Way back in 2020, the award winning 80’s pop icons were due to celebrate 35 years of music by performing with a full live orchestra on a special run of UK shows. Like so many live events, this was hit by the pandemic but now, finally, this legendary band will get the chance to play their songs, including many of their greatest hits and a few less well-known tracks, with the Southbank Sinfonia. The band have been arranging and rehearsing for many months and in March, starting at Cliffs Pavilion, Southend on 16th March and taking in Bridgewater Hall, Manchester and The Symphony Hall in Birmingham before a finale at the world-famous London Palladium on 20th March.
Go West are one of the most successful singer songwriter pop duos from the glorious decade of pop in the 80’s and after their debut album sold 1.5 million copies worldwide and remained in the UK charts for 83 weeks, they went on to win the people’s choice BRIT award in 1986 and have hits like ‘We Close Our Eyes’, Call Me’, ‘Don’t Look Down’, ‘Goodbye Girl’ and ‘Faithful’ as well as having a worldwide smash hit with ‘King of Wishful Thinking’ that, after being featured in the blockbuster movie ‘Pretty Woman’, went on to sell over 10 million copies and receive an ASCAP award for being one of the most played songs on American Radio.
Go West are Peter Cox and Richard Drummie and they can’t wait to celebrate their anniversary in style with the orchestra before embarking on a double headline tour with Paul Young in May. ‘Celebrating 35 Years of Go West with Full Live Orchestra’ launches in March 2022 and the band will be supported by fellow 80’s chart toppers Cutting Crew.
I was lucky enough to have an extensive conversation with Richard Drummie about the show, the music of the eighties and look back at the music this incredible band has given us. Fans of Go West and of this wonderful decade of pop will love to hear what he has to say. It was an honour to chat with him and I hope readers of EP will enjoy this insightful interview.
EP: So, I guess you guys must be really looking forward to the orchestral tour?
RD: Absolutely, it’s been really interesting. We played once with an orchestra last year, but it was just myself and Peter and we didn’t really have a lot of involvement in what the orchestra did. But, on this one, we’ve got a whole evening to write and we’ve been writing with an orchestral arranger who fortunately, definitely comes from the same musical DNA as me, so I’m very happy. I’m really looking forward to it, it’s going to be quite emotional, actually. I’ve found myself getting quite moved by hearing this orchestra in the background. At the moment, obviously it’s done with mini instruments, so it will sound even more powerful, obviously, with a proper orchestra doing it.
EP: I’m glad you said that because it was one of the questions that I was going to ask you.
There’s been a trend, largely at Christmas, to re-record music like the Beach Boys and Elvis and others with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and I always think that that it’s great to hear but that sometimes the orchestra just replaces the instruments and it’s the freshly written parts that are most interesting. It doesn’t feel like a reimagining. Whereas I was listening to Moby and his album ‘Reprise’, I’m sure you’ve heard it, where Moby has completely re-imagined and rewritten his hits with an orchestra and guest vocalists to create something new, something deeper, something hugely moving. It gives a real grandeur and makes the music seem more emptional.
RD: It does, I’ve always been like that; I love bands like The Blue Nile and I’m forever getting the old bottom lip going when I’m listening to music. I don’t know what it is, I just get moved by music, but when it’s your own, that’s quite something. For instance, there’s a track, ‘The King is Dead’, that we very rarely play because it’s quite a sparse track and it’s not particularly upbeat. With the orchestra added to it, it’s a whole different thing and so that’s one thing you learn, you know, things like ‘We Close Our Eyes’, there’s no space in it, let’s put it that way, so to try to put an orchestra to it is quite difficult. So we have, on occasion, said ‘let’s take that out’ or ‘let’s have the cello do that instead of the base’ or something like that. So, it’s been very meticulous, but very rewarding so far.
EP: It’s funny with the orchestration of the music though because it does seem to work better with the things that are closer to a lamentation than an exaltation doesn’t it? I was listening recently to the music from the new Bond movie. I won’t tell you anything about the plot, but I was asked to review the music before the film came out and there’s a piece in that, which is called ‘Final Ascent’, which is like a lament. It’s nostalgic and huge in scale and incredibly moving when you listen to it simply as an orchestral piece. Weirdly, when you watch it with the movie, although it’s still as effective, it doesn’t move you as much as just having that sound in your ears because you’re focussed on the visuals. I think sometimes with those slow pieces of music, they really lend themselves quite well to orchestration and I guess, from your point of view, it’s interesting to look at the songs that are maybe not the most popular, not the go-to songs, if you like. It must be great to give those songs a new twist, a new lease of life.
