80s band Go West are back on the road this autumn (with The Christians and Hue & Cry) and are coming to Ipswich – Mark Keable caught up with Go West front man Peter Cox.
Where were you born and did you come from a musical family?
Peter: I was born in Kingston, Surrey and no I don’t come from a musical family. My first musical influence I can remember is my grandmother playing me “South Pacific” on her little Dansette record player and a bit of Gilbert & Sullivan, none of which I don’t think reflects in my current writing.
Did you have aspirations to become a performer from an early age?
Peter: Not really, but I obviously had some kind of ear and voice as I was chosen to be in the choir at school. I went to a school called Hampton, which has a scholarship connection with the Chapel Royal Choir at Hampton Court Palace. So one thing led to another and I auditioned for the choir and got in and sang in the choir for a couple of years, I was a soprano.
When I left school I used what few qualifications I have to get an ordinary job but soon drifted into what I call “the path of least resistance” because I obviously have a voice and always enjoyed music. The first band that I was in rehearsed a lot but didn’t play many gigs. I always loved music, so I guess it is all I ever wanted to do.
So how did you meet Richard (Drumie – the other half of
Peter: We were both in different bands, heavily influenced by the rock band Free, I read a review of Richard’s band in the local paper and they were competition for us so I went along to see them at a rehearsal.
At that meeting I had a cassette, (do you remember them?), in my pocket and Richard asked if I had anything I could play, so I gave him the cassette. He obviously liked what he heard, but we didn’t start writing immediately, we just had common musical ground.
We spent a lot of time together, drinking beer and listening to records. Richard had a very big record collection whereas my tastes were more specific, so he re-introduced me to black music, people like Stevie Wonder and Motown as well as the West Coast music such as the Dobie Brothers.
I then got my first professional gig on the Mecca circuit at Sheffield, Richard had a daytime job and would come up at weekends and it’s then that we started writing together.
The band also made the cross-over to the American market as well
Peter: Yes, we did eventually, it was a long time trying, We Close Our Eyes which was the first single from the debut album got into the low 40s of the American Billboard charts. But it was when we had a song, The King of Wishful Thinking, featured on the soundtrack of the movie Pretty Woman that we had our first genuine American hit. This was followed up by Faithful which also made the Top 10.
So was it this success in the States that urged you personally to move to America to live?
Peter: It was more the fact that I had fallen in love with the place. Obviously if you were in music America was the biggest territory. The first time I went to LA, I didn’t like it, but over the years we spent so much time there, all of The Indian Summer album was written and recorded there, by then I had fallen in love with the place and I just felt at home there. Richard always the ‘anglophile’ was keen to get back to the UK.
So is it still home?
Peter: No it’s not home now, I haven’t spent as much time there as I would like. But you gotta go where the work is, and the UK is where we sold most records and that’s the place where we can continue to work ‘live’. Obviously the industry has changed a lot and it’s more difficult to sell records but the atmosphere at a live gig is something that you cannot steal even if you record it on your i-pad or iphone.
You’ve also collaborated with other artistes, including Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet
Peter: Well I first met Tony in 1985 at The Prince’s Trust Concert and although Spandau and Go West were both on the same record label we hadn’t had time to really meet before, other than to just say hello. Then when Tony was involved in a tv show “Reborn in the USA” I got drafted in to the show at the last minute. Because we are both of a certain age and like a glass of wine, we spent a lot of time together during the making of the programme. And finally got to know one another.
You also worked, surprisingly, with Bernie Nolan
Peter: Well that was a surprise to me. I must admit when I was younger I, like many other people, had something of a ‘crush’ on her. Then years went by and we were both on breakfast tv at the same time and I had to sing, live at 7am in the morning, which is not easy.
So we did the song and it went back to the sofa and they were interviewing Bernie but she spoke for five minutes about how hard it is to sing that early in the morning and how good I was and she was lovely.
After the show we spoke and she told me she was doing her own album and would love to do a duet with me, so I said yes.
Tell us about the new tour
Peter: We are touring with Hue & Cry and The Christians. Hue & Cry are performing tracks from their new album in an ‘unplugged’ kind of way. And there will be lots of old hits from us all as well as new material.
All three bands have new albums out so although you will hear all your old favourites there will be some new material too.
You have a new solo album too
Peter: Yes, Riding the Blinds. It’s frustrating to be type-cast as both a member of Go West and as a solo artist, as you hear, “oh it sounds like everything else” or “it doesn’t sound like the old stuff”. So I’ve reached the point where I’ve said, you know what, I’m going to do whatever takes my fancy at the time.
So Riding the Blinds is an adventure into Americana, I haven’t written any of the songs they all come from Nashville writers.
I’m also six songs into another new album, which is different again, and hopefully that will be available on the tour.
• Go West, Hue & Cry and
The Christians are at Ipswich’s Regent Theatre on Sunday
Box office 01473 433100