Sunday, March 21, 2010

Never Gonna Give It Up: The Rickroll Chronicles

By now, most Internet vets are familiar with-- and really, really tired of-- the phenomenon of the rickroll. If you're not up to speed yet, and you really have nothing better to do than read the following story, then you might want to familiarize yourself with the rickrolling Wikipedia entry (and there's even some interesting historical trivia there for the initiated, truth be known).

Anyway... I believe a good joke doesn't become more stale but actually improves with age, like fine wine, as this tale will attest. You see, I was utterly unaware of the rickroll till about the end of 2008, when my friend Brian told me about it. I repaid the favor by almost immediately sending him a link I told him was an appearance by David Bowie on the Muppet Show-- something I knew Brian couldn't resist-- but which, of course, led to a clip of Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You Up video. Brian was enraged, I was elated, and war ensued.

One night Brian, a couple other friends, and myself convened to watch an episode of "Battlestar Galactica" at Brian's place. After the opening segment, instead of the usual credits for the show, that familiar drum fill sounded and Mr. Astley cavorted before us, as the video for "Never Gonna Give You Up" unfolded and the words "Suck it, Hallenbeck!" cruised across the screen. Brian had artfully prepared a "special edition" DVD, and sweet victory was his.

Temporarily, anyway. I happen to be acquainted with Brian's guitar teacher. I felt that if he could be turned, he would be a valuable ally. Once the recruitment process was complete, it didn't take long for Brian to walk into a guitar lesson only to find a chord chart for "Never Gonna Give You Up" waiting for him. He could run, but he couldn't hide.

He did, however, avenge. Brian is a huge Morrisey fan. One day, after telling me at length about some of his favorite Morrisey tracks, he loaded them on a flash drive for me to take home. It was easy to locate them on my mp3 player: there was Morrisey's name, his likeness on the cover art, the track title... but each one I tried to play instead turned out to be "Never Gonna Give You Up", meticulously re-tagged as a decoy rickrolling time bomb.

My next sleeper cell conversion was the producer of a play Brian was soon to act in. Sitting down to sign his contract, Brian found clauses to the effect that "Artist pledges not to give Producer up, let Producer down, run around and hurt Producer..." etc. Brian had to sign his own rickroll. Humiliation was upon him.

One night at karaoke I asked Brian if he wanted to reprise the duet of the Everly Brothers' "All I Have to Do Is Dream" we'd sung a couple years back. He said sure. I went up to the KJ and submitted "Never Gonna Give You Up" instead. Once I'd gone elsewhere, Brian went up to the KJ and said "See that bald guy over there? Whatever song he submitted, I want you to change it to 'Never Gonna Give You Up'." Somewhat confused, the KJ replied: "But he already asked for 'Never Gonna Give You Up'." At this point Brian's eyes locked with mine across the room in a moment of horrified recognition. We'd unwittingly created a rickrolling feedback loop. Ultimately we dueted on "Never Gonna Give You Up" as a resolution, which turned out not to be such a great idea.

And so on. Atrocity begets atrocity, and eventually war becomes a lifestyle. I'm getting married soon, and I'm thinking about having "Never Gonna Give You Up" sung at my wedding since it is in fact an anthem of fidelity and celebration. It'll be a small ceremony, out of town, and while I'm gone Brian will rest easy in the knowledge that he can go about his business rickroll-free. Or can he? Better watch your back, Brian... even from halfway across the country, you know I'm never gonna give you up. And by the way: have you seen this long lost T. Rex video?

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