A Bit of a Classic: Pet Shop Boys – Go West (1993)

pet shop boys go west

In A Bit of a Classic, A Bit of Pop Music takes you back in time to relive a pop release we definitely should not forget about. Today, the 6th of September 2018, it is exactly 25 years ago that the Pet Shop Boys released their version of the Village People track ‘Go West’. Time to go back to 1993!

British synth pop duo Pet Shop Boys, consisting of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, had been an established international act for years with numerous hits in both the UK and the US when they decided to share their cover of ‘Go West’ with the world. The original recorded by The Village People is a disco anthem with lyrics that encourage gay men to move to San Francisco, the city that was supposed to be a free and safe space for them.

The optimism and inviting nature of the original is changed into a more reserved, distant and at times ominous vibe in the Pet Shop Boys rendition. Neil’s monotonous vocal delivery and the more industrial synth pop arrangement are the key elements in this new interpretation. It has been written and said that the darker approach had everything to do with the knowledge of the AIDS epidemic that caused a lot of deaths in the gay community in the 80s and 90s, adding a twist to the once optimistic and promising message that the Village People shared.

The video however adds another layer of meaning to this much discussed cover. The Pet Shop Boys’ rendition of ‘Go West’ came out soon after the end of the Cold War, in a time where Russia started to reform as a result of the end of the Soviet Union and the fall of communism. There is symbolism in the video that suggests that the ‘Go West’ chant in this case is about Russia ‘going western’, complete with animations of men in white with red flags marching to the beats and synths.

In the UK and the rest of Europe, ‘Go West’ became one of the biggest hits in the career of the iconic duo from London. The US however was not completely here for the cover, as the release went by almost unnoticed in the charts and only became a hit in the gay bars. Although Pet Shop Boys experienced most of their biggest successes in the 80s and the 90s, they are still very much active and released their most recent album, Super,  as recently as 2016!

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