Peter Cox, an English singer and songwriter and one half of the duo Go West chats with Kevin Cooper about performing backing vocals with The Boomtown Rats, their orchestral shows with the Southbank Sinfonia, the release of a deluxe edition of their debut album Go West and touring in May with Paul Young.

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

In 1978 Cox joined Terra Nova, a band put together by former Manfred Mann’s Earth Band members Chris Slade and Colin Pattenden. While in residency in a Sheffield night club, he began writing songs with long time collaborator, Richard Drummie.

In 1982 he and Drummie formed Go West with Cox as lead singer and Drummie on guitar and backing vocals. They initially signed a record deal with Chrysalis Records.

In 1985 they released We Close Our Eyes which reached number five in the UK singles chart. Also released that year was Call Me and Don’t Look Down. In 1986 they were named Best Newcomer at the Brit Awards.

In 1993 he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a solo career. He released his self named debut album in 1997 which was followed by Flame Still Burns in 2001, Nine Miles High the following year, Game For Fools in 2005 and Motor City Music in 2006.

Whilst pursuing his solo career, Cox continued to work with Drummie as Go West. They have released a total of five studio albums, three live albums, four compilation albums, two remix albums and three EP’s.

Whilst busy preparing for Go West’s shows with the Southbank Sinfonia, he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Peter, good morning. How are you today?

Hello Kevin, I’m good thanks, how are you?

I’m fine thank you and before we go on, let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

Not at all mate, thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about what we are currently doing.

I have to ask, just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

Well, what can I say, like everyone I am so pleased that we are somewhat returning to some kind of normality. Don’t get me wrong, I am still being careful, but I am happy to be back at work, and I have to tell you that I am busier than I have been for quite some time.

How did you manage to remain sane during lockdown, if in fact you did manage to remain sane? (laughter).

(Laughter) you cheeky bugger. I was most definitely on the more cautious reaction to Covid but, in the end, I got my head down, and I actually started writing and recording some songs for a forthcoming solo album.

As yet, do you have a window for a release date?

I am currently aiming for autumn with the album itself, because as I see it, I am eight songs into what will be a ten-song album. Having said that, the first single from the album which is called Too Far Gone, will be released on 18th March, which just so happens to be the day when we will be playing the Bridgewater Hall with our orchestral dates as Go West.

I’m so pleased that you have mentioned the shows that you are going to be performing with the Southbank Sinfonia. Are you looking forward to those?

(Laughter) yes, finally I am looking forward to those shows very much indeed. I had a slightly more difficult time imagining just what Go West would sound like with an orchestra when the idea was first suggested. Obviously it made sense for ABC to play with an orchestra simply because The Lexicon Of Love has an orchestra all over it. The Go West sound was, by design, quite synthesized with synths taking the part of the horns and strings, on the first Go West album. We are now some ways into the arrangements for the orchestra for these shows. Rob Pagett, the guy who is doing the arrangements for us, is doing a fantastic job, and he has particularly done some beautiful arrangements for some of our less well-known songs and some of the ballads from the album. So, yes, now that I can hear synthesized demos of what the orchestra is going to sound like, I can visualise it more easily, and I am now really looking forward to it.

Whose idea was it for you to play with the orchestra?

It has to be said that it was our manager who came up with the idea. Isn’t it always the managers idea? (ldaughter).

How are rehearsals going?

(Laughter) well you are not the first person to have asked me this, so I will try to keep this short. The reality of working with an orchestra is that they are very expensive, and it very soon becomes a very expensive endeavour (laughter). You are talking about thirty additional players on top of your own electric band. So, whilst we are hearing our arrangements in a synthesized form so that we can be involved, make comments, together with the odd change here and there should we feel it necessary, we will have at least some control over what the orchestra will be playing on the day. I won’t hear the orchestra playing these parts until the day before the very first show.

That is the only rehearsal that we will get. Having said all of that, I have a feeling that it is going to be good (laughter). I don’t want to offend any classically trained players, because I can’t even imagine how they do what they do, but they don’t tend to interact like a drummer, a bass player and a guitarist would interact in an electric format. These kinds of players will turn up on the day; they have music in front of them, they play the music and, as you say, if all goes smoothly, it will sound fantastic.

