how he sort of gets the whole rickroll thing by not taking himself too seriously. The video is so silly and so full of 80s cheese that it's funny and absurd. The song gets more absurd when blasted in the context of a semi-serious protest. Dadaism at its finest.

Also the song gets more addicting the more you listen. Magic, I tell you.

We are Anonymous
We are Legion
We will groove to the Battle Hymn of the Rickpublic.
Expect us.

Great interview. I'm tempted to take a weekend trip to England timed to this gig now.

By the way this video is pretty mad, almost unreal: http://youtube.com/watch?v=EeuEMeg8eQE

We should like Rickroll a big football match or something like that, with xenu and the trimmings.

Personally, it started out as kinda ironic but I like this song a lot now, and I got the Greatest Hits album.

Nice get, LA Times! This will be linked everywhere. Your team must be proud.

While I can't speak for people who originally popularized the rickroll, I find that "Never Gonna iGive You Up" is a pop song that gets stuck in your head like no other. When you get roll'd, the song can be stuck in your head for days.

Plus, it takes a long time for most people to start to like it, you need to slowly build a tolerance to the rickroll. It's not a song that has aged well.

Ohmigosh! Someobody get him to rickroll the Co$ in real life! That would be epic!

Anonymous is pretty psyched that Rick gets it.


the fresh-prince roll, is called a bel-air, get it right

LOLOLOL I got rickrolled at the $.99 cent store a couple of days ago. Now I'm wondering if it was done on purpose.

L.A times , great article.

Rick finally acknowledges us .
A proud day for Anonymous everywhere.
Will Rick be coming along to the Operation Reconnect protests to sing live?
He knows the game and he's gonna play it.

This i must say is amazing.

Too bad the Bel Air roll came before Rickroll ever did.

No, it's called a fresh prince roll. Bel-airing is the first factor, rickrolling the second, with the product being a Fresh Prince Roll.

Bel-airing is reserved for the isolated form of the gag, as when combined it takes on a new identity. This might come in contrast to the beliefs of a couple of guys who were up to no good startin making trouble in my neighborhood I got in one little fight and my mom got scared she said 'You're movin' with your auntie and uncle in Bel Air' I whistled for a cab and when it came near the license plate said fresh and it had dice in the mirror. If anything I can say this cab is rare, but I thought 'Now forget it' - 'Yo homes to Bel Air' I pulled up to the house about 7 or 8 and I yelled to the cabbie 'Yo homes smell ya later.' I looked at my kingdom, I was finally there to sit on my throne as the Prince of Bel Air.

Rick, please come play at one of the protest and do a real life RickRoll - that would be epic!

Awesome. Rick actually likes the Rickroll! I knew that guy was cool. Maybe this new found fame will cause a comeback!

GET HIM TO 12/04/08

Isn't Paul Young dead?

Maybe we could hire Rick to do this.

Rick Astley touring.
Next Stop:
Clearwater Florida, at the 'Operation Reconnect' festival.

You forgot to ask him if he had been successfully rick rolled. This is a failure I can not forgive.

Otherwise, awesome interview!

i got Rickrolled at a pub in Newtown Sydney.
it was disturbing...

Nice guy he is

Good job!

I think that this is an attempt to go against how formulaic and repetitive that song is. And why Rick Astley wanted to get away from the Stock/Aitken/Waterman sound to go for more mature pop fare. I like that he's touring again with Bananarama, ABC and others. Yes, to look back, but these artists still record and think forward in 2008. They might perform some new songs in their show. You see, '80s artists liked to sing about the future 20 years or so ago. Their willingness to think ahead and come up with new music backs up their stance.

I thought rickrolling could have been inspired by the Back to the Future Family Guy episode. Also nice to see he grew into his hair. :-)

It dated badly, and is possibly the cheesiest and most embarassing pop video of all time, the song is terrible but catchy. Similar to "you just lost the game", "you are now blinking manually", or "the final countdown is now playing in your head", a rickroll is the ultimate link you didn't want to click.

Hey Rick.

Red Ninja Anonymous here.

