Peter Cox, singer and songwriter with Go West, chats with Kevin Cooper about his favourite Go West song, his ideal Christmas, the 35th anniversary of their debut album and next year’s tour of the UK.


Peter Cox is an English singer songwriter, best known as the lead singer of the British pop duo, Go West.

In 1978 he joined Terra Nova, a band put together by former Manfred Mann’s Earth Band members Chris Slade and Colin Pattenden. While in a residency in a Sheffield nightclub he began writing songs with long time collaborator, Richard Drummie, leading to the formation of Go West in 1982.

Signing a deal with Chrysalis Records, they released We Close Our Eyes which became a top five hit in the UK singles chart in 1985. The following year Go West was named Best Newcomer at the 1986 Brit Awards.

In 1990 Go West had a number eight hit in the US with King Of Wishful Thinking which featured in the movie Pretty Women.

He has also pursued a solo career. In 1997 he released his debut album which was followed up with five more solo albums.

Whilst busy preparing for Christmas, Peter Cox took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Hi Peter, how are you?

I’m very well Kevin thank you. How are you?

All is good thank you and before we move on, let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

Not at all, thank you, it’s not a problem; it’s always a pleasure whenever we get the time to speak.

And just how is life treating you today?

Life at the moment is treating me very well, thank you mate. I have just got back from Australia and I am still trying to get over the jetlag (laughter). Peter (Drummie) and I played over in Ireland at the weekend so what can I say, I am continuing to play and am still enjoying it.

I must ask, just how do the Aussies treat you? Do they look after you?

They do, yes. I have developed the trick now that we have been going down there with the same promoter on the four or five occasions and having learnt from bitter experience to put some time in at the front end in order to get over the jetlag, I now turn it into a holiday. I had ten days over there before the gigs started; I had a holiday in Sydney which I always really enjoy.

Looking at the tour photographs I see that you have had some great acts playing with you over there in Australia; Pseudo Echo, Flock Of Seagulls, Wang Chung and the Cutting Crew.

That’s correct and let me tell you, I was very grateful for them at times (laughter). Being the last act on the bill can be at times a poisoned chalice, because some people start to head for the car park. So I just think of it as being a group of artists all from the same era really. They are all great guys, some of whom I have worked with before, and yes, we all had a good time.

You and Richard have now been together for thirty-five years, longer than most marriages.

I know, just who could believe it (laughter). If you had told me thirty-five years ago that we would still be playing and enjoying fantastic audiences, I would have very much doubted that. But here we are.

Do you and Richard argue?

Yes, of course we do, absolutely; it kind of comes with the territory really (laughter). Even back in the day when we had more musically in common than we have now, we both still feel passionate about our individual points of view. Everyone, including the producer, walked out of the studio at some point during the recording of the first album because he was not getting his own way, and let me tell you, that has not changed, we still do argue (laughter).

Back then, if someone had asked you just how long you thought that it would all last, what would you have said?

To be honest, we never really had a plan. I read somewhere, and this might not be true, it could well be a Press Soundbite, but I read that Duran Duran said that they were planning world domination from the very beginning. But we never really thought about it in those terms. I am much humbler than that, I think. When we were making our first album, albeit in an inexpensive studio, we were really living the dream. So we never really thought about it any further than ‘will we sell enough records or be successful enough so that the record company will let us do this again’. That’s about as far as we thought ahead. So, to be here still playing live, in a drastically changed industry some thirty-five years later, is something to be thankful for.

You mention the recording industry and over the years I would assume that you must have seen some drastic changes, so I must ask you, is the industry currently in a good place or is it simply dying on its backside?

What can I say; that depends entirely upon your point of view, but at this moment in time I wouldn’t necessarily say that it is dying on its backside. However, what I will say is that if you want to make a living out of being an artist playing music then you need to play live, unless you are right at the top of the tree. Having said that, even then, I feel that with the demise of the hard copy, the CD, the album or whatever your format is, because people pay as we all know for a streaming service and have access to almost pretty much anything that they want to listen to, there is no money in making records in a way. You have to think of it in terms of your recordings being an advertisement for your live shows.

And, if you want to make any money, then you need to go out and play live. From the point of view of the industry now, the vast majority of the music that is currently being made, most certainly the high-profile music in this day and age is not made for someone of my sensibilities (laughter). I do hear new artists all of the time who I do like, and to be honest there seem to be more and more of them every week. Whether or not it is a positive thing that any individual can make a recording in their bedroom these days of a very high standard and put it out there on YouTube, remains to be seen. But it has never been any different; you can make the best record in the world, the best record that anyone has ever made, but if no one knows that it is there, then no one will ever hear it.

From my personal point of view as a record collector, there is simply nothing out there for me to collect anymore.

