“I fell in love with Highway To Hell when I heard it in my dad’s pick-up truck. Bon Scott had a cheek to him”: pop superstar Rick Astley on his love of AC/DC, Slipknot, Yes and Foo Fighters

A promo shot of Rick Astley with insets of AC/DC’s Bon Scott and Slipknot’s Corey Taylor
(Image credit: Press/Fin Costello/Mick Hutson/Redferns)

The sight of Rick Astley busting out a cover of AC/DC’s Highway To Hell while singing and playing drums at the Glastonbury festival was one of the most joyous things to happen in 2023. But the Never Gonna Give You Up singer has some serious rock cred, from his working knowledge of early-70s prog to his friendship with Dave Grohl.

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The first music I remember hearing

That would have been the soundtrack to [1967 animated Disney film] The Jungle Book. I’m the youngest of four, and my sister was a bit of a prog rocker, so I’d hear really early Genesis around the house. But the first record I remember wanting to constantly have on was The Jungle Book.

The first song I performed live

When I was in infant school, I played Pharaoh in Joseph And The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat – I didn’t grasp it at the time, but he was basically Elvis. I started playing drums at fourteen, and the first time we did a proper gig was at the Valentine’s Day disco. I sang and played So Lonely by The Police. That’s a bit of a feat, because the timing is a bit weird.

The drummer I loved

It would be either Phil Collins or Stewart Copeland. My sister would play Genesis’s Selling England By The Pound and Foxtrot constantly, and I’ve gone back to watch what Phil Collins did on those albums on YouTube, and it’s insane. Even those early Peter Gabriel solo albums he plays on, he’s a monster. And Stewart Copeland is just a hero. The perfect drummer would be an amalgam of them both. 

The rock singer I loved

Bon Scott. I fell in love with AC/DC’s Highway To Hell when [late DJ] Tommy Vance played it. I was in my dad’s pick-up truck, and I remember going: “What is this?” Bon had a cheek to him, and so much personality in his voice. I actually learned to play the drums by playing along to Highway To Hell constantly.

The prog album

Tales From Topographic Oceans by Yes was a big one for me. I loved the Roundabout single, it’s one of my all-time favourites, especially the bass playing on it, but this was something completely different. It was like some sonic adventure where anything goes. I’ve got distinct memories of listening to it in someone’s bedroom, thinking: “What’s this? What’s going on? Where are we?”

The greatest album of all time

For me it’s Let It Be by The Beatles. I’ve always loved The Beatles, apart from a time in my teens when I wanted to listen to Joy Division and The Smiths, but I can’t say I grew up thinking it was the greatest Beatles album. But I’ve completely come round to it because of the documentary [Peter Jackson‘s acclaimed Get Back]. It’s a proper rock’n’roll record – a tough record. And there’s no way, looking at Lennon and McCartney in that movie, that they didn’t love each other. 

The metal anthem

Duality by Slipknot. I’d seen them, the masks and everything, but I didn’t really get it. But I was on YouTube and went down a rabbit hole, which led me to Duality. It’s a fucking amazing song. I play it a lot. [Starts singing in a Slipknot voice] ‘I push my fingers into my eyes…’

The song I wish I’d written

Oh, so many. I think Everlong by the Foo Fighters is an amazing song. The Foo Fighters have got a lot of amazing songs.

The best cover of Never Gonna Give You Up

This is turning into a Foo Fighters love-in, but it was when I sang it with them on stage at a festival in Japan. So it was a cover version, but I was sort of involved in it. We were both on the bill, and Dave had apparently said to the guys: “Look, if he turns up, we’re doing it.” I didn’t know this. I was watching them from the side of the stage, and he came over and said: “This is going to happen!” And off we go. It was a pretty good version, even if I say so myself.

My go-to karaoke song

I’m a sucker for Disney songs, so it would have to be Beauty And The Beast, which was sung by Angela Lansbury in the original animated movie. I used to present on Magic FM, and so did Kim Wilde. One Christmas a bunch of us went out to karaoke. We were a bit pissed. Me and Kim gatecrashed the next booth. These people were  going, ‘Wait, is that him? And is that her?!’

The cult heroes

There’s a band called Noiseworks from Australia. My wife and I played their albums to death. 

My ‘in the mood for love’ song

It‘s got to be Marvin Gaye. Which one? Take your pick, Even when he’s singing a political protest song, you still want to make love to it. It’s just the way he was. He was one of the most beautiful-looking humans ever to walk the earth, with a voice like silk. 

My Saturday night party song

My all time favourite would have to be Luther Vandross, Never Too Much. We used to go to clubs and just dance to black American soul music, not even drink. That was one of the songs we danced to.

The song I want played at my funeral

My wife and I’s song is Don’t Dream It’s Over by Crowded House. When you’re putting someone in the ground and the words ‘Don’t dream it’s over’ are coming out, it might be quite nice in a weird way. 

Dave Everley

Dave Everley has been writing about and occasionally humming along to music since the early 90s. During that time, he has been Deputy Editor on Kerrang! and Classic Rock, Associate Editor on Q magazine and staff writer/tea boy on Raw, not necessarily in that order. He has written for Metal Hammer, Louder, Prog, the Observer, Select, Mojo, the Evening Standard and the totally legendary Ultrakill. He is still waiting for Billy Gibbons to send him a bottle of hot sauce he was promised several years ago.