You know, you should seriously come out and do a live performance with us on 12th of April, 2008, as we try to reconnect families that have been forced apart by Scientology. Although the main purpose of the protest would be to get families back together, we would love for you to sing us your song and get the most epic Rick Roll of the century.

You live in London. Just take the Tube down to Blackfriars, no big deal.

Hope to see you there (although I doubt you'll read this).



'He halts, aiming the speaker toward the building across the street. “This is a song by some dead guy,” he says.'

Perfect! That is about how accurate Anonymous is about Scientology too.

But who needs truth when we have LULZ (and tubgirl).

Its really nice to hear that he has a solid grasp on it. I think perhaps many other artist's might try to directly capitalize, as opposed to taking in it in stride and with a sense of humor.

"It dated badly, and is possibly the cheesiest and most embarassing pop video of all time"

This must be the only music video from the 80s you have ever seen. This is TAME by that decade's standards, I assure you. At least he's not wearing tiger makeup and dance-fighting in a fake jungle...

Good to see that he is a good sport about this. Nice looking out for his daughter too. :-)
The song is so cheesy.

To have a good sense of humor about this is extremely classy. He's obviously taking the right perspective and just enjoying the ride!

Dude! Rick Astley is awesome! Tell me this man can't sing! Lord have mercy, he's a crooner extraordinaire!


Right on, Rick! Great attitude and humor over the rickrolling, I'm impressed. Nice that you sniffed him out of seclusion for the interview, cheers.

Well researched Mr. Sarno, I hate it when people in the media act like an authority on internet culture when they've immersed themselves in it with a quick Google search and read the first page.

Welcome to the club.

Original anon here from when we first split off from Futaba Channel. I'm not as much of an active anon as I once was, but I'm very pleased to hear this. Although already an old hand by the time rickrolling occured, I supported rickrolling, and I've done my share on the tube and elsewhere. I prefer to keep my channian doings anon though, so I don't really archive them. I will say this, half the known waha shops are mine. I've been a journalist myself, I'm currently an English teacher. ^_~

Oh, and, thrust vectoring owns the sky, Rick Astley can turn on a dime, Macross Zero style.

Anon salutes Rick.

Also, great article.

the anonymous-rickroll selection in halifax wasn't really the best.


you know the above link must have to do with britney spears.

It's like something that is so silly that it catches on -- like Hula Hoops.

That Rick is being used to try to stop Scientology's crimes and abuses makes it all the more amusing.

Actually, the joke in that Family Guy episode WAS a Rickroll, it's certainly not the origin.

I see Rickroll as the worst switch of you didn't want to see, topping goatse and tubgirl and lemonparty and the sort. At least goatse doesn't earworm you three f****n days straight. Never gonna give you up . . .


No, Cracky owns the sky.

lol i haet pizza

i desperately want rick to team up with some innovative producer like rick rubin or nigel godrich and make an incredible come-back album, that is actually truly GOOD, not tongue-in-cheek or "american idol".

i really think this guy could make an amazing album if he went that angle.

Hmmm - 2 girls and a RickRoll.....

There's only one thing, Joseph Piantadosi, and that's that no one knows who Nick Lowe is, and no one cares. Why? Because "Nick Lowe" will never attain the type of fame that Astley has enjoyed, twenty years ago and now. He/she is a nobody. Astley, however, has created a hit which has managed to resurrect itself 20 years later. A timeless classic, I would say.

YES! I love that you interviewed Rick Astley for this. Long live the Rickroll!

amazing song, painful video, which is hardly his fault.

wtf with the Mom Jeans, though, Rick? and your sexy goddess in her Ross Dress For Less sale rack separates? and the totally out of place spandex-sporting bartender doing gymnastics? gah! make it stop!

the RickRoll is supposed to be a kind of gentle, hilarious torture, i think, and it always works.

the tour sounds AWESOME, though...

This is EPIC, the internet has been clamouring for this !!!
I'm making a note here, huge success.

this is strange. anonymous is getting national-wide attention. i think this is wrong somehow, i dont know why.

