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Rick Astley: The Comeback King returns to the spotlight after over 20 years

Rick Astley will tell you how rare it is for an 80s band to continue through the decades having the same success and music output - U2 and Kylie he suggests.

But it is rarer still for a hugely successful act to simply walk away within a few years of worldwide recognition.

That’s what he did in 1994. His first hit single Never Gonna Give You Up, went to number one in 25 countries in 1987.

He was a millionaire by the time he was 22, and done with the pop star life by the time he was 27.

"I actually gave the career up while I was driving along the M4 to catch a plane to New York," he told me.

He’d developed a fear of flying and was simply burned out, choosing to bow out with all the money he needed, to settle down and start a family and simply enjoy that.

Rick Astley with Nina Nannar.

It was a brave move, I told him when we met this week.

He looked youthful still, aged 53, and is clearly enjoying his career second time round.

When he released an album of new songs written by himself three years ago to mark his 50th birthday, its performance in the charts (it went to number one) convinced him that he was indeed staging a comeback.

Rick Astley's famous song 'Never Gonna Give You Up'.

So now he is doing what he could never have imagined a few years ago and going on an arena tour in the UK.

He’d supported Take That earlier this year, and had appeared on stage from time to time with everyone from Peter Kay to The Foo Fighters - Dave Grohl is a fan of Never Gonna Give You Up!

He’s not only touring but releasing an album of Greatest Hits, and he says its because the public has empathy with someone his age staging a comeback.

Ricky Astley says performing live is his strength.

Time, he insisted, has been kind to his back catalogue.

Music that at the time was dismissed as rather naff, because of it origins with producers Stock, Aitken and Waterman, whose Hit Factory was a production line of pop songs delivered by young music newcomers like Rick and Kylie Minoque.

What they did he insisted, was akin to Motown, making a certain brand of music, and choosing the artists to deliver it.

Yes he conceded, Motown gave us superstars like Diana Ross but the principle is the same.

Though it would be easy to scoff at the comparison, there is no denying Astley’s enduring appeal and the damn catchiness of those songs!

Legendary producers Stock, Aitken and Waterman. Credit: PA

The most significant change in the music industry model for him, is that now if artists want to make money, it has to be by performing live, rather than record sales or downloads.

And live performing is his strength, he said.

He may have mimed Never Gonna Give You Up all around the world he jokes, but in the 80s it was all about flying around the world doing TV shows, not actually singing anything live, and then moving on to another city to do the same.

Not that he minds doing THAT song.

"It’s been good to me," he said.

And now it’s set to be good to him all over again.

His greatest hits album The Best Of Me is out on October 25th. Will he hold onto the title of Comeback King?