Strangely enough, I can tell you just where I was the first time I heard the now-seminal Rick Astley tune, “Never Gonna Give You Up.” A close friend of mine had a radio air shift back in 1987. I didn’t listen to a lot of pop music and he was always ahead of the curve musically.
On one particular day, I sat in with him in a tiny studio booth as he spun the hits. This was the eighties after all, and DJ work meant a lot of vinyl records and paper logs. It all sounds so quaint now. On this particular day, I can recall being simply astounded by the sheer number of things that Mr. Astley was never gonna do.
This world, then the rickroll
While the song became a monster hit in the late eighties with its catchy pop hook, I gave it very little thought after that. I think I’m not alone in putting the song behind me. And then, the song gained a bizarre second life.
Back in the mid-2000s, internet message boards weren’t hotbeds of conspiracy-peddling. No, they were largely a haven for people who communicated better through a screen. This community tended to have quickly-evolving, savage culture that seeme arbitrary and confusing to outsiders. According to several sources, for on reason or another, it became common to replace the word “egg” with the word “duck” in conversation, and to even replace things that sounded like “egg” with “duck.” (I would quote an example, or a duckzample, but I think you get it.) This evolved somehow into a photo of a duck with wheels being posted as a comment or as the target of a link. The practice of posting that image became known as “duckrolling.”
The seminal moment in the history of the rickroll seems to have come in April of 2007, when it eclipsed the duckroll as a bait-and-switch location on several internet sites. It took on a life in mainstream culture for roughly the next two years, but it’s hard to remember why. But hey, it’s hard to remember a lot about those days with any clarity.
The rickroll mania faded, but never really went away. Today Mr. Astley is known just as much for this fad as for his original music, something he seems to have embraced.
And now, this
Recently, I came across this time-waster:
It hails from about three years ago, a decade after the rise of the rickroll. I’d say it’s the most ambitious rickroll of all time. Following in the steps of videos where Brian Williams rapped, Fred Astaire danced to Uptown Funk, and the stars of Breaking Bad sang *NSYNC, this video splices together over 160 lines from decades of movies to recreate the rickroll in a new way.
I’m not sure, honestly, why people do things like this but I will say that I watched the video three years after it was made. So have a lot of other people. I’m not sure that justifies the amazing amount of labor it takes to do something like that, but I will certainly bow down to the creator.