Killed The Radio Star But Memes Brought Them Back From The Dead
The rebirth of Toto is just one example of the power of the meme. There’s also the curious case of Rick Astley, he of the bottomless baritone and hefty quiff, who walked away from music in the early 1990s after a lively run of hits during the previous decade.
Some clever kid with too much time on their hands came up with the idea of "rickrolling", an online prank in which you click on a teasing headline — "Led Zeppelin reforms", for instance, or "Jim Morrison speaks from the grave" — only to be greeted by the sight of Astley in his prime crooning Never Gonna Give You Up, his signature hit. Astley, too, is now back on the road and back in the game, at the ripe old age (for a pop star) of 52.
But wait, there’s more. Phil Collins’ turgid In the Air Tonight has been the subject of many a meme, likewise the late George Michael’s Careless Whisper. The latter’s haunting sax melody has been re-owned by YouTuber Sex Sax Man (currently at 39 million views and rising) and fellow YouTuber Careless Bork, who somehow trained a pooch (the late, lamented Gabe the dog) to bark in synch with the riff.
Europe’s The Final Countdown, Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart and Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin' have all been recipients of rebirth-by-meme.
All this got me thinking: what song from today might get the same treatment in 30 years? Is there life after superstardom for the likes of Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga? Will a middle-aged Beyonce be reborn as a meme? Heaven help us.
Jeff Apter is the author of The Book of Daniel: From Silverchair to Dreams.