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Past Times

When Rick Astley got stage-fright at Buddies under-18 disco in Broughty Ferry

Astley very nearly walked out on a capacity audience at the under-18 disco at Buddies. reports.
Graeme Strachan
Rick Astley meets his fans backstage at Buddies in 1987. Image: Lawrence McNamara.
Rick Astley meets his fans backstage at Buddies in 1987. Image: Lawrence McNamara.

Rick Astley assured us he was no stranger to love while awkwardly dad dancing in his trench coat for his 1980s hit song Never Gonna Give You Up.

He found love, and fans, harder to find in Dundee, though, which led to the city leg of his UK tour being scrapped due to poor ticket sales 35 years ago.

The December 7 1988 Caird Hall concert was pulled by the then-22-year-old’s promoters the week before, who were worried about the embarrassing turnout.

However, it was a case of role reversal a year earlier when Astley very nearly walked out on a capacity audience at the under-18 disco at Broughty Ferry nightclub Buddies.

Rick Astley had to be dragged on stage

The blue-eyed soul boy from Lancashire got his big break while working as a tea boy at producers Stock, Aitken and Waterman’s recording studios.

The single was inspired when Astley was with Waterman, who was constantly on the phone to a woman.

After a three-hour call, Astley told his boss: “You’re never gonna give her up”, which inspired the lyrics.

They handed over the track to Astley, initially recording it in October 1986, but waited until the following July to release it.

The Buddies appearance was his first since the single entered the chart at number 32 in August 1987 but he still had to be persuaded by a number of people to take to the stage.

My former Evening Telegraph colleague James Masson was among them.

James told me: “Rick Astley is back in the spotlight with a new album and a host of TV appearances.

“Looking calm and relaxed in front of the cameras, it is a far cry from a night in August 1987 in Broughty Ferry when Rick was far from that.”

The inside of Buddies nightclub in Broughty Ferry
Buddies Nightclub was the stage for Rick Astley’s Broughty Ferry appearance. Image: DC Thomson.

James recalled he had to practically drag Astley on to the stage.

He said: “At the time I was doing a lot of writing about performers appearing at local nightclubs, personal appearances they were called.

“The singers and groups would be promoting their latest offerings and Rick was pushing Never Gonna Give You Up.

“Buddies nearly gave up on him, though, as he was too nervous to take the stage.”

Singer a bag of nerves in Broughty Ferry

James added: “He was under the guidance of Stock, Aitken and Waterman and the girl who brought him up to Buddies was someone I knew, Kelly Cooper.

“Along with freelance photographer, Lawrence McNamara, I went to Buddies to cover Rick’s appearance and soon it became aware there was a problem.

“Rick was a bag of nerves and said he didn’t fancy going on stage.

“Myself, Lawrence, Kelly and the club manager, Roger, assured him that all would be well.

“The packed club was waiting in eager anticipation but Rick wasn’t for budging.

“Eventually, after much persuasion, he gingerly stepped on stage, belted out Never Gonna Give You Up and swiftly exited the platform.

“The club-goers gave him a rapturous reception and we asked Rick to go back on but he wouldn’t.

“He was still so nervy.”

A newspaper cutting showing the picture of Rick Astley at Buddies which made the following day's paper. Image: DC Thomson.
The picture of Rick Astley at Buddies that made the following day’s paper. Image: DC Thomson.

Astley was mobbed by excited autograph hunters after coming off stage at Buddies and stayed back for a while to sign copies of his 7-inch single.

Lawrence took a photograph of Astley surrounded by young fans.

He didn’t look too happy about the whole experience.

Astley then spoke to James backstage after his appearance and said that although it was the first time he had performed in Tayside, he had visited the surrounding area.

“I once skied at Glenshee,” he said.

“I really like Scotland and am very happy with the response I’ve had at Buddies.”

Rick Astley on stage in 1987 when he was riding high in the charts. Image: Shutterstock.
Rick Astley on stage in 1987 when he was riding high in the charts. Image: Shutterstock.

Here was a nervous man of few words.

Astley told James he had been making personal appearances to promote the single since it was released and was clearly shocked at his early chart success.

“I never expected it to get so far so soon,” he said.

He humbly said the success was “all due” to Stock, Aitken and Waterman.

The rise, fall and rise of Rick Astley

Within a fortnight the single had gone all the way to number 1 where it stayed for five weeks with Astley a regular on BBC’s Top of the Pops every Thursday.

Rick Astley singing to fans at Flicks nightclub in Brechin. Image: DC Thomson.
Rick Astley singing to fans at Flicks nightclub in Brechin. Image: DC Thomson.

Astley returned to Tayside and performed in December 1987 at Flicks in Brechin, which was one of the best decorated clubs in history and drew many big-name acts to Angus.

Whenever You Need Somebody and When I Fall in Love followed in 1987 before Astley released Together Forever in February 1988.

It was another banger with a catchy chorus and gave him another trans-Atlantic smash.

Astley was riding the crest of a wave.

She Wants to Dance With Me and Take Me To Your Heart followed before a 10-date UK Tour was announced for December 1988 including two nights at Wembley Arena.

The tour would open at the 2,300-capacity Caird Hall in Dundee.

It didn’t.

The cancellation due to poor ticket sales prompted a press statement from the council that forthcoming concerts by Runrig and The Proclaimers were not in any danger.

The council spokesperson also stressed that “tickets for Freddie Starr’s appearance on March 23 and a forthcoming concert by Foster and Allen were selling well”.

The poster for the singer's Dundee concert that never was
The poster for the concert that never was for Rick Astley. Image: Retro Dundee.

The rest of the UK tour went ahead as planned.

Astley eventually walked away from the music business aged 27 in 1993 after scoring 14 international hits and selling more than 40 million albums.

He had enough.

But another two decades after walking away, Astley made an unlikely return with an album he wrote, played and produced all by himself which went platinum in the UK.

It was the

He is still winning over new fans in 2023, performing with Foo Fighters, Take That and Blossoms, and is hugely popular on the nostalgia circuit, including Rewind at Perth.

James has enjoyed watching his journey from Buddies to Glastonbury.

“Rick was a genuinely nice guy but so, so nervous,” he said.

“He had a rich, deep voice and it’s good to see him still in the limelight.

“I wonder if he ever looks back on that appearance at Buddies and remembers the time the club nearly gave up on him.

“And I wonder if he recalls Dundee giving up on him a year later?”

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