Ah, the rickroll. In case you’ve been living under a rock, rickrolling emerged sometime in 2007 as an internet prank, and starts the same way every time: an intriguing headline pulls you in, only for you to be misled, because the link redirects to the brilliantly ‘80s music video for Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” You are suddenly damned (or blessed, if that’s your groove) as the infectious track lodges its way into your head for the rest of the day.
It’s been 31 years since the infamous troll ballad was released, and since then, it has lived a new life as the rickroll. The meme has even taken on fresh forms— only a few weeks ago, the creators of HBO series Westworld resurrected the rickroll for the umpteenth time in history, albeit in a roundabout way. In preparation for Season Two, co-creator Jonathan Nolan released a spoiler video on Reddit to ostensibly combat the rampant fan theories circulating online. What ensued, instead, was an elaborately shot spin on the rickroll: 90 seconds in, Evan Rachel Wood starts singing Rick Astley’s song herself, accompanied on piano by a fellow castmate. Like most things Westworld, it is a bizarrely genuine repurposing of our internet culture, a space where even the rickroll lives on.
There was a time, however, when “Never Gonna Give You Up,” wasn’t the source material for our trolling antics. When released in 1987, the track went on to become a worldwide number-one hit, topping charts across 25 countries. Its success brought Rick Astley to London’s Royal Albert Hall the following year, slating him among greats like Eric Clapton, Elton John, and George Harrison for a charity concert. Here at Paste, we have an original recording of that live performance from 1988.
Groove along to the addictive classic below— we promise those synthy beats sound their best when you’re listening by choice.