Well to be perfectly honest with you, I am not a record collector, although at this very late stage, I gave in to subscribing to a streaming service simply because I haven’t got the room to store the records that I want to collect. But, to go back to what you were asking me, isn’t there currently a resurgence in vinyl; can’t you now buy new recordings on vinyl?

You can but, at this moment in time, it is not a level playing field. You can get a chart CD from your local supermarket for as little as seven pounds, but if you want to buy it on vinyl then it will cost you thirty pounds.

(Laughter) well you know supply and demand mate, it has always been the same and if you still want to buy vinyl then they are going to carve you for it. That is just the reality of commerce (laughter).

Swiftly moving on (laughter) next year will be the thirty-fifth anniversary of your debut album, Go West, and I have to ask you, do you still listen to the album?

Oh, I very seldom listen to any of my own music mate. The thing is, certainly back then, the process of making an album when there was still something of a budget, again I reiterate that the studio that we worked in was not an expensive or glamorous one but, we were thrilled to be there. And for us to get to the point where you have made the record; you have heard that music and have agonised over every high-hat beat and vocal harmony, you have heard it so much that it is very difficult to really be objective about it and to hear the big picture of a record that you have made until a good while later. I might listen to a less well-known Go West track if we are going to play it live and I need to refresh my memory on this or that phrasing, or what happens in verse two or whatever. But no, I really don’t listen to my own music very much.

Having played the album earlier today I have to say that, in my opinion, the album still sounds as fresh today as it did some thirty-five years ago.

Thank you, that is so kind of you to say that. However, I must confess that I really can’t take that much credit for the sound of the album. Obviously, I was involved with the writing of the songs, but one of the reasons as to why we started working with producer Gary Stevenson was because we were friend’s way before we were in business together. When we first met Gary, he had his own band, and he always had an almost science fiction approach to recording music in terms of the reverbs and the sounds. And I have to say that has been a positive as well as less of a positive over our career (laughter).

I think that the sound of the record is quite different from a lot of what was around at that time. Gary went from Thin Lizzy to Trevor Horn in one big step. Gary doesn’t have much of a love for Motown or that era of Black Music which I know was so important to my own influences, as well as yours. So, as I say, Gary went from Thin Lizzy all the way to adventures in modern recording in one big step. So that kind of huge sounding record complete with that Trevor Horn production, was really influential to Gary. The soundscape and the size of the reverb was the stuff that I was less interested in, at least on a technical level, but yes, Gary made that record the way that he did.

My favourite track on the album is Innocence which surprisingly wasn’t released as a single.

That is so kind of you to say so. It is risky because I always think of myself as not one who particularly blows his own trumpet, so whenever I look at that first album, there are songs on it that I think could have been better. They could have been better written; could have been worked on harder, but to be honest it is hard looking back thirty-five years to be objective. There are songs on that record that I am personally less proud of than others, let’s just put it that way (laughter). I personally think that Innocence is lacking a bit of a chorus, although there are parts of the song that work well, so let’s just say that a lot of happy accidents happened.

On the subject of happy accidents, it must have come as a bonus for you to be able to call upon the likes of Pino Palladino and Alan Murphy whilst you were recording the album?

What can I say, yes it was; it really was. I can remember really well, standing in that very small control room listening to Pino and Alan playing the whole thing live together. It was great listening to them recording the bass and rhythm guitars to Innocence, so what can I say, it was an exciting day.

Do you personally have a favourite track on the album?

Well I have told this story before Kevin, so please do forgive me if you have heard it. Like loads of other bands before us, we took some time to finally persuade a label to take us on. We had been in to see various people who would say useless things like “we love what you are doing, keep on going” and you would walk away from that meeting thinking ‘well, just what the hell was the point of that’ (laughter). That was, I feel, the mantra of all record labels of that time (laughter). I don’t think that things have changed that much, because now they tell you “we don’t hear a single”. We had a very early version of We Close Our Eyes which, to be fair to those labels, sounded quite dramatically different from the one that you might be more familiar with.

After one of those meetings, we came away and said “right, lets write what we think would be the most commercial song that anyone has ever written” and the song that came out of that was Call Me. So, we finally got through the door when we had a demo of Call Me and the label finally said “yes, we can see this as a single”. However, because obviously we were new artists, like many new artists before us, they didn’t want our first release to get lost in the shuffle of releases in this or that month. So, they thought that they would go with another track from the album first, and they asked Richard and me which track we would choose, and we chose We Close Our Eyes and it was the most successful single from the album. So, because of that, that song would be my pick.

You mentioned the Record Companies and singles. I am currently being told that they no longer refer to them as singles; they refer to them as being the first look at the album (laughter).

(Laughter) really, you may well be right. I have no doubt that my up to date terminology is hardly up to date (laughter).

