Before he became a walking talking meme, Rick Astley had a string of pop hits in the late ‘80s. They were all produced by the hit factory known as Stock/Aitken/Waterman (sounds like a law firm) and all had a peppy, synth-dappled, proto-house/post-Colonel Abrams dance sound.
After two albums, Astley wisely decided to jump ship and break away from the S/A/W sound. He wanted to test his mettle as a songwriter and make more “mature” sounding music (and probably be taken more seriously). So, he grew his hair long, wiped the smile off of his face, and turned in an album titled Free. It’s first single was a gospel-drenched ballad called “Cry for Help”.
“Cry for Help” was a melancholy piano ballad that featured some of Rick’s most emotive singing. It was a top 10 hit in America (his last, as a matter of fact), but was a Number One for weeks and weeks in the heart of melancholy little Mike Joseph. Three hundred and some songs into this experiment, it should be well established that I have more than my share of blue moments (no news to those of you who know me in real life.)
“Why must we hide emotions? Why must we never break down and cry?” Rick pleaded just before launching into the chorus, and all I could do at the time was offer up a silent “I hear you, Rick” and wipe tears from my own eyes.
I wore the ever-loving shit out of this cassette single when I was 15 years old. Hell, I almost gave “Cry for Help”’s even more melancholy B-side, the Elton John-assisted “Behind the Smile”, five stars. I have both sides of that single committed to memory more than any other song from 1991 that I can think of.