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Go West

Go West


by Pet Shop Boys


The Pet Shop Boys took a disco song and turned it into an electronic utopian dream, creating an overly grandiose (if absurd) anthem out of a cheerful ditty. Neil Tennant, though he initially disliked the original song and called it "ghastly," was sold when he realized it was a souped-up version of Pachelbel's Canon, following the same familiar chord progression.

When Tennant realized the song could be recorded with a full choir, he got even more into the idea: "I liked the idea of doing vocals like 'There Is Nothing Like A Dame' from South Pacific on a pop record, a big choir of butch men, so we got a group of Broadway singers in New York arranged by Richard Niles to perform it in that style," says Tennant. The choir seems to reminisce in the gay sub-cultural roots of the song and hint at the song's ironic meanings related to gay utopias and HIV/AIDS.

The "big choir of butch men," Neil Tennant's nasal singing, and a club beat are the dominant musical elements, with strings and wind instruments holding down the chord progression in the orchestral Pachelbel's Canon style. A woman sings out a call to "go west" in a gospel form over the occasional jazzy horn section, which drops in sounding quite a bit like a college marching band. To top off the song's general weirdness, seagulls caw in the background and song opens and closes with sampled ocean sounds. And who does a utopian anthem without a dramatic key change?

In fact, on close inspection, "Go West" is pretty creative for a pop song. The elements altogether have an unpredictable sound. You might not fully realize it on a club dance floor, but the song's catchiness probably owes something to its quirky creativity.

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