RD: Absolutely, I learned this quite early on. Pete is always saying the sets got to be up-tempo, we don’t want too many ballads but, with this, I think I’ve gradually realised that within an orchestral framing, for want of a better word, those fast ones are not that easy to orchestrate and they can end up sounding like seaside special if you’re not careful. But with things like ‘The King is Dead’ and ’Baltimore to Paris’ and some of the things that we’re adding that we don’t play as often, the orchestra really works. I mean, that’s the reason we don’t play them because we don’t think they kind of hold people’s attention enough but with an orchestra they’re just flying, absolutely flying. It’s been great fun. I’m already thinking of how we can do something with recording these. Some of the songs, it’s really pushed them over the line, further over the line I should say.
EP: That would be fantastic to record them because obviously not everyone will be lucky enough to get tickets for the gigs and you have a huge fan base, so I’m sure that would go down a treat. I think music from the 80s strangely lends itself quite well to strings. You guys are probably quite close to Martin Fry and ABC and there was always an element of strings to their music.
RD: ABC are built for it. By the way, I’ve actually done a couple of tracks with Martin for Action Medical Research and I did share a tent with him in Costa Rica, I think, for 10 days so I do know Martin quite well. Their stuff was built for it though, obviously there’s a lot of orchestration and the same goes for Tony (Hadley) who also came on these trips from Spandau. There’s quite a bit of stringage in there and so it lends itself well but with us, we’ve had to reimagine the songs, and songs like ‘The King is Dead’ are ideal.
EP: Is it a surprise to you that the music from the 80s has the longevity that it does? More than most of the other decades, you know, even now, you listen to Virgin Radio in the morning and every week, Chris Evans has a day dedicated to 80s music and it’s interesting to see that. Do you think maybe it was undervalued in the 80s and that now people are starting to really appreciate how good it was?
RD: It was undervalued by me, I must admit. I loved Motown and I loved the 70s , with all that entailed with Bowie and Roxy Music and everybody else and I often thought that a lot of eighties music was pretty soulless because there was a lot of over production but I think what’s happened over time is that the records that were also songs have lasted. We say that a lot; sometimes I’ll say well that’s a good record, not a good song. For instance, the classic example for me, not knocking her at all, is P!nk’s ‘Party Started’. I suggested doing that live as a cover and when we did it, it just felt completely on its backside because it’s not a great song, it’s a great record. If you imagine playing it on the piano, it’s pretty much one chord. So, I think there were enough good tunes in the 80’s that are still relatable today so it was a good decade to have broken through.
EP: I think there was a joy in the 80s that maybe disappeared in other decades.
RD: I totally agree with you. Another side to it that I’ve never quite understood is that people dress up. We were away for quite some so a lot of this did bypass me, because we were away writing abroad doing the second album in Denmark and then we did America for three years, but it does seem that any eighties event seems to come hand in hand with dressing up and just having a really good time.
EP: I think your song ‘King of Wishful Thinking’ sums it up doesn’t it? It was an era of wishful thinking and glamour as opposed to an era of writing songs more immersed in reality.
RD: To be fair, with our second album, we made quite a serious record. It was a case of mistaken identity, basically, because we were trying to make something with maybe a broader, more serious, appeal but by the time we got to the end of the eighties and we were doing ‘King of Wishful Thinking’ and what have you, we’d lightened up. We gradually got more perspective and went back to making more cheerful music.
EP: I love ‘Indian Summer’, It’s still something that I listen to all the time. I think the music on it has just held up so well and it’s never been far away from the music I like to play at home.
RD: Thanks. It was a joy for us, that album, because after the second album not doing well, the record company stepped in and said ‘okay’ and fair enough, it’s a business that we’re in, and that’s their side of things and they tried to split us up to write with other people. The reason that ‘Indian Summer’ is full of joy is because that was us thinking it was all over, and then we wrote ‘The King of Wishful Thinking’ and I thought that was a hit instantly and the record company said: ‘ ok you guys are still great together’ and so that record was a bit of a celebration..
EP: Well, I remember when it came out and you know, and I don’t want to be disrespectful but it felt a little bit like a comeback album….
RD: It was a comeback album. That’s why it was called ‘Indian Summer’..
EP: The title does sum it up but then we always enjoy Indian Summers much more than anything don’t we?
RD: Obviously, it had ‘The King of Wishful Thinking’, it had ‘Faithful’, one of them was top ten and the other just outside. We managed to break America with it. Unfortunately, Pete went off to do his own thing after that and that’s a whole different story. But, that album, as you so kindly say, still stands the test the time. I don’t think it sounds dated. There’s a lot of interesting things like ‘Count Me Out’. We were in L.A. and using the full gamut of what was available to us, all the fantastic session players. It was good all round. We were happy, we were in awe of our circumstances really, recording in Los Angeles with all these great players.
EP: Maybe having had such a successful first album followed by a difficult second album, ‘Indian Summer’ feels like an appreciation of where you were at as artists and that still comes through now.
