When Rick Astley was playing drums for his band FBI, the lead singer quit and guitarist David Morris left to make a career in hairdressing. Astley became the lead singer and this altered his career in a major way.
Rick was scouted by Pete Waterman to join the ‘Pete Waterman Limited (PWL)’ recording studio. When he refused Pete Waterman made an offer to recruit most of the band including guitarist David Morris.
‘RCA Records’ agreed to publish his records. Astley started learning everything about the recording industry from producers Mike Stock, Matt Aitken, and Pete Waterman, also known as ‘Stock Aitken Waterman (SAW)’.
To overcome his shyness, Rick started working for ‘SAW’ as the ‘tea boy’. He later admitted that while it helped him a lot, he often forgot people’s orders and spilled tea on the recording console.
Astley released his first single ‘When You Gonna’ in collaboration with artist Lisa Carter. The song did not reach the charts as there was little to no promotion.
His first single ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ was released on July 27, 1987. The upbeat number in combination with Astley’s vocal depth and dance moves turned it into an overnight success.
‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ became a worldwide number one hit including USA. It was his first chart-topper and won the award for the ‘Best British Single’ at the 1988 ‘British Phonographic Industry’ awards.
‘Whenever You Need Somebody’ was his next single and reached number one in Europe and reached number 3 in the UK. This was followed by the release of his debut album ‘Whenever You Need Somebody’ on November 16, 1987.
Astley’s debut album chart-topped at number one in UK and Australia and sold 15.2 million copies worldwide. It was also certified Platinum multiple times in USA, UK, and Canada and made him the highest selling British artist of the year.
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The album ‘Whenever You Need Somebody’ remains the most significant milestone in Rick Astley’s career. It featured songs like ‘When I Fall in Love’, ‘Together Forever’, ‘Don’t Say Goodbye’, and ‘It Would Take a Strong Man’. These were all chart-toppers and established him as a bona fide pop sensation.
He was nominated at the 1989 ‘Grammy Awards’ for Best New Artist but lost to Tracy Chapman. Following the release of his first album Astley suffered a setback when a fire at the PWL studios was responsible for burning many of his new recordings. This delayed his second album.
Astley’s second album ‘Hold Me in Your Arms’ produced by Stock Aitken Waterman, was finally released on November 26, 1988. The album is significant because it was the first time Astley’s own compositions were released as singles.
The first song of the album ‘She Wants To Dance With Me’ released on September 12, 1988, was Astley’s first original composition released as a single. It was among the top 10 hits worldwide.
‘Take Me to Your Heart’ and ‘Hold Me in Your Arms’ which was written by Astley, were chart-toppers as well, but they were not released in North America. ‘Giving Up on Love’ and ‘Ain’t Too Proud to Beg’, were released in the USA in 1989 and were among the top 100 songs.
The album ‘Hold Me in Your Arms’ was a commercial success and was given Gold and Platinum certifications. In December 1989, Rick started his first world tour and it was a turning point in his career.
The British media were brutal towards Astley in spite of his second album being a success. They had started calling him a ‘puppet’ of ‘SAW’ and ‘Hold me in Your Arms’ ended up being the last album he would do with ‘Stock Aitken Waterman’. He also wanted to shed the dancing next-door-boy image.
After parting ways with his former producers, Rick changed his music style from dance-pop to soul and adult contemporary music. ‘Free’, his third album was released on March 12, 1991, and was produced by Astley himself and Gary Stevenson.
The album featured several collaborations. The single ‘Cry for Help’ released on January 20, 1991, reached top 10 in both UK and USA. The album reached top 10 in UK and top 40 in USA, and featured singles ‘Move Right Out’ and ‘Never Knew Love’ which were not major successes.
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The album ‘Body and Soul’ was released in 1993 and belonged to the Adult Contemporary music genre. It failed to chart in the UK and only managed 185 on Billboard 200. ‘The Ones You Love’ and ‘Hopelessly’ were the only successful songs of the album.
‘Hopelessly’ was one of the most performed songs at the 1994 ‘Broadcast Music, Inc.’ Awards and has earned the BMI ‘Million-Air’ status. Rick Astley retired from his music career at the age of 27, in 1993 to focus on bringing up his daughter.
The iconic singer returned to singing in 2001 and released the album ‘Keep It Turned On’ in collaboration with ‘Polydor Records’ in Europe. One of the featured singles ‘Sleeping’ became a club hit largely due to being remixed by Todd Terry.
Following that he released his compilation album ‘Greatest Hits’ in 2002 which was certified Gold by the British Phonographic Industry. He returned to live touring in 2004 and landed a contract with ‘Sony BMG’.
Astley’s new album ‘Portrait’ was released on October 17, 2005. It featured covers of classics like ‘Vincent’ and ‘Close to You’. Despite bad promotion the album reached number 26 in UK. ‘Sony BMG’ also released ‘The Ultimate Collection: Rick Astley’ in April 2008, which reached number 17 in UK.
From 2000 to 2016, Rick continued performing in live tours including ‘Here and Now Tour’ with Boy George and Belinda Carlisle and Peter Kay’s ‘The Tour That Doesn't Tour Tour...Now On Tour’.
On June 10, 2016, Rick released his first album in 10 years titled ‘50’ as he had himself turned 50. The album topped at number one on the Official UK Album Sales charts and featured hits like ‘Keep Singing’ and ‘Dance’.
He has also been associated with the soundtracks of movies like ‘Oh Happy Day’ and ‘The Angry Birds Movie’ in 2016, and ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ and ‘The Disaster Artist’ in 2017.