Go West (song)

"Go West"
Single by Village People
from the album Go West
B-side "Citizens of the World"
Released June 1979
Format 7", 12"
Recorded 1978
Genre Disco
Length 4:10
Label Casablanca
Writer(s) Jacques Morali, Henri Belolo, Victor Willis
Producer(s) Morali
Village People singles chronology
"Go West"
"In the Navy"

"Go West" is a song by the American disco group Village People. It was an instant hit in the disco scene during the late 1970s. The song found further success when it was covered in 1993 by British synthpop duo Pet Shop Boys. Original Village People lead singer Victor Willis, Henri Belolo and Jacques Morali are credited as the song's writers, although Willis disputes Belolo's involvement.[1]

Village People version

Originally released as a single in 1979, it was not as popular as the group's other contemporary singles such as "Y.M.C.A." and "In the Navy". The song's title is attributed to the nineteenth century quote "Go West, young man" commonly attributed to Horace Greeley, a rallying cry for the colonization of the American West. Though Victor Willis denies writing the song with a gay theme in mind, "Go West" is generally understood as an expression of the 1970s sentiment of San Francisco as a utopia for the Gay Liberation movement.[2]

Both the 7" and 12" versions of the song were subsequently collected in various greatest hits collections, including a 1997 radio remix which was made in the wake of the success of Pet Shop Boys' 1993 version.

The Village People version of the song features in the film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and in the musical of the same name as the three lead characters leave Sydney for Alice Springs (which lies just over 2,000 km north-west of Sydney as the crow flies).

Chart positions

Chart (1979) Peak
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[3] 12
Canada Top Singles (RPM) 41
Ireland (IRMA)[4] 15
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[5] 29
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company) 15
US Billboard Hot 100 45

Pet Shop Boys version

"Go West"
Single by Pet Shop Boys
from the album Very
B-side "Shameless"
Released 6 September 1993
Format 7", 12", cassette, CD
Recorded 1992–1993
Length 5:03
8:21 (album version)
Label Parlophone / EMI
Writer(s) Morali, Belolo, Willis, Neil Tennant, Chris Lowe
Producer(s) Pet Shop Boys, Brothers in Rhythm
Pet Shop Boys singles chronology
"Can You Forgive Her?"
"Go West"
"I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing"


In 1992, when 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 "Go West" as the song they would perform. Though singer Neil Tennant was unable to remember the lyrics during that performance, the two decided to record it as a single.[6]

The original single version of the song, set for an earlier release in 1992 as a non-album single, was never used. However, both its extended dance mix, and its similarly unreleased B-side "Forever in Love" (an edited version was released on Very Relentless in 1993), were eventually released on the 2001 expanded reissue of Very; its 7" mix also was mistakenly placed on the 2009 compilation Party. Instead, the song was released in a different version in 1993, as the second single from Very, and featuring a different B-side, "Shameless". This release included remixes by Brothers in Rhythm, Farley & Heller, Kevin Saunderson, and Mark Stent. The single went to number two in the United Kingdom and number one in Germany; in both countries, it was Pet Shop Boys' biggest hit of the 1990s. The single also reached #1 in Ireland, the last of the duo's four Irish #1 singles to date.


The new version enhances the basis of the original's chord progression in Pachelbel's Canon, bringing the theme to the forefront at the opening of the song.[6] In addition to the Canon elements, it included a new introduction which Lowe later said "does sound surprisingly like the former Soviet anthem".[7] The song also underwent extensive reworking of its instrumental tracks, with producers Stephen Hague and Mark Stent credited for the mixing, as well as an all-male Broadway choir arranged by Richard Niles (said by Tennant to be inspired by the song "There Is Nothing Like a Dame" from the Broadway musical South Pacific).[6] In addition, Tennant and Lowe wrote a new verse for the song, with the lyrics:

There where the air is free
we'll be what we want to be
Now if we make a stand
we'll find our promised land[8]


In marketing for the single, Tennant and Lowe wore uniforms with hemispheric helmets; Tennant's costume was blue, Lowe's yellow.

Music video

The music video was directed by Howard Greenhalgh and relies heavily on computer-generated imagery, like all of his videos for the Very singles. It begins with a red Statue of Liberty, and then depicts a grey city where the communist domination is evident on the basis of Soviet imagery (such as red stars and red flags, Yuri Gagarin Monument and Monument to the Conquerors of Space). Troops of identical Soviet men march up a staircase stretching into the clouds, seemingly toward a Western society, with the Statue of Liberty, now appearing as a black diva looming in the distance (played by backing-vocalist Sylvia Mason-James). Tennant and Lowe appear throughout; Tennant carries a blue-and-yellow striped arrow staff, and Lowe travels on a flying surfboard. Occasional live action shots of Soviet iconography appear; in one Tennant and Lowe appear in their costumes, walking across Red Square.

