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Rick Astley

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 In 1987, the world was greeted by a new vocal talent. Shocked by the powerful, mature soulful voice of 21-year-old Rick Astley, the UK obliged by sending his debut single "Never Gonna Give You Up" to the top of the charts within two weeks of its release. The rest of the world soon followed suit with "Never Gonna Give You Up" reaching Number One in 16 other countries including most of Europe, Japan, United States and Australia. The following two years saw Rick continue to dominate the charts around the globe. In the UK, Rick was in the Top 40 every week for the first six months of his career.

Rick Astley was born on February 6, 1966 in the North of England and was brought up in a small coal-mining town called Newton-Le-Willows. He was the youngest of four children and followed in his mother's footsteps with his fondness of music. Rick sang in a local church choir but his love for the drums inevitably found him in local bands by his early teenage years. On leaving a band named Give Way he joined FBI, and it was here that recognition of Rick's talents began take an upward curve.

Besides Rick, a few of his school friends completed the five members of FBI. They became noted for being one of the only bands in the area to be writing and performing their own material. Realizing they had a good thing going, FBI sought management. Under the guidance of Dave Warwick and Tony Graham, they continued with their pub gigs but in addition, managed to land slots in clubs doing covers of songs that were around at the time. FBI expanded their fan base and developed into a well-known band locally.

When FBI's lead singer left the band, Rick volunteered to take over the role. It coincided well with Dave and Tony's invitation to record producer Pete Waterman to come and see FBI's act. Waterman had liked what he'd heard but the offer was exclusively for Rick and not the band. Dedicated to FBI, he showed his loyalty by refusing the offer.

Within the year, it was apparent to everyone, including FBI, that Rick's talents were shining through the band. Realizing that they were holding him back, Dave and Tony contacted Pete Waterman and Rick was soon destined for London.

Hit-making producers Stock, Aitken and Waterman (PWL Studios) gave Rick a ground-floor apprenticeship in the record industry. Rick's debut single "Never Gonna Give You Up" shot to Number One and remained there for five weeks. It was Britain's largest selling single of that year. "Whenever You Need Somebody" was the follow-up single and this hit Number One in seven countries. Including four Astley-penned songs, the album Whenever You Need Somebody entered the UK album charts at Number One and sold over 15.2 million copies worldwide, making him the top selling British act of the year. At the 1988 BPI Awards (the UK's Grammy equivalent), Rick scooped Best Single Award for "Never Gonna Give You Up".

A double-single release in December 1987 featured a cover of Nat King Cole's "When I Fall In Love", and in the New Year it was flipped to "My Arms Keep Missing You". "Together Forever" completed the released tracks from the album, peaking at Number Two. It was a similar success story in the USA, as Rick became one of the few British artists to crack their market. Rick's American success was reinforced with a second Number One single, "Together Forever". "It Would Take a Strong Strong Man" became another Top Ten single and the album also reached a position within the Top Ten selling close to two million copies. It earned him a 1988 Grammy nomination as Best New Artist.

A fire in the PWL studios destroyed the majority of Rick's new material and unfortunately delayed the release of his second album, Hold Me In Your Arms, until 1989. It contained Rick's first self-penned single "She Wants To Dance With Me", which he also co-produced. Reaching another Top Ten position, it was followed later in the year by "Take Me To Your Heart" and another song written by Rick, "Hold Me In Your Arms".

Rick was proud of what he had accomplished with Stock, Aitken and Waterman but had visions of his career going in a different direction. Being interested in all aspects of the industry, Rick wanted to explore more avenues as a musician. He signed directly to RCA/BMG Worldwide, which allowed a greater degree of artistic control. Now under the management of Tops Henderson, his former road manager, Rick began co-writing material with the likes of Level 42's Mark King and Climie Fisher's Rob Fisher. Rick co-produced an album, aptly named Free, which was released in 1991. Musical contributions came from Art of Noise's Ann Dudley, who scored string arrangements and gospel star Andrae Crouch who arranged the choir featured in "Cry For Help", Rick's next single. Elton John was featured on the album, playing the piano on two Rick-written songs. "Cry For Help" became yet another Top Ten record that placed him in the Guinness Book of Records becoming the first male solo artist to have his first eight singles reach the Top Ten in the UK, an achievement which has still to be beaten. The album Free was another success, again sitting inside the Top Ten. The singles "Move Right Out" and "Never Knew Love" were also released.

In 1993, Rick returned to the scene with the album Body & Soul. Rick wrote all of the tracks on this album himself, collaborating with such artists as Rob Fisher and Lisa Stansfield. There were two singles taken from Body & Soul, "The Ones You Love" and "Hopelessly". Not wanting to compromise his family life, the album didn't get the promotion it could have had. Despite this, the singles still charted but Rick felt it was time to "hang up his boots" and retire from the business as a performer.
In 1998, Rick considered a return to the limelight. During 2000, Rick had spent a lot of time in his home recording studio which resulted in a collection of demo songs that he had written (and co-written) with Chris Braide, Andrew Frampton, Bob Dipero and Angela Lupino. Upon hearing these demos, Polydor offered Rick a record deal but he didn't feel that the time was right to release material in the UK. So instead the deal was exclusive to mainland Europe.

His first single for Polydor, released in 2001 was the up-tempo dance track titled "Sleeping". These tracks were well received in Europe and proved to his devoted fans that Rick still had what it takes. By the end of the year an album named Keep It Turned On had been released containing a mixture of dance tunes and ballads.

Polydor wanted Rick to go on and release the title track to Keep It Turned On, but BMG in the UK decided to release a compilation CD of Rick's Greatest Hits. Similar packages had sold well in the US and Asia, but there was an air of uncertainty as to how the UK public would receive this collection after so many years out of the limelight.

The BBC were the first to embrace the collection, awarding it "Radio 2’s Gold Album of the Week” which guaranteed that tracks would be played several times a day, throughout the week. Even though there were no appearances from Rick to promote the CD, it entered the UK album charts at an astonishing Number 16, and six months later the British Phonographic Industry had certified the album as "Gold", for selling in excess of 100,000 copies.

An eight-date tour in September 2004 would be the first stage appearance for Rick in fourteen years! The tour kicked off in Dublin and included most of Britain's major cities before finishing at The Criterion Theatre in London. It even included a concert at the world-famous Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, a venue most musicians are honored to play in. Each performance comprised of 'classic' songs from past decades including Sinatra, Bacharach and The Carpenters as well as a few from Mr Astley's musical resume. The sell-out tour was hailed a success attracting an audience of all generations with some attendees travelling from as far a-field as mainland Europe and Mexico!

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