You will be going back out on the road next year with the 35th Anniversary Tour of the album Go West. What can you tell me about the tour?

I can only tell you what you have most probably already read in the press release. The story is that we will be playing thirty-five dates throughout the year, with quite a lot of different context, and we will be playing some venues that have played a part in our success together with places that have meant something to us. I believe that we will be playing a gig at The Theatre in Chipping Norton, because, for example, that is the place where we recorded the essence of the singles Call Me and We Close Our Eyes. We will be playing at The Rose Theatre in Kingston because that is one of the venues which is closest to where Richard and I were living when we were writing those songs for the first album. So, as you can see, the venues on the tour will be places that are special to both Richard and me.

I have heard a whisper that a certain Paul Young will be joining you at some stage during the tour; is that correct?

(Laughter) just who have you been speaking to? Yes, that’s right, Paul will be joining us for twelve dates in September, as part of our thirty-five-date schedule.

And what about the festivals?

Yes, we will be playing a few festivals during the summer together with a variety of shows through the year, in order to celebrate the album and also the fact that we are still standing (laughter).

Will you be performing the album in its entirety and in sequential order?

I have to be totally honest with you and say that whatever we perform from the album will not be performed as it was originally recorded. For a long time now, we have been playing extended versions of the songs as they are on the Bangs & Crashes album which, as you know, was an album of extended mixes of the songs from the first album. So, those versions of the songs are a little bit different. Plus where we have felt that the recording of this or that song might have been better, we might revisit that song and see if we can’t rearrange it in some more interesting way. So no, it won’t be sequential, and the versions of the songs won’t be identical to the way that they were originally recorded.

Will either the record company or yourselves be doing anything special with the album?

(Laughter) it’s funny that you should say that. We are currently looking at releasing a box set around the album. Hopefully, that will be released in September, which will contain the album itself; together with what we hope will be some demos of a few songs which didn’t make it onto the record which may be of interest to the odd diehard fan (laughter). Obviously, if I say that the song didn’t make it onto the album, then you will know that we didn’t think much of it thirty-five years ago (laughter).

The label that currently owns our back catalogue, have dug back into the warehouses and have found some tapes of stuff of ours and as they say, it is always interesting looking back over early recordings, especially the stuff that you haven’t heard for a very long time. So hopefully, that will at least be one of the things in the box set that might attract that diehard fan (laughter).

Where would you say that the album would sit in a Peter Cox top three Go West albums?

Oh wow, what a question. Let me just think about this before I give you an answer. Thinking about it, I think that it would have to be number one really. That is the album that has kept us working, obviously aside from King Of Wishful Thinking, by association with the movie, Pretty Woman. It is quite interesting; we played in South Africa and in the first place you would think that you wouldn’t get an invitation to play in a foreign territory if the promoter didn’t think that the audience was going to be familiar with your material. The King Of Wishful Thinking is fairly international world-wide because of the movie, but it was interesting to play in South Africa. For example, we played Call Me and where we are used to getting a reaction whenever we play it here in the UK, you could see that the audience were not aware of the song.

Then, when we were recently in Australia, whilst Call Me, We Close Our Eyes, Don’t Look Down and The King Of Wishful Thinking get a reaction, again by association with an album which I suppose was a success back in 1985, but when we played Faithful from our Indian Summer album, which is one of our two top ten singles, again clearly the audience didn’t know the songs. So, what point am I making, yes, I would have to say that the first album is the most important of all of the albums we have made, because after years of trying, it got us through the door, and we are still playing those songs some thirty-five years later, and at least here in the UK we are still getting a great reaction with them.

I have been looking at the PR photographs from the recent tour in Australia and I have to ask, is this the end of the infamous Peter Cox white shirt?

(Laughter) I have to be totally honest with you and say that this white shirt thing really is weird. We have never, clearly over the years, at the risk of stating the absolutely bloody obvious; we have never really been a band with a particular image (laughter). We may have had mascara put on us, unaware of what that might mean back in the 80s, but it has never been ruffles or any really strong image in that sense. People do still ask me “will you be wearing the vest at the gig” which really is a redundant question; it is all that I can do not to be somewhat short with them (laughter). Take it from me; no one needs to see me in a vest in this day and age.

So the fact that anyone has picked up on the white shirt thing is simply extraordinary to me. That we are even having this conversation because obviously social media is now a part of what any performing artist is doing these days and I actually do get feedback about this and that, especially about the shirt that I wore on any given day. So, in all honesty, no, it is not the end of the white shirt, but it does make me laugh that people think that a white shirt is vaguely interesting (laughter). Having said all of that, I have to say that there is a practicality about it, because in some cases we are playing venues where there isn’t really that much of a light show and if you are wearing a white shirt, then you are least visible (hysterical laughter).

