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Mike Redmond Column

Please refer to the Mike Redmond Column main page for columns published in other issues.
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 ‘Rickrolled’ Writer Suffers Brainworm

Congratulate me. I have just joined the 18 million or so Americans, and millions more people worldwide, who have been "rickrolled."

"Rickrolling" is a practical joke in the Internet world. It works like this: Someone you know (in my case, a friend) sends you an e-mail with a link that they insist you have to click. Trusting sort that you are, you click it, but instead of getting what you expected - a site for baseball memorabilia, a video of political gaffes, or as it was in my case, a place devoted to photos of old tractors - you get a music video.

And what music video would that be? Why, it's Rick Astley's 1987 smash, "Never Going To Give You Up," as brainworming a piece of music as has ever been recorded.

Oh, I'm sorry. It just occurred to me that some of you might not know about brainworming. A brainworm is a song, usually one you don't like, that gets stuck in your head all day. Or in the case of "Never Going To Give You Up," for a couple of days. A couple of doozies in my experience, in addition to the one I just mentioned, are the old Loew's movie house jingle ("Thank you for coming to Loew's, sit back, relax, enjoy the show") and various television themes ("Here's the story of a lovely lady, who was bringing up three very lovely girls ...")

As rickroll experiences go, mine was pretty mild. People have been rickrolled at sporting events (including one women's basketball game that featured a Rick Astley impersonator), on the Olympic torch run, at a Mets game, and even on television news. An anchorwoman in Albany introduced what she thought was going to be a story and ... nope. There was that video of ol' Rick, singing his heart out.

Which points out the difference between this song and other brainworms. This has a visual component of Rick, dancing like a white guy (which he is), which is almost as tough to get out of your brain as the song.

After I got over my initial reaction, which was (1) fear that I had probably just downloaded some horrible virus that was not only going to disable my computer but also my telephone and electric toothbrush, too, and (2) thinking my friend has a good one coming, I began to see some upside to rickrolling.

It reminded me of those days in the 1980s when videos were still new and pop music like Rick's was ... well, popular, and with good reason. It's well-produced and not badly sung. It had legions of fans, which probably explains why everything Rick Astley did for the next few years sounded like "Never Going To Give You Up," with different lyrics.

I used to be one of those snobs who looked down his nose at pop music as nothing more than a confection, cotton candy or caramel corn. Rock and roll, on the other hand, was meat and potatoes. Mostly meat. Raw.

But I've modified my position since then. A well-produced and well-sung pop song, and there were actually quite a few in the 1980s, is a fine thing in and of itself. I wouldn't want it as a steady diet but once in a while, it's fun and even satisfying. In retrospect, then I'm kind of glad I got rickrolled.

Hey, it could have been much, much worse.

I could have been Milli Vanillied.




© 2008 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.