The late 80s were very kind to Go West with top ten hits like We Close Our Eyes and Call Me but it was the song King of Wishful Thinking which barely scraps through into the beginning of the 90s that is the biggest hit that fans remember the most. Who doesn’t remember that song from the Pretty Woman movie? Everyone knows it. Its a timeless classic hit and that’s what Go West will be bringing to the 80s Mania tour this November.
Along with A Flock of Seagulls, Cutting Crew and Pseudo Echo they are bringing all their big hits and more for the ultimate night of 80s decadence and indulgence. It’s going to be a big dance party and you don’t want to miss it. Peter Cox from Go West chatted to the Hi Fi Way about what audiences can expect when they tour as well as some great stories about the songs and success they had from the 80s.
You’re coming back to Australia. Are you excited touring here again? How many times is this now?
That’s a good question! Maybe four or five times? And the answer to your question, absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to come back. I’ve loved the time I’ve spent in Australia and have learned over the years to factor in some down time in the beginning of the trip to recover from the journey and get my head on straight before the work starts.
Yeah, it’s a shame we are so far away or you’d be back more often I guess!
Well you could say that but then again it wouldn’t be spring in November if you weren’t so far away! (laughs) So I’m looking forward to that too!
Australia seems to love you guys. What do you think it is that people still love coming to see Go West after all these years?
Yeah, I mean obviously I’m as surprised as anybody else but at the same time I’m bound to say that I hope that the strength of the songs, the melodies and the nature of music of that era is what brings people back to the show. We try the best we can to provide some energy and not just stand there. We try to put on a show and entertain people.
Speaking of energy, looking back to your videos of the 80s there’s a lot of energy in the We Close Our Eyes video where there’s a lot of dancing and movement. Was that a huge wrench you were holding in that video? What was behind that storyline?
Well the story of the wrench is that I didn’t know anything about it until the morning of the shoot. I think the directors Godley and Crème (of 10CC) who were very successful video directors of that time so much so that when our record label had got them to agree to shoot the video they didn’t ask them for any kind of a storyboard or any idea of what the video was going to look like when it was finished. They were just thrilled to have big name, big track record directors on board.
I would say though that no one in their right mind would refer to anything that I do as dancing exactly! (laughs) When you say movement I can kind of go with that but I’d never presented myself as a song and dance man! But Godley and Crème are very clever, very experienced video directors and they knew full well that neither Richard (Drummie) or I had any kind of performance experience at all. The very first shot we did on that day which pretty much was the main shot of me in the video. I’m about six feet away from the camera and Godley and Crème are on either side of the camera obviously out of shot and they’re just shouting directions at me where to move the wrench to next and so and so on.
It was a very long hard days work. I’m sure there was a lot of nervous tension on my part as well not really knowing what to expect and wanting to deliver something that would help the band. It’s a long answer I’m sorry.
No that’s ok! It was interesting, I was really curious. I mean that wrench had to be pretty heavy so to dance or move in your case (both laugh) and hold it thinking “what am I doing here?”
(laughs) Well a little bit of that certainly but then again that’s kind of what I felt like through the whole of 1985 speaking for myself personally. It really was a whirlwind and I had no expectation that we would get the level of success that we did so quickly. I thought it would be more of a building momentum kind of a thing. But going back to the wrench as I was saying Godley and Crème were very clever guys and that wrench was heavy as you say. I wasn’t the most muscular of men but at the same time throwing that thing around for six hours it pumped up my tiny muscles to something looking a bit bigger I suppose (laughs).
I think you looked alright in that video! I was going to say can we see a return of that tank top you were wearing in that video? (laughs) Is that going to make a come back for the tour? (laughs)
(laughs) Yeah, I don’t think anyone needs to see me in a tank top in this day and age. Yeah its funny we did a lot of pre-video preparation where we borrowed clothes from various fashion stores and paraded up and down for Godley and Crème who were not sure of what the look of video should be. They didn’t seem very taken with anything that we were wearing and then when we put our street clothes back on and at this point I have to say I can’t tell you why on earth I was wearing a singlet as you call them there in Australia, but that’s what I was wearing and I put my street clothes back on they looked at me and said “Yep! That looks good, we’ll go with that!”
I’m only second guessing them but I think they were very loosely referring to the Marlon Brando/ James Dean sort of mechanic kind of look. I know that I spent a long time in makeup having this sort of fake repair shop oil smeared on my body and it was so hot. I was working so hard that the whole thing slipped off in about five minutes so there’s a lot of makeup that you can’t finally see until the end result! (laughs)
With that video and with the Call Me video as well is there any relevance to the actual songs or is it just Godley and Crème creations?
Yeah as you say there I don’t think there’s any direct reference to any of the lyrics in the songs. The Call Me video was directed by Russell Mulcahy who I believe is Australian or is he a New Zealander?
Ok! Yeah, he’s Australian, great. Having had the success that Russell had with his Duran Duran videos.
Godley and Crème also worked with Duran Duran on the Girls on Film video too!