Check out the latest in rickroll technology! Send this link to your friends for ultimate lulz.

good on him for taking it with a grain of salt and coming off with alot of class the man seems to be a real class act

And don't you know why I'd move heaven and earth? To be together forever with you!

And just thought a few years ago, I would be quoting Rick Astley's lyrics and 80% of the people had a clue who he was. And now I can sing Never Gonna Give You Up and people would either tell me to shut the hell up or sing along. Haha!

My tween years (in a Brit-influenced country) was all about Rick Astley, Jason Donovan, and Kelly Minoque, and Bananarama, thank you very much.

Yup, it's all about the irrelevance. I this pair is by fair the best example:


The above is mixture of sensationalized and plain made up info about anonymous. You've got to admire the way their images of the internet zoom round in 3D. Serious Business indeed. And why do you seem to own a high definition copy of the original "bomb threat" Scientology?

The response?


Somehow it brings things into perspective in a way even a detailed, point by point, refutal could never do.

You gotta admit... Rick Astley's voice is better than Robbie Williams, Simply Red, and Paul Young put together. I mean, how does a voice that low come out of a man that British and small?...

"I... just wanna tell you how I'm feeling!!!..."

Does being a cynic make you feel grown up?

The talk about the lack of "depth" of Astley's songs (or any pop songs, 80's or otherwise) reminds me of Paul McCartney's response to being criticized for only writing silly love songs.

I'll leave to you to guess what he did.

Check out the London anti-Corporation of Scientology rickroll. It's pretty epic. <3


Now Buffalo Wild WIngs has one of these sites up...you can have a set of twins call your friends and invite them to go eat buffalo wings, hilarious. www.wildmessages.com

NY Times ran a retraction. It was a fake video they referenced.

I think the funniest thing to come of this meme is this new idea from blogger David Friedman (www.ironicsans.com):

Idea: The Wikroll

A Wikroll is when a person rudely interrupts an on-line conversation to provide a link that seems to have nothing to do with the topic at hand, claiming that it goes to the video for Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” But the link actually goes to a Wikipedia article that adds relevant insight to the discussion.

For example, lets say I write a blog post about macaroni which prompts discussion in the comments about the origins of macaroni and the best tasting brand of macaroni. Then someone leaves this comment:

" Hey, everyone. I really like that Rick Astley song “Never Gonna Give You Up” so I thought I’d post a link to the video on YouTube so everyone can watch it. Click here to check it out: http://tinyurl.com/296l7r "

Did you click on the link? Snap! You’ve been Wikroll’d!

I kind of love this guy. He's got a great attitude. He is truly a man who can appreciate the lulz.


<3 <3


I so love rick astley for this. If he promised to roll the London protest I would personally fly in to see it!

I believe it should be the goal of every britanon to get him to do this, and also to get sound or image of HIM being rickrolled.

has anyone else from the video been contacted? We so need to drop docs on that bar tender, someone needs to find that guy and give him a shiny new internet!

Yeah, anon are not the evil terrorists Co$ thinks we are, and I love how the anonymous-exposed website talks about our "leaders"... last I checked we have no leaders... They will never get it. If anon is inaccurate about scienos then it goes both ways!

What's absolutely sad (this is absolutely, god-honestly true) is a few of my work friends and I were making fun/paying homage to Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" some two years ago. So, everyone on the internet, 2006 called about getting its internet meme back...a meme shared between myself and some friends.

Oh god yes.

Mr. Astley, I bow down at your feet! You make me want to create a heathen statue of your likeness to adorn with flowers and make offerings to!



'nuff said :)

Rick is my hero.

I remember this song very well it was the year I graduated from High School (1987) . Glad to hear that it is coming back makes me look like I was cool all these years listening to it. It also proves my theory that its better to be a one hit wonder than an enduring artist because people will remember you fondly.

When i look at that Video and hear the song it reminds me how old i'am

Rickrolling is the new mooning! : )-
I remember this song when I was a kid. Astley is musical genius.


you should have gotten him to sing a little bit of it!

Oddly enough, yesterday was the first time I've ever been 'Rickrolled'. YouTube got me.
I'm in the same boat as the others that remember this song from High School. 1987-88 was my freshman year.

