Today’s POP RESCUE from an uncertain fate, is the debut 1987 album from Rick Astley – Whenever You Need Somebody.
Rick has one co-writer credit, and 3 sole writer credits on this album – a clear indicator of Stock/Aitken/Waterman‘s confidence in him as a singer and songwriter. The album is home to 6 singles.
The album bursts open with his huge hit Never Gonna Give You Up. One of the most catchy songs to have run from the Stock/Aitken/Waterman team stable, and a stalwart of any 80s compilation. Rick’s vocals make light work of it. In recent years the ‘Rickrolling’ meme has ensured that this song is known by just about everyone on the planet.
Next up is the single Whenever You Need Somebody, which is equally as catchy, with perfectly formed verses and chorus. Musically it’s not dissimilar to the previous track, but vocally it is different, and Rick’s vocals are perhaps a little lower here.
Third track is Together Forever, another of his hit singles. This is another classic S/A/W sounding hit, and one of my favourites. I’m surprised that this one hasn’t been picked up and covered a few times by other artists.
Fourth track is It Would Take A Strong, Strong Man, and there’s definitely a 60’s sound – almost Motown feel about this track. Again, Rick’s vocals here are perfect, perhaps hinting at the kind of music he’d be singing in later years. This track was the fifth single.
The Love Has Gone is up next, and it’s the Rick Astley co-written track with D. Spatsley. It’s a much slower track, and despite it’s tempo and different writers, it sits perfectly amongst the S/A/W tracks.
The sixth and final single from this album, Don’t Say Goodbye, is up next. It’s another S/A/W track, but it’s not as bouncy as their previous tracks. It’s a good strong pop track, and one that I can easily imagine being on the Jason Donovan debut album from the following year.
What would have been side two of the cassette or record (which were major formats in 1987), opens with Slipping Away – the first of the Rick sole written tracks. From it’s first synth stab intro, it’s a great up-beat track.
No More Looking For Love is up next, another Rick written track. Whilst this track is nice enough, the lyrics feel a bit cringeworthy. This is probably the weakest track on the album.
Penultimate track You Move Me is the final Rick written track. This track is a return to form, and it’s a great bouncy track despite being a song about Rick losing his office job (there’s no hint as to why – but surely they must have realised that he was Never Gonna Give Them Up?). It has a catchy chorus aided by the sparse backing vocals.
The album closes with the third single, a cover of the Nat King Cole classic When I Fall In Love, and Rick really does a fantastic job with this song, as do S/A/W, and arranger Gordon Jenkins. When this was released as a single in December 1987, it coincided with the 30th anniversary of Nat’s version. Rick was joined in the race for the Christmas number one by EMI re-releasing Nat King Cole’s original in a bid to reduce Rick’s chances of beating the Pet Shop Boys to number one. Rick reached #2, Nat reached #4, whilst The Pet Shop Boys snuck past and scored the Christmas number one with their Elvis Presley cover, Always On My Mind. Interestingly, the ending of this track is almost identical to the ending of Kylie‘s Tell Tale Signs album track from the following year.
This is a brilliantly written, produced, and performed pop album – and it was in the safe hands of Ian Curnow and Phil Harding. On the sleeve, just beneath the PWL logo, is the tagline ‘The Sound Of A Bright Young Britain’. And yes, I think you were right.
Where is Rick Astley Now?
Rick had continued to write, record, release, and perform before retiring in 1993, during which he had made the transition away from PWL, to a more mature musician. He had a hit with his Cry For Help single from his third album Free in the early 90s. Despite retiring, he also featured as a backing singer on The Lion King soundtrack.
He staged a comeback in 2007 when a sudden surge of ‘Rickrolling’ trended online. This led him to gain greater international exposure for his Never Gonna Give You Up track, and amongst a new, younger, and unsuspecting generation. This helped to revive his career.
He was voted Best Act Ever in the MTV Europe Music Awards 2008.
According to his website, he has toured extensively in recent years, and in 2014 he performed in South America, Australia, and Japan.
POP RESCUE RATING:
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 5 / 5
- 1987 UK CHART POSITION: #1, certified 4x Platinum.
- POP RESCUE COST: £2.00 from the HD2 Brighton store.