“If you want to put a band together, I’ve worked with all the greats”: Ozzy Osbourne once tried to recruit a backing band for Rick Astley

Ozzy Osbourne and Rick Astley
(Image credit: Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images/Dave Simpson/WireImage)

Pretty much everyone knows by now that Rick Astley – the singer behind eternal pop hit Never Gonna Give You Up – is a rock fan on the quiet. As well as making the occasional live guest appearance with the Foo Fighters, he’s also been known to bust out a cover of AC/DC’s Highway To Hell onstage, which features Astley on drums and vocals.

Now the singer has revealed to Classic Rock that Ozzy Osbourne once tried to recruit a backing band for him at the height of his late 80s fame.

Astley was in LA at the time on his first ever visit to the US, and he found himself in the same room as Ozzy and his wife Sharon. After the three of them struck up a conversation, Ozzy made his unlikely offer.

“He said, Are you over here playing?’, and I said, ‘No, we’re just doing promo,’” Astley tells Classic Rock. “And then went, ‘If you want to put a band together, let me know. I’ve worked with all the greats.’ And I knew he had – he’d worked with some of the best guitar players on that planet.”

Sadly, this potentially mind-boggling collision of worlds didn’t go any further, thanks to an on-the-spot intervention from Ozzy’s wife and manager.

“Sharon just leaned over and said, ‘Will you shut up, he doesn’t want to play with your long-haired, tattooed fucking monsters,” says Astley.

“I was gobsmacked. The fact that he recognised me for one thing, but also because he thought he could put together the appropriate band for me to go out and play Never Gonna Give You Up with. But what a lovely man for doing it.”

Astley, who plays drums as well as sings, also reveals that he’s a huge fan of Bon Scott-era AC/DC – and that he bonded with Dave Grohl over 1979’s Highway To Hell album.

“I say this with all respect to Brian Johnson, who has made so many amazing records with AC/DC, but for me it‘s Highway To Hell,” he says. “I fell in love with it when I heard Tommy Vance play it on the radio: ‘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,” he continues. “This is such a namedrop, but the first time I met Dave Grohl, we were having a couple of drinks and we started talking about drumming. I told him I’d learned by playing along to Highway To Hell, and he said, ‘My daughter’s learning to play drums right now, man! Highway To Hell is exactly what I’ve got her playing.”

Astley’s brand new album, Are We There Yet?, looks like hitting No.1 in the UK this week. Sadly, it doesn’t feature any guest appearances from Ozzy Osbourne -approved long-haired, tattooed fucking monsters.  

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.