Peter Cox of Go West: ‘Every generation falls in love with the music it grew up with’

From left: Richard Drummie, Carol Decker, Nik Kershaw and Peter Cox

From left: Richard Drummie, Carol Decker, Nik Kershaw and Peter Cox

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For a few years now, Go West have been hitting the stage as part of numerous ’80s revival tours and festivals.

And now, 30 years on from their debut single We Close Our Eyes, the duo of singer Peter Cox and guitarist Richard Drummie are back out on tour with their peers singer-songwriter Nik Kershaw and T’Pau’s Carol Decker – a tour which comes to Portsmouth Guildhall next Thursday.

Go West, who also scored huge hits with the likes of Call Me and King of Wishful Thinking, had apparently called it a day when Cox quit to go solo.

But it was Peter’s appearance in a hit ITV reality show in 2003 that rekindled the act.

‘(Spandau Ballet singer) Tony Hadley and I were involved in a TV show, Reborn In The USA, and there was a moment where people thought we might be among the finalists,’ he explains. Hadley ultimately did win the show.

‘Sadly for me it didn’t pan out, but there was a portion of the audience which was up for me and Tony touring in the UK, which we did. It was the kind of show where Tony would sing the Spandau hits, and me and Richard would play the Go West hits, but we would also be on stage together and choose some unexpected covers.

We were marketed very definitely as a pop act, not that there’s anything wrong with pop, don’t misunderstand me, but I feel we’ve been fighting that public perception ever since, as that’s not all we can do

Peter Cox of Go West

‘And that’s exactly what we’re planning to do with Nik. I’ve always felt Nik was a uniquely talented songwriter with an instantly identifiable style. And he’s a fan of us, or at least he says he is,’ he says with a laugh, ‘so we thought it would be a great combination.

‘We’re aiming for something a little bit different and hopefully do something where audiences will say: “Wow, I didn’t expect to hear that.”

‘Richard and I have been playing covers in our set for some years now as a way of keeping the show fresh for people who may have seen us before, and also for ourselves.’

Like many acts, Go West found themselves partially victims of their own early success and the way they were presented to the public – it’s something they have been reacting against ever since.

‘We were marketed very definitely as a pop act. Not that there’s anything wrong with pop, don’t misunderstand me, but I feel we’ve been fighting that public perception ever since, as that’s not all we can do.

‘Playing other people’s material and throwing a few surprises out to the audience is one way of showing them that we can do something different.’

But does he think they should have done anything different at the start of their career?

‘I think we were just very naive, I think we could probably have exercised more control if we had known, but we were so thrilled to be making a record and “living the dream” that we didn’t necessarily think about that aspect of things.

‘Like dozens of bands before us, we were writing songs, sending them to record labels and getting rejected, so to finally get our foot in door and to record in a modest little studio to be making a record was amazing. And the A&R guy who was responsible for signing us, he was in America, so we spoke to him on the phone, but to a large extent we were left to our own devices.

‘For better or worse, we made the exact record that was in our imaginations, I don’t know if artists today would get that kind of freedom.’

However, the pair fell foul of second album syndrome.

‘Once you’ve had the good fortune to have some success, then you have to repeat that in six months, and we didn’t do an especially good job, plus we were acting against this pop image we had. We reacted, whether wisely or not, rather seriously and were determined to make a so-called more musical second album that took far too long. ‘

With pressure increasing from the record label, the pair’s personal relationship was breaking down and the band came to an end when Peter moved to America.

Peter released a solo album for EMI which didn’t prove to be the hit he was hoping for and, as he puts it, ‘I was on what Aerosmith called Permanent Vacation in LA for a few years.’

But the boom in ’80s nostalgia has proved to be a boon for Go West, and Peter is sanguine about the reasons behind their enduring appeal.

‘I think any generation falls in love with the music they grew up with. You’ve still got ’60s and ’70 tours going around, and they have an audience because people want to have that nostalgic love for it.

‘As a songwriter, I’m bound to say I hope the songs of the ’80s have stood the test of time and the festival circuit this year has been especially good for us. We’re working with a number of our contemporaries, and a lot of them are sounding as good as they ever did, if not better.’

These days, the pair get on perfectly fine too: ‘Richard’s got two kids and his world is quite different from mine now, so we don’t see each other socially as much as we used to. But we work a lot together, and there are 30 dates on this tour, so we’ll be back in each other’s pockets whether we like it or not,’ he laughs.

‘There was a documentary about Bill Withers and in it he was asked ‘‘why did you not pursue music in as determined way as you might do?’’ His answer was that he wasn’t just a musician, there were other things to him. I feel less like that.

‘I don’t want to say this is all I can do, but this is what I want to do. Richard is a really keen photographer, he’s got a good eye and a huge catalogue of work. I think he feels music isn’t all that he is, but it’s all encompassing for me.’

es things have changed since their heyday.

‘I think it’s important to be seen to be making more music, but it’s on a much less high profile level now. And times have changed a lot since the ’80s.

‘Back then we would invest and arguably lose a lot of money to tour and promote the record, whereas now, I make my living entirely from live performance and recording is a labour of love.

‘This generation expects music for free, and no matter how unhappy I might be with that, that’s the way it is, so the only experience that people can’t steal is being in the room and seeing that live, and we seem to be able to deliver something that’s exciting enough to bring the audience back again and again.’

Peter on...

...changing fashions

I’m of an age, where I’m looking at what people are doing today, and you wait 10-15 years and people are going to be laughing at those outfits, but yes, a lot of ’80s fashions were terrible and I certainly fell foul of that.

..their peers

Paul Young is an artist whose records I definitely bought in the day and I was a fan of. I certainly felt proud at the time to be enjoying some success among people for whom I had a great deal of respect.

...good times

I remember buying my first flat with some of the money I earned, it was nice having big cheques dropping through the letter box and not having to worry about money.

Go West and Nik Kershaw with T’Pau play Portsmouth Guildhall on Thursday, November 12. Tickets £27.50-£31.90. Venue open from 6pm, auditorium from 7pm. Go to portsmouthguildhall.org.uk

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