RD: Absolutely, I totally agree… I wasn’t happy with the second album. I don’t mind admitting it now. I certainly wasn’t very happy. I think we went to the wrong place to record it. Before, we spent six months out of the country writing it. I think we just approached the second album totally wrong, we shouldn’t have changed anything, we should have stayed in England, recorded inn England because what happened was that we put ourselves into almost like a Covid bubble, living in Denmark in the same house with nothing to do but go to the studio, come home. We couldn’t even watch TV. It was actually like a punishment and I think that’s why a lot of it came across a bit grey to be honest with you.
EP: I know it’s a bit of a cliché but second albums are tough as the first album is usually the culmination of years rather than months but once it’s successful, there’s a demand for a reasonably quick follow up to take advantage of that.
RD: If you remember, Pete and I were trying to get a deal since about 1980. Four or five years to write those songs, bin a few. I mean, Pete and I don’t bother to finish some but there are very few finished Go West songs that nobody has heard. So, on that album we had a two-week holiday at the end of the year and then we were straight back in; we were burned out from that first year of all the work that went with the album. I’m not moaning. I was very happy but we didn’t have the chance to catch up with ourselves and I think that’s why the record wasn’t the same quality as the first one. Also, we misread the situation and we tried to go all Sting-y and prove that we were proper players and not just a pop band and unfortunately there’s nothing wrong with being a pop band but we didn’t realise that at the time.
EP: Well, I think you’ve hit the nail on there. So many people think that artists are overnight sensations but in reality success is a lot of hard work. Years of writing, playing gigs, honing your craft to a point where it seems that you arrive out of nowhere but there have been years of work put into being a successful pop star and then the record company want the second album quickly to take advantage of that but it’s not easy to replicate all that work and fit it into a short time frame.
RD: To be fair, the A&R man who signed us from Chrysalis America came over and followed us through our writing and signed us but he then left the company and so we didn’t have him on the second album and the people that did take over the A&R just kept saying ‘Great!’ every time we sent something. So, we thought we we’re obviously doing the right thing as far as they’re concerned and that wasn’t the way it turned out. The public didn’t think it was great although there are so many different reasons why records don’t take off; those sliding door moments where you just happen to get ‘The King of Wishful Thinking’ into the Pretty Woman. I’m not saying you wouldn’t have heard that but it didn’t do it any harm. You just keep going, you make mistakes and then this one’s a hit, that one’s a miss and along we go.
EP: Being on a soundtrack was a great way back then to get your music into different places. I remember you had a track on the Rocky IV soundtrack too. It’s a great way to get different audiences to listen to your music as a gateway.
RD: Absolutely, that’s why we are still chatting about that. That’s a bit of showbiz, that’s a bit of excitement. When you are two lads from Twickenham, we were never ones for bigging ourselves up; we never made things up for publicity. My late Dad spoke to me once and said “What’s he like”’ and I said: “Who?” and he replied: “Clint Eastwood”. I said: “He’s probably very nice Dad” and he replied “Well you live next door to him don’t you?” and it turned out The Sun had reported it the day before. People just made up stuff like Go West are living next door to Clint Eastwood but we didn’t. The thing we did wrong in interviews was say that it was the record company making things up and of course, they got really annoyed about that and gave up trying to make us seem more interesting.
EP: And now, you have this fantastic opportunity to rework these songs in a completely new way with an orchestra which will find new fans and then there are radio stations still playing the sounds of the eighties and artists covering and sampling songs from the eighties which breathe new life into classic songs.
RD: Yes, we had Carly Rae Jepson cover ‘King of Wishful Thinking’ live that I wish she’d released. I think she may have changed it to ‘Queen of Wishful Thinking’ and that’s great. I was made up because I had suggested doing ‘Call Me Maybe’ as a cover because I like her stuff. Equally, there’s a band called New Found Glory that have done a metal Nirvana-esque version and that’s the biggest complement that someone can pay us that they take the time, fill their set or make a record of something that I’ve been involved in writing.
EP: Well thank you so much for all your brilliant music. I wish you all the luck in the world for the tour. It’s been a pleasure, an honour to chat with you and I can’t wait to see how the orchestral gigs go.
RD: Thanks, and we are also out on tour with Paul Young. We’ve toured Australia a couple of times with Paul so that’s going to be fun as well. It’s great to finally get out of the house and do a bit of work. I can’t wait.
See below for dates and locations of ‘Celebrating 35 Years Of Go West With Full Live Orchestra’.
16th March 2022 Cliffs Pavillion Southend
18th March 2022 Bridgewater Hall Manchester
19th March 2022 Symphony Hall Birmingham
20th March 2022 Palladium London
Go West Tour news, tickets and all other live dates are available here.