I still like the song, as it's not full of angst, screaming, or some forced social message like far too many songs cranked out today. It's straight entertainment.

My old man admission: I own Rick's first two albums on Vinyl as well as the CD's I picked up years later.

rick astley comes across as a great guy

nice interview

what have you, do you know what I mean?

A live Rick Roll would be epic... But I wonder if he already has done that? I mean, he can sing it to his wife any time, or even to his daughter... Lolz I can imagine it.

Anyway, this anon salutes him and this newspaper for such an informative interview!

I'm wondering-would Rick be willing to appear at a protest? It'd be a great help - Anonymous would love it, and having any celebrity against Scientology is a boon to the effort.

Is there any way he could be directly contacted by/for us?

SMy friend made this video on youtube saying: "RARE NES FOOTAGE! 1983!" I thought it was about nintendo, but I was rickroll'd.


C'mon guys, stop asking Rick to come to Scientology protests. You're anonymous, he's not. The Co$ had deeper pockets than Rick, and a history attacking anyone they see as against them. He's been a good sport about it all so let's just leave it at that.

Is it just me, or does around :36 seconds in, does Astley say "I know it was a big hit around the world, and all that sh*t"?


To be honest, we thought the video was cheesy 20 years ago. The song was so catchy though, it didn't matter. That, my friends, is the eighties in a nutshell.

Awesome interview... but still should have asked him whether or not he'd actually been rickrolled (I bet he has)

LOL i just got RickRolled. Rick Astley is my hero!

You can do a personalized Rick Roll prank by entering.... yourname.uqz.com... try it... http://george.bush.uqz.com

Rick is such a hero You got to love his style.

Heres some fun news guys

The people have spoken and theres now an online petition to get rick back on stage at the world famous Glastonbury Music Festival.

The Petition can be signed at RickandRoll.com


You can now rick roll your friends' phone!


Hey Rick!




It was always obvious to us you were cool....


Rick, since you're coming to the Philippines and all, can you consider singing "Sleeping" for us? :) Also "Take Me To Your Heart" even though I know in your heart of hearts you kind of dread singing that song during the way back when.

Can't wait to see you in August! Mwah!


I don't think it's a naff song, actually. I think it holds up pretty well as a classic 80s pop song, and Rick's voice is just lush and sexy. And so is he!! I'd love to run my fingers through that coif, either him age 21 or 42 (I'm somewhere in the middle so it's okay). I'd love to hear him sing again, record more music. That velvety rich voice! Rick, come back baby! x

since when did he have that accent

i agree, i love rick astley and i loved this song when i was little, he had such good songs, and if it wasn't a good song, then it wouldn't have become a #1 single in the US, the UK, Spain, and around the world (check wikipedia) and he wouldn't have been nominated for best new artist at the grammys, and he's a good singer too, and i totally had a crush on him, he was so cute, you're cute too if that's your pic on the right

and he had 5 hit songs, this, together forever which also went to #1 in how many countries around the world, and then three from the second album i remember, and he sold 40 million records total worldwide, so they can say what they want, it's not like he was ever a one hit wonder....

you're still cute rick i meant, and i think he's always had that accent because no duh, he's British

you're the best singer aroun the world, i love your voice, and i think that it's gratefull your comeback, wellcome dear Rick. i'm your fan since 1987.

She wants to dance with me, great song, great 80's moves............

I still love Rick.OOh,that SEXY voice.He's 100 times more talented than most of the people on the radio today.So cute,with that red hair.Anyone with half a heart could never let you go...Rick,you can roll me anytime...

I always loved that song because of Rick's voice. I dig all kinds of music. I woud use disco & 80's thumping music to keep going on my bike back in the eighties. Now I use it to keep motivated when I vacuum! Madonna's Get into the Groove is another example of fluff with a good beat & melody hook. There are plenty of 'em. Not everything has to change the world, maybe just illuminate a small part of one's day.


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About the Blogger
David Sarno is the Times' Internet culture and online entertainment writer. His Web Scout print column runs in the L.A. Times Calendar section on Wednesdays.
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