The video was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video in 1995, losing to "Love Is Strong" by The Rolling Stones.[9] The "Go West" costumes were parodied in the video for their later 2006 single, "I'm with Stupid".)[10]

Cover versions

The Swedish PSB cover band West End Girls released their version of the song in January 2006. In 2007, classical singer Rhydian performed the song on The X Factor, surrounded by men in sailor outfits.

Remixed Eurodance versions of the song have appeared on the Dancemania series albums, including Dancemania SPEED 4 issued in 2000.[11]

Clubringer covered the song in 2003 with a trance CD single released in Poland. 4 versions of the song were created.

German pop singer Mickie Krause covered the song on his 2008 Album "10 Jahre – Gute Unterhaltung" entitled Orange trägt nur die Müllabfuhr,On the occasion of the European Football Championship 2008, he published the chorus melody that directed against the Netherlands abusive song, alluding to the traditional orange jersey of the Dutch national football team .

British comedy band The Wurzels covered the song on their 2010 album A Load More Bullocks.[12]

Osem, the Israeli food giant, created a commercial for its ketchup based on the Pet Shop boys video clip and song version a short time after the single was released.

German metal band JBO covered the song on their 1997 Album laut (loud), entitled Ein Fest (a party), mocking the song.

Bulgarian comedy band Zamunda Banana Band's "Назад към природата", which translated means "Back to the Nature" is a parody of Go West.

Fans of German football club FC Schalke 04 originated the song "Steht auf, wenn ihr Schalker seid!" (Stand up...) to the song's melody, many other clubs, mostly in Germany and England copied it and replaced "Schalke" with their own clubs.

Track listing

7": Parlophone / R 6356 (UK)

A. "Go West" – 5:03

B. "Shameless" – 5:04

12": Parlophone / 12R 6356 (UK)

A. "Go West" (Mings Gone West: First and Second Movement) – 10:12

B1. "Go West" (Farley and Heller Disco Mix) – 6:01

B2. "Go West" (Kevin Saunderson Tribe Mix) – 6:50

CD: Parlophone / CDR 6356 (UK)

  1. "Go West" – 5:03
  2. "Shameless" – 5:04
  3. "Go West" (Ming's Gone West: First and Second Movement) – 10:12

CD: EMI / E2-58084 (US)

  1. "Go West" – 5:03
  2. "Shameless" – 5:04
  3. "Go West" (Ming's Gone West: First and Second Movement) – 10:12
  4. "Go West" (Farley and Heller Disco Mix) – 6:01
  5. "Go West" (Farley and Heller Fire Island Mix) – 7:42
  6. "Go West" (Kevin Saunderson Tribe Mix) – 6:50
  7. "Go West" (Kevin Saunderson Trance Mix) – 6:53

Chart performance

Chart (1993) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[13] 10
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[14] 2
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[15] 2
Canadian Dance (RPM)[16] 8
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[17] 1
France (SNEP)[18] 2
Germany (Official German Charts)[19] 1
Ireland (IRMA) 1
Italy (FIMI)[20] 7
Japan (Oricon)[21] 9
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[22] 3
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[23] 13
Norway (VG-lista)[24] 5
Spain (AFYVE)[25] 4
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[26] 2
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[27] 2
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company) 2
US Billboard Dance Music/Club Play Singles 1
US Billboard Bubbling Under 6


The song Go West (in the Pet Shop Boys version) is played in the first and last scenes of award-winning Chinese director Jia Zhangke's film Mountains May Depart (2015). In many of Jia's films, the 'turn' China has made towards 'the West' is a central theme -- Mountains May Depart is no exception. Also, the song serves as a unifying element: it connects the first part of the film (set in 1999) to the final scene (set in 2025), creating a poignant effect which several critics have praised; David Rooney of the Hollywood Reporter called the ending "a beautiful concluding sequence that reaffirms the film's aching depth of feeling and extraordinary sense of place".[28]

