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Intro

On the surface, "Go West" seems like a mildly cheesy celebration of Manifest Destiny brought to you by a cheeky pair of Brits. But wait, you must be thinking, the Brits don't care about Manifest Destiny—do they? It turns out that "Go West" just sounds like a song about western expansionism. In the days since the Pet Shop Boys first covered this obscure Village People tune, it has been reinterpreted as an anthem about the fall of the Soviet Union, a lament about the AIDS crisis, a dedication to the 1970s dream of a gay utopia, and a theme song for several European soccer teams. We couldn't make this stuff up, but at least we can try to explain it to you.

About the Song

ArtistPet Shop Boys Musician(s)Neil Tennant (vocals), Chris Lowe (keyboards), Stephen Hague and Mark Stent (mixing), Sylvia Mason-James (back-up vocals), Richard Niles (arrangements), J.J. Belle (guitar), Phil Todd, Snake Davis, John Barclay, John Thirkell and Mark Nightingale (brass), Scott Altman, James Bassi, Hugh Berberich, Rodne Brown, Maurizio Corbino, Martin Doner, Dan Egan, James Gandre, Paul Houghtaling, Michael Hume, Robert Kuehn, Drew Martin, Joseph Nelson Neal, Mark Rehnstrom, Steven Tachell and Frank Nemhauser (backing choir)
AlbumVery
Year1993
LabelParlophone (UK), EMVERB (US)
Writer(s)Jacques Morali, Henri Bololo, Victor Willis (Village People version), Chris Lowe and Neil Tennant (additional lyrics for Pet Shop Boys version)
Producer(s)Pet Shop Boys, Stephen Hague, Brothers in Rhythm
Learn to play: Tablature
Buy this song: Amazon iTunes
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Shmoop Connections

Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
In 1865, Horace Greeley told Americans to "go west" and settle the unknown expanses. In the 1870s, the sensual American poet Walt Whitman imagined a utopia of greenery and physical openness in the faraway land of California. In 1979, the Village People hinted that gay Americans should try convening in the new gay mecca of San Francisco when they penned the song "Go West" and cheerfully bellowed out its chorus.

The Pet Shop Boys covered the song quite ironically in 1993, just after the Cold War finally slumped to an end with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. By then, the vision of a gay utopia promoted by the Village People was in a shambles with the growing devastation of the AIDS crisis. "Go West" might have been a victory cry from the democratic Western nations, or it might have been a lament for the losses the virus had wreaked on the gay community since the idealistic 1970s. But no one (not even boastful Pet Shop Boys singer Neil Tennant) expected "Go West" to become a British soccer anthem. Ah, the transcendent powers of electronic music.

On the Charts

The Pet Shop Boys' version of "Go West" was a #1 hit in Germany and a #2 hit in France, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.K. It charted at #3 in the Netherlands, #5 in Norway, and #10 in Australia, but did not chart on the Hot 100 in the United States.

The song went up to number one on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play list in December 1993.

Very was the number one album in the U.K. for a week in 1993, making it the duo's only number one album.

In 2009 the Pet Shop Boys won an award for Outstanding Contribution to Music at the Brit Awards (the British Grammys, kind of). They were joined onstage by their old friend Brandon Flowers and their new friend Lady Gaga.
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