Study Guide

Go West

Go West Introduction

In a Nutshell

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
Year1993
LabelParlophone (UK), EMVERB (U.S.)
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
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)
Learn to playTablature
AlbumVery

Music Video

Influences on Pet Shop Boys

Madonna
The Village People
David Bowie
TRex
Kraftwerk
Human League
Yazoo

Influenced by Pet Shop Boys

West End Girls
Stars
Republica
The Radio Dept.
The Beloved
Jane Child
Michael Mayer
Momus
Robbie Williams
Keithevez

Go West Resources

Books

Richard Sakwa, The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union (1999)
Here's a basic history from the Routledge Sources in History series.

Randy Shilts, And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic (2000)
This is the essential history of the rise of the AIDS epidemic in the U.S., documented by a reporter who was there in San Francisco for the whole awful affair. It's an important and incredible read for anyone interested in the subject.

Anders Stephanson, Manifest Destiny: American Expansion and the Empire of Right (1996)
Here's an essay on the idea of Manifest Destiny and westward expansion before and after the Civil War. This is just a starter among many possible resources.

Albums

PopArt: The Hits (2006)
This greatest hits album received great reviews and includes all the essentials.

Very (1993)
Here's the album the contains our track of the hour, in all its Pet Shop Boys glory.

Images

Pet Shop Men
Even with age, the Pet Shop Boys continued to do their own thing with style.

Very Album Cover
The Pet Shop Boys are always experimenting with presentation, in this case dressing up the Very album in an unusual orange jewel case.

Very Reissue Album Cover
If you didn't get the original album with the cool bumpy case, the re-issue featured a picture of the original case. Very post-modern.

Pet Shop Boys "Go West"
No one's sure if they're parodying gay pop culture or Soviet authoritarianism, but the outfits are a nice (though futuristic) mix of both.

Websites

Pet Shop Boys Official Site
The site doesn't have the best layout, but it does the job.

Pet Shop Boys on Last.fm
Here you'll find a bio, music, pictures, video clips, and more.

Video & Audio

"Go West" Music Video
This completely bizarre video sort of looks like one of those homemade YouTube videos, but it turns out it's just an artifact of the early '90s.

MTV Documents "Go West"
This cheeky video shows the Pet Shop Boys awkwardly descending on Moscow to film part of their zany music video.

Village People, "Go West"
It was a different, less cynical era when the Village People first put out "Go West." Thank you, 1970s.