Putting you firmly on the spot, what would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?

Let’s just say that I have been lucky and as such, there have been a few highlights. I have played at some amazing venues, but obviously, winning the Brit Award for being the Best Newcomer back in 1986 must be up there. At the time a lot was made of the fact that it was the one award which was voted for by the British public. If you have any insecurities about how good your record or your voice is, or any of that nonsense, then for the British public to go out and buy the record, and then to vote us the Best Newcomer that year, that was a really great feeling.

If music hadn’t have worked out for you, what would you be doing today?

(Laughter) I would most probably be in trouble with the police. I don’t really have any other skills, although saying that I wasn’t bad at languages when I was at school. I remember telling the careers officer at my school that I wanted to be an interpreter, and he said, “Well you can forget that idea because only the top one percent of bi or multilingual people are ever good enough to make a living at that job”. So that was the end of that (laughter). So, after several not quite successful jobs, I levitated to the path of least resistance which was singing. So that is kind of how it went really.

Is there currently anyone out there who you would pay to see?

Yes, there is. There is currently a young singer from New Jersey called Donna Missal who I think has got a wicked voice and I believe that she has recently been opening for Lewis Capaldi. She is most certainly on the upward trajectory, and she has got the most amazing voice. But with all of these things, it is going to be the right song that does it for her and then hopefully she will be as successful as she deserves to be.

I know that you are going to be busy next year with the anniversary tour but are there any thoughts on a new studio album and a solo tour from Peter Cox?

It’s tricky you know, for me to fit a few solo dates around a year that is big in the year of Go West. So I think that it will be most unlikely that there will be a solo tour, and as far as new material is concerned, Richard and I are always fooling around and writing, sometimes together and sometimes not; it is just a question of whether or not we finally come up with something that passes our own filter for what is good enough really.

Why are Go West not on the Classical 80s Tour, as I would love to hear you singing with an orchestra.

(Laughter) well you very may well do if you are at one of the two shows that we are going to be performing at. As you rightly point out, we are not on the tour as such, and in actual fact I think that we are taking Nik Kershaw’s place, on the one date in Brighton, and we are playing a date in Leeds in the middle of the year; I think that is in July. So, you and I will enjoy whatever the hell we sound like with an orchestra (laughter). Let me tell you, I have no idea just how that is going to work out. But yes, it is happening.

What was the first record that you bought?

That was Clint Eastwood by Lee Perry And The Upsetters. Lee Perry released dozens and dozens of instrumentals, which he was most probably making in his own shack studio. It was the first music that I was passionate about; the reggae that was coming out of Jamaica in the late 60s and not the UK versions. I was heavily into the authentic stuff.

Who did you first see performing live?

That’s a good question. What I can tell you is that it would certainly have been at The Winning Post in Twickenham which sadly is no longer a venue. I’m not sure which artist it would have been, but I saw Argent, Thin Lizzy, all kinds of bands of that era. Let’s go for Thin Lizzy because I saw them more than once at The Winning Post.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

The one which immediately comes to mind was when I was watching the TV series Nashville. Don’t get me wrong, I am not personally a fan of what I used to think country music was all about, but of course, the blurring of the lines between genres these days, country pop and pop country, who knows what you want to call it. Anyway, in the show Lennon Stella and her sister Maisy Stella, play the daughters of Rayna Jaymes who is played by Connie Britton. Maisy sang Come And Find Me and I have to say that it was bloody marvellous. Throughout the whole series I have to say that the song writing has been excellent.

As a person who used to boast that he was allergic to country music this series taught me and broadened my horizon, because a lot of the songs in that series were excellent, straightforward, commercial pop songs. For someone as young as Maisy Stella is, to be able to produce such a heartfelt and emotionally moving vocal, that really is quite a talent.

As we are rapidly approaching Christmas, what was the best Christmas present that you have received?

I know that this will most probably sound very Edwardian, but I have a great-niece and my great great nephew has just arrived. They have named him Edward Peter, so I think that is most probably my best Christmas gift ever.

And what about the worst, without offending the family of course (laughter).

(Laughter) with the family in mind, let’s just say that I have been a victim of the Christmas jumper in the past (hysterical laughter). So, to be on the safe side I will just say a general Christmas jumper episode.

What would be the ideal Christmas for Peter Cox?

That’s easy, being with the family. My partner is from Leeds, and obviously my family, such as is left of them, bless them all, are all down South so we take it in turns to be either North or South and this year it is going to be North. So, I will be spending a little bit of time with my immediate family before we head off North. So, in answer to your question, for me, Christmas is all about being with family.

On that note Peter, let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today. It’s been wonderful as usual.

No problem Kevin, you too. It’s been great speaking to you once again; let’s not leave it so long next time. You take it easy and have a great Christmas.

 

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