Astley was born on 6 February 1966 in Newton-le-Willows in Lancashire, the fourth child of his family. His parents divorced when he was five and Astley was brought up by his father. Astley remained in very close contact with his mother, who lived a few blocks away from his father. After finding out that his father was the one who kicked his mother out of the house, Astley distanced himself from his father. His musical career started when he was 10, singing in the local church choir. During his schooldays, Astley formed and played the drums in a number of local bands, where he met guitarist David Morris. After leaving school at sixteen, Astley was employed during the day as a driver in his father's market-gardening business and played drums on the Northern club circuit at night in bands such as Give Way – specialising in covering Beatles and Shadows songs – and FBI, which won several local talent competitions.