Go West (song)

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Cover art for Go West

"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.

In 2015, it was declared the second national anthem of Westarctica alongside "God Save Westarctica". However, in March 2018, it was downgraded to Westarctica's national song instead of it's national anthem.

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 (the lyrics imply a more traditional, monogamous if not explicitly heterosexual romantic relationship between the singer and his lover), "Go West" is generally understood as an expression of the 1970s sentiment of San Francisco as a utopia for the Gay Liberation movement.

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.

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." In response to the ruling, Willis stated "I am just looking forward to having control of it,"Go West." 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.

These copyright issues (as well as the fact that the song was copyrighted at all) are the primary reason the song was deemed unsuitable as Westarctica's national anthem.

Pet Shop Boys version

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.


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. In addition to the Canon elements, it included a new introduction which Lowe later said "does sound surprisingly like the former Soviet anthem". 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). In addition, Tennant and Lowe wrote a new verse for the song, with the lyrics:

Screenshot from the music video "Go West" as performed by the Pet Shop Boys

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

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.

Use by Westarctica

In early 2013, Grand Duke Travis was getting a pedicure at a Sunset Boulevard nail salon with Grand Duchess Cathryn when he noticed the music video for the Pet Shop Boys version of "Go West" on the television. He found himself mesmerized by the video, which, in his words, "Looks like a Stalinist propaganda film produced by a Korean boy band."

Two years later, he found a choral version of the song performed by The Brythoniaid Male Voice Choir, a Welsh men's choir, made to celebrate the Pet Shop Boys appearance at Festival No. 6, an annual art and music festival in Wales. This version sounded stately enough to serve as a national anthem, and considering the relevance of the lyrics to Westarctica's goals, ambitions, and overall culture, the Grand Duke promptly declared it the nation's second national anthem. The title, "Go West," also became Westarctica's official slogan.

15th Anniversary celebration

Grand Duke Travis listening to "Go West" while riding to the 15th Anniversary Celebration

On the evening of Westarctica's 15th Anniversary Celebration in 2016, while riding in an Uber Black on the way to the event, Grand Duke Travis instructed the driver to play the Brythoniaid version of "Go West" over the car's audio system. The ride was timed perfectly: just as the song ended, the car arrived at the venue and the Grand Duke and his companions were feeling suitably patriotic.

External Links

Link to The Brythoniaid Male Voice Choir version