Music Stranger than Fiction

It’s official: Rick Astley is cooler than Morrissey

If you’d asked me back in 1991, when I was an alt-rock DJ — who was cooler: Morrissey or Rick Astley? — I would’ve been dead wrong. But now I know better.

Once upon a time, there was a brilliant English alt-rock band called The Smiths, who were fronted by one Steven Patrick Morrissey, better known as just Morrissey. They occupied an elevated place in my music collection, and you’d often hear them playing during my DJ gigs at Crazy Go Nuts University’s engineering pub.

As a (relatively) openly gay man — a tricky thing during the band’s time, which was from 1982 to 1986 — the child of Irish Catholics during the era of the IRA, a vegetarian, and lyricist for the excluded, he became a hero of sorts for people who didn’t quite fit in.

But from the 1990s on, he’s been showing his less savory side: the one that sides with the British far right, happily spouts white supremacist rhetoric, and has been all too willing to embrace fascism.

As one of his contemporaries, the great Billy Bragg, said in an interview with The Guardian:

“It stinks,” says Billy Bragg, who worked with, and loved, the Smiths during the 80s. “They were the greatest band of my generation, with the greatest guitar player and the greatest lyricist. I think Johnny [Marr] was a constraint on him … back then he had to fit into the idea of the Smiths. But now he’s betraying those fans, betraying his legacy and empowering the very people Smiths fans were brought into being to oppose. He’s become the Oswald Mosley of pop.”

For more:

To put a twist on a song title from The Smiths: There was a light, but it’s gone out.

Enter this guy:

Rick Astley’s image has changed over the years. Pop star in the late ’80s and early ’90s, forgotten in the late ’90s and most of the 2000s, and then came Rickrolling in 2008.

Since then, he’s had a slow but steady upward trajectory, having Rickrolled the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade…

…to performing with the Foo Fighters…

…to joining Choir! Choir! Choir! at a small live venue in Toronto (thanks to Eldon Brown for letting me know about this one!)…

…to making a great cover of Foo Fighter’s Everlong

…and finally, performing Smiths numbers with English indie pop band Blossoms…

…including This Charming Man:

You can read more about his performance here:

While I still appreciate the beautiful work that Morrissey did back then — after all, there wouldn’t be a Smiths without him — it’s great to see Rick Astley taking up the mantle. It’s all the Mozzer goodness, and none of the fascism or white supremacy. It’s win-win!

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