Copyright lawsuit

On May 7, 2012, publishers Can't Stop Productions and Scorpio Music, failed in their attempt to prevent "Go West" and other Village People hits written by Victor Willis from reverting to Willis as scheduled starting in 2013. In a historic ruling, Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California ruled that Willis can in fact terminate his copyrights granted to the publishers because "a joint author who separately transfers his copyright interest may unilaterally terminate the grant." [29] In response to the ruling, Willis stated "I am just looking forward to having control of it,"Go West" [30] So as it currently stands, in 2013 at a minimum, Victor Willis per the court order will own (recapture) 33% of "Go West" and other Village People hits. However, his percentage of ownership may increase to 50% if the songs were only written by Victor Willis and Jacques Morali, not Henri Belolo. In fact, Brian Caplan, Willis' lawyer stated that he is confident they will prove at trial that Henri Belolo didn’t write any of the lyrics to "Go West" [1] Judge Moskowitz has granted the publishers Can't Stop Productions and Scorpio Music, 30 days to amend their complaint to argue why Willis should not be allowed to provide evidence that Henri Belolo was not one of the writers of "Go West" and other Village People hits.[1]


  1. 1 2 3 Pettersson, Edvard (2012-05-08). "Village People Motorcycle Cop Wins 'YMCA' Copyright Case". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2014-03-03.
  2. O'Donovan, Connell (June 1999). "Go West - This is Our Destiny". Connell O'Donovan's Home Page. Archived from the original on 20 March 2005. Retrieved 27 April 2007.
  3. "Ultratop.be – Village People – {{{song}}}" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  4. "The Irish Charts – All There Is To Know". Irish Recorded Music Association. Irishcharts.com. 1979-01-22. Retrieved 2009-07-03.
  5. "Dutchcharts.nl – Village People – {{{song}}}" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  6. 1 2 3 "Interviews - Very Go West". Pet Shop Boys unofficial website. Archived from the original on 27 August 2012. Retrieved 19 February 2011.
  7. Liner notes from 2001 CD reissue.
  8. "Go West (lyrics)". Pet Shop Boys official website. Retrieved 3 April 2010.
  9. "Past Winners Database: 1994 37th Grammy Awards". The Envelope: The Ultimate Awards Site. Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 17 October 2006. Retrieved 28 October 2006.
  10. "The new video: exclusive tonight". Pet Shop Boys official website news. 14 April 2006. Retrieved 21 May 2006.
  11. "Various - Dancemania Speed 4 (CD)". Discogs.com. 2000-03-08. Retrieved 2016-10-15.
  12. "Wurzel World - Shop". Thewurzels.com. Retrieved 2014-03-03.
  13. "Australian-charts.com – Pet Shop Boys – Go West". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
  14. "Austriancharts.at – Pet Shop Boys – Go West" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  15. "Ultratop.be – Pet Shop Boys – Go West" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  16. "Results - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 2014-03-03.
  17. Pennanen, Timo (2006). Sisältää hitin - levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972 (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi. ISBN 978-951-1-21053-5.
  18. "Lescharts.com – Pet Shop Boys – Go West" (in French). Les classement single.
  19. "Musicline.de – Pet Shop Boys Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  20. "Italiancharts.com – Pet Shop Boys – Go West". Top Digital Download.
  21. ペット・ショップ・ボーイズぺっとしょっぷぼーいず (2009-03-18). "ペット・ショップ・ボーイズのプロフィール | ORICON STYLE". Oricon.co.jp. Retrieved 2016-10-15.
  22. "Nederlandse Top 40 – Pet Shop Boys search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
  23. "Charts.org.nz – Pet Shop Boys – Go West". Top 40 Singles.
  24. "Norwegiancharts.com – Pet Shop Boys – Go West". VG-lista.
  25. Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  26. "Swedishcharts.com – Pet Shop Boys – Go West". Singles Top 100.
  27. "Swisscharts.com – Pet Shop Boys – Go West". Swiss Singles Chart.
  28. "Jia Zhang-ke's 'Mountains May Depart': Cannes Review". Hollywood Reporter. 2015-05-19. Retrieved 2016-10-15.
  29. "Village People Songwriter Victor Willis Wins Case Over Termination of 'Y.M.C.A.' Rights". Hollywoodreporter.com. 8 May 2012. Retrieved 2014-03-03.
  30. Ted Johnson Senior Editor @tedstew (2012-05-25). "Can't stop the music rights reclamation". Variety. Retrieved 2014-03-03.


External links

Preceded by
"Lemon" by U2
Billboard Hot Dance Club Play number-one single (Pet Shop Boys version)
18 December 1993
Succeeded by
"Tradición" by Gloria Estefan
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