The news that naff Eighties crooner Rick Astley is somehow in the running for Best Act Ever at the MTV Europe awards next month is both funny and mysterious. Why Rick? Where has he been all these years?
Britney, U2 and Green Day are on the shortlist with a man whose last big hit was 17 years ago. He was a proper star once, though, thanks to producers Stock, Aitken and Waterman: his first single, "Never Gonna Give You Up" got to No1 here and in the States back in 1987. Six years later, aged just 27, Astley retired. The big quiff and deep voice that didn't fit his boyish face were gone.
Until now. His comeback is the result of a geeky internet joke: you were sent a picture of a duck on wheels after clicking a false link – to win a free laptop, say. That was Duckrolling. Then somebody swapped the duck for a YouTube clip of Astley performing. Rickrolling, see? The randomness made it amusing – an estimated 40 million computer users have now been Rickrolled. MTV blames the nomination on Rickrolling, but that can't be true: fans had to write his name, not mistakenly click a link.
Rick, now 42, seems a bit embarrassed, if pleased. He dropped out of the music business for personal reasons, including disenchantment, a fear of flying and a desire to quit while ahead. He has settled quietly in Surrey with his partner Lene and their daughter Emilie and reportedly has a boat on the Solent and a musical to work on. He recently made a return to performing, the highlight of which must have been headlining at the Northampton Balloon Festival.
So will Rick be rolling along to the awards? Probably not. "I'm really happy with the life I've got. I'll just leave it at that."