Oh yeah! Both these guys as directing choices where the hot mains of the day and the video for We Close Our Eyes even though there isn’t a set we are performing in front of blue screen which is that era’s equivalent to the green screen of today. I suppose on one level you would think it was an inexpensive video but it wasn’t actually inexpensive in fact the We Close Our Eyes video cost more than the recording of our entire first album and Call Me was more expensive still. Of course, as we know this was in an era when budgets were very extensive and record companies were throwing money around. I’m sure they don’t these days unless you are Adele or Ariana Grande or one of those artists at the very top of the mountain as it were.
Do you have any funny stories or great memories of the 80s at the height of your success?
It was a whirlwind really I mean our Go West album came out in the spring of ’85 and that year our album was in the charts in the Top 50 in the UK for the entirety of that year. We Close Our Eyes sold 250,000 copies plus as a single in an era when record sales meant record sales as we know now its music streaming and this generation expects its music effectively for free.
Once you’ve paid for your streaming platform subscription all the music in the world is available at your fingertips. It’s a very different world but in 1985 I went to Japan on tour with Culture Club, The Style Council and The Associates and had you said to me at the end of 1984 “You’ll be touring in Japan next year” I would’ve thought that would be quite unlikely. It was a whirlwind of various TV and lots of promotion in Europe so we were in Italy, Switzerland and just a lot of travel. There was an immediate raise in profile as far as walking down the street in the UK that I hadn’t expected or wasn’t really that prepared for to be honest.
Were they good memories and good days?
Yeah as I say I think that kind of success you are either prepared for it or not. I guess it depends how your personality is wired. I remember my manager saying to me towards the end of the year “Are you having fun? Are you enjoying the experience?” Honestly, I was in fear quite a lot of the time. I was twenty nine. We weren’t spring chickens when we got signed. We’d been trying for a long time so I was twenty nine and didn’t have that feeling of vulnerability and carelessness that I might’ve had if I were nineteen or twenty. So I was thinking about everything a lot and looking back I do have some fond memories but a lot of it was a blur. I think I was quite anxious about whether or not I was living up to my idea of what I thought other people expected me to be.
Considering how it took for you to get signed, do you think its easier or harder in today’s music scene for a new band to be successful?
I think it’s more difficult in some ways because in this day and age the way most musicians I know make a living is by playing live. In 1985 speaking from our own experience we would lose money on tour. We’d have a big band, three singers, a horn section, our own purpose designed lighting rig on the basis that we could afford to lose money on tour because we were hopeful that we would sell records as a result and that would be our primary source of income. In this day and age that’s all different. That’s all changed completely now.
So, I would say that while it would appear social media and technology means that you can in theory make your records at home without the big studio cost. Then you can upload your music to the various social media platforms so you can at least get to that point of putting your music out there but the problem is making people aware that it’s there at all. If you’re not on TV for example putting your video up to YouTube doesn’t guarantee you million views. So, I would in some ways say its easier and in others its much more difficult. Of course, as its been the case in the beginning of popular music there is so much more competition out there now. There weren’t as many artists or wanna be artists or people trying to make it in 1950 as there are now in 2020.
Having been through all that what kind of advice would you give to young artists?
I would always say make sure that you’re doing it because you love it because the chances are against you in terms of any kind of success. If you are doing it because you want to make a lot of money then you might want to consider another career. I think you have to be really thick skinned and you’ve got to be ready for a lot of rejection and disappointment. I don’t say all that to put people off, I think that your prime objective should be that you love what you do and you couldn’t imagine doing anything else. That’s been the truth for me.
Its definitely not an easy business. You talked about social media which wasn’t around in the 80s and there were different kinds of promotion back then, it was a lot more private. What did you do behind the scenes? How would you have coped with that as a band being more instantaneous?
Well I have to put myself in twenty nine year-old me’s skin. I suppose if we had been writing our songs and making our music up to signing a deal in the context of social media, I would have been prepared obviously but no I use social media still in a very older persons way. I use my Twitter and Facebook page purely as a tool for work to promote what I’m doing and I make the majority of what I ever post to be work related. I don’t post “look at this nice meal I had” or “what a nice cup of coffee” or “this cocktail is great.” I don’t do any of that business really or at least not very much. To me social media is about being a work tool to promote what we’re doing and to let people know what’s happening.
Its obviously an important tool now to reach out to people but do you enjoy it or is it something you have to do?
No I don’t mind doing it! I must say for example when I read about Billie Eilish that she is 100% control of the music she makes, her image, the visual aspect of everything that she does and I have to say that is very admirable. That has very seldom been the case at least for me. Coming through a record label at a different time and a different world, so using social media is one way for me to exert some kind of control over the way I am perceived by those people who are interested in what I’m doing.
Where as back in the day, in fact let me give you an example; we signed at twenty nine (years old) and the record label immediately said to me “OK from now on you need to tell people your twenty four”. I said “no I’m not doing that.” It is just one example of how the label, even if they had your best interests at heart, they were still manufacturing to some extent and controlling they way you were being perceived by your audience.
