Billions of people have seen it in the famous video. But where in London is the Rickroll bridge?
Do a search for "Where was the video to Never Gonna Give You Up filmed?", and Google's gonna let you down, tell a lie and hurt you.
The commonest result is "the London Borough of Harrow". That's not only vague, it's also untrue.
The actual location is on Freston Road, within the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Here, beneath the Hammersmith and City viaduct, Mr Rick Astley filmed this career-defining video.
The hallowed arches are easy enough to find. Just turn left out of Latimer Road tube, then it's a 2 minute walk along Lockton Street, following the viaduct.
It was here, beneath an anonymous west London rail bridge, that Astley first stepped into the violaceous limelight. His debut single topped the charts of 25 countries and was the best-selling single of the year. It was helped along by a paradoxical video: the singer does nothing remarkable, yet he does it remarkably. Rick clearly has rhythm, but also verges on the awkward. He shuffles along in a quantum supposition of cool and naff, cloaked in Schrodinger's Mac.
Likewise, the song itself is catchy — the ultimate Stock Aitken Waterman ear-worm. And yet it is as emotionally stirring as the Runcorn phone directory. As Family Guy put it in their Back to the Future parody: "You know that mediocre, generic sound you've been looking for?..."
For all its blandness, the song lives on in collective consciousness, more than a third of century after it topped so many charts. That's partly thanks, of course, to the Noughties' phenomenon of 'Rickrolling', arguably the greatest internet meme of all time. Rickrolling is the practice of linking up the video to Never Gonna Give You Up when the reader is expecting something completely different. Like that time we accidentally hyperlinked MyLondon in a list of credible news sources.
We paid a visit to the viaduct, handily labelled as "Rickroll Bridge" on Google Maps. There is no marker in the physical world to the site's enormous importance to human culture. Not a plaque, not a statue, not even a bit of graffiti. It's a kind of inverse Rickroll — you visit the arches expecting to learn something more about the man and his talent, and instead you find a Ford C-Max and an angry lady shouting into a phone.
The official video has (as of May 2023) been watched 1.3 billion times. That's the equivalent of one in six people on the planet. The tally must be much, much higher when you consider that this version was uploaded in 2010, replacing the video from peak Rickrolling days.
One question remains. Why do so many websites (including Wikipedia) place the video in "the London Borough of Harrow". The answer is but a few paces north of the bridge, further along Freston Road.
This former church building is the Harrow Club, one of six youth clubs spread throughout west London with origins in Harrow School. Note the tracery in that huge window, and then compare to this still from Never Gonna Give You Up.
Yup, it's the same place. Rick continued to paint the town beige well into the daylight hours, moving his gentle boogie indoors to what is now the Harrow Club. This is surely the source of the online confusion, with people assuming the Harrow Club must be in Harrow itself. It's a case of mistaken identity; a geographic Rickroll.
All images by the author, except for the ones we've half-inched from Google Maps and YouTube.