Go West

Album: Go West (1979)
Charted: 15 45

Songfacts®:

  • The song's title comes from the nineteenth century quote "Go West, young man." The term was originated by John Babsone Lane Soule in 1851 the Terra, Haute, Indiana Express as a rallying cry to head westwards, where gold and much else could be found. Presidential candidate Horace Geeley repeated it in his New York newspaper, the Tribune, and being more famous the saying is commonly attributed to him.
  • Village People lead singer Victor Willis wrote this with the group's producers, Henri Belolo and Jacques Morali. Though Willis denies penning the lyrics with a gay theme in mind, "Go West" is generally understood to be an expression of San Francisco as a Shangri-La for the Gay Liberation movement.
  • The Village People version of the song features in the 1980 film Can't Stop the Music. Fourteen years later, it was one of a number of "camp classics" on the soundtrack for the 1994 film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. The track plays in the scene where the three lead characters leave Sydney and head north-west for Alice Springs.
  • In 1992 the Pet Shop Boys were asked by Derek Jarman to perform at an AIDS charity event at The Haçienda nightclub in Manchester, Chris Lowe of the duo selected this as the song they would perform. Though singer Neil Tennant originally had doubts that it would be too cheesy, the two decided to record it as a single.
  • The Pet Shop Boys version features a specially assembled male voice choir and also enhanced the basis of the original's chord progression using Pachelbel's "Canon In D Major," bringing the theme to the forefront at the opening of the song. Lyrically, as well as being a gay anthem, the words also reflected how Russia was looking west after the cold war.
  • The single went to #2 in the United Kingdom and topped the chart in Germany; in both countries, it was Pet Shop Boys' biggest hit of the 1990s. "I never know whether 'Go West' didn't establish such a strong idea of us in the public eye that it became an albatross," Neil Tennant shrugged to NME in 2017. "It's such a strong thing, it's difficult to escape from – assuming you want to escape from it. People expect you to do doof-doof, four-on-the-floor and we don't necessarily do that."

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