So social media from my point of view, for better or worse anyone can have a glass of wine or two react to something on Twitter or Facebook and post something in the heat of the moment that they wished they hadn’t done (laughs). I’ve certainly been guilty of that myself but no I do get some pleasure out of it. Like many many other people in the world I definitely am somewhat addicted to it especially if your doing it for work. You want people to go to your show and I put it out there that we’re playing this show. I can’t resist the compulsion to check and see if anyone’s reacted.
In the 80s we didn’t have social media and couldn’t really interact with our favourite artists like we can now where you can send a message or write a comment. Do you feel it brings you closer to your fans? I mean we’re not fifteen year old young girls anymore so hopefully we are a bit more controlled and mature.
(laughs) Yeah I suppose it does. I mean wherever I am in the world means I can often reply directly if someone reaches out to me. I have the option there to respond directly but if I had five million followers I probably wouldn’t be able to interact in that way. There’s no question it’s a way in keeping people involved and it does at least give you the opportunity whether you choose to take it or not. It does bring you closer to your audience.
Speaking of your audience is playing live still something you enjoy doing and do you look forward to going on tour? Is it much different to when you toured in the 80s?
It’s different to me because I’m a bit more comfortable in my skin. I’ve proved certain points, we’ve had some success, we’ve made some hit records so I’m less anxious on that level. I’m always nervous before a show because I take pride in what I do and I want it to be good. I want people to go away “Wow! That’s was great or better than I expected!” You want to leave a good impression so from that point of view once I get on stage, we are in a position now where we are not trying to win the audience over because a lot of people come to see us expecting to hear certain songs that they remember. We will play those songs and hopefully give a good account of ourselves not trying to win the audience over with new material.
I enjoy it hugely. I was saying just yesterday the time on stage is you could think of it as cake if you like, as an American mixing engineer once said to me, where we earn our money is sitting in a people carrier on a motorway at 2am in the morning, its always the travel that’s hard. But it’s not a complaint it comes with the territory so I’d say after that very long answer I enjoy performing live now more than I ever have done.
So, what can audiences for 80s Mania expect on this tour?
At the risk of stating the obvious everyone will be playing the hits that their known for but I hope that people will experience some energy off the stage. I hope people come and see a high energy show packed with hit songs they will remember from the day and sing a long and have a party!
What is your favourite Go West song to perform live?
Any songwriter will tell you that it’s a fantastic experience when the audience is singing the chorus or even verse of the song that you wrote twenty to twenty-five years ago. There’s no feeling like that! Obviously it’s nice to play King of Wishful Thinking in countries around the world and in front audiences who may be less familiar with us as artists but of course Pretty Woman as a movie is practically a universal language now. Over here I feel as if it has its own channel. It seems to be on twenty-four hours a day (laughs). So obviously more by luck and being in the right place at the right time that’s the song I’m still proud of and always gets a great audience reaction pretty much wherever we are even if the audience don’t know who Go West are.
It’s funny you say that because when I was telling people I’m going to interview Peter Cox from Go West they all reacted with “Who?” But the moment I said King of Wishing thinking they said “Oh I know that song, I love that song, I love Pretty Woman!” It’s a very popular song. Why do you think its reached and touched so many people?
I would say the association with the movie has something to do with that but I think going back to what you were saying about people not recognising the name of the band I’m fully aware next year is our thirty fifth anniversary as a band and we’re not of this moment. We weren’t ever really part of the New Romantic movement here in the UK, certainly we started our careers at the tail end of the punk movement to which we couldn’t really be much more different. Because we weren’t a makeup band or didn’t really have a strong image. When people say to me now thirty five years later, as you very kindly did “Will we being seeing the singlet on stage?” that image, the one image that they remember us was entirely accidental. I think that fact we’ve never really had a strong identifiable look has obviously worked against us over the years. People might know the songs but they don’t necessarily associate those songs with a certain singer or face or a look.
But isn’t at the end of the day about the songs? If they remember your songs you’ve done an amazing job creating something people are going to remember forever?
Well from your lips! I’m certainly proud of the songs and we’ve been asked so often about why we do what we do and we’ve always said “its all about the music”. You’ve just said that to me now and it’s nice to hear that and as you know that’s not the most interesting answer (laughs) that you could ever get from a songwriter. So, I understand that its just always been the truth.
Interview by Anastasia Lambis
Catch 80s Mania on the following dates, tickets through Abstract Entertainment…
80s Mania Tour Dates
Thu 14 Nov – Southern Cross Club – Canberra
Fri 15 Nov – Palais Theatre – Melbourne
Sat 16 Nov – Enmore Theatre – Sydney
Sun 17 Nov – WIN Entertainment Centre -Wollongong
Wed 20 Nov – Wests – New Lambton
Thu 21 Nov – C.ex – Coffs Harbour
Fri 22 Nov – Eatons Hill Hotel – Brisbane
Sat 23 Nov – Twin Towns Services Club – Gold Coast
Wed 27 Nov – Thebarton Theatre – Adelaide
Fri 29 Nov – Evan Theatre – Panthers Penrith
Sat 30 Nov – Astor Theatre – Perth