You will be performing in The Symphony Hall in Birmingham, and I have to say that the acoustics in there lend themselves to this kind of performance.

Well, all of the venues on this tour have been chosen because, as you say, the venue itself needs to have been constructed with orchestral performances in mind so yes, I have played at The Symphony a number of times, but never with an orchestra though. So, I am really looking forward to hearing it doing what it is designed to do. We have always had such great support in Birmingham, and it is always a venue that I always look forward to performing in.

(Laughter) how does it feel playing catch-up with your old sparring partner Mr (Tony) Hadley who has done this sort of thing on many occasions now?

Yes, you are quite right, Tony has done this sort of thing many times before, but I don’t know really if Tony’s music is necessarily better suited, but as you say, he has beaten us to the punch, but we are certainly catching up with him now (laughter). Thank you for bringing that up and you and I were getting along so well (laughter).

One of the shows is at The Palladium in London and I have to ask, when you think about all of the artists, stars and legends who have trodden the boards there before you, does it make you nervous at all?

I am definitely tuned in to the prestige of the venue, but having said that I always have pre-gig nerves, and I try to channel those nerves into something positive. Having said that, my anxiety is only ever about me wanting to do my part as well as I can and wanting the show to be as good as it can be. So, I hope that nerves lead to a positive result in the end. So, I will be as nervous before the show at The Palladium as I am before any other gig (laughter).

Are there any songs that you really wanted to perform that haven’t quite worked out with the orchestra?

Actually, our process has been slightly different to that. From the outset we have tried to envisage which songs would work, and, touch wood, we haven’t had a disaster. We haven’t had a song that has gone wrong. Having said that, they are not all completed as yet. We did that edit if you like, of our back catalogue, before we started the process of orchestrating the songs. Clearly, there were some songs which quite obviously needed to be included, but once we had dealt with those five or six songs, then there was scope for us to be a bit more imaginative and there are definitely songs in our catalogue which, on the one hand may be less familiar to the audience, but which lend themselves much better to an orchestra setting, and we are hoping that everyone will enjoy it.

I see that you have, once again, got Cutting Crew on board as special guests. They always put on a good show.

Yes, they have got some great tunes, and I have to come clean and say that they have beaten us once again, in the process of making orchestral albums. So, they already have their arrangements in hand. They will be opening with a set of thirty-five minutes or so, and I really can’t wait to get back out on the road with those guys.

On the subject of guys who you enjoy being out on the road with, in May I see that you are helping a youngster launch his career (laughter).

(Hysterical laughter) that’s nicely put (laughter). Yes, we are doing a double headline tour with our old mate, Paul Young in the second half of May up and down the country. It will be the first tour that we have undertaken with back-to-back dates for a very long time. Its years since we have toured in this way, so I am looking forward to that. At this moment in time, we are not really sure what form that show is going to take quite yet, but I am sure that we will get into the planning stage once we have done these orchestral shows.

The question that everyone wants an answer to is will we be seeing all of you on stage together at some point of the show?

I’m honestly not quite sure yet. We haven’t spoken to Paul about these arrangements as yet, but I am sure that we will get into that during the rehearsals leading up to the tour. All that I can say at this moment in time is watch this space (laughter).

If you can’t find Paul for rehearsals, he will no doubt be away cooking somewhere.

Yes, that’s a good call; he could even be off somewhere playing with Los Pacaminos (laughter). There is always a danger with Paul that he will be out and about.

How much fun is it when you go out on the road with Paul?

Paul and I have very similar musical influences, and I have to admit that Paul is quite the musicologist (laughter). He has always got something interesting to turn you onto musically, and yes, he is great fun to be around. He is a very nice man.

In May you will be releasing a deluxe edition of your debut album Go West as a box set including four CD’s together with a DVD. Are you happy with it?

Yes, we are, and yes, I am very pleased with it. In my opinion, I would have to say that it really is a great looking box set. It is packed with loads of demos, previously unreleased mixes of various songs which the fans might know. It is also full of artwork and pictures that have never been seen before. It also includes a film of our very first live performances, from when we were on the road over in Japan with Culture Club, The Style Council and The Associates. There is also a film in the box set of our Yokohama baseball stadium concert, when Typhoon Number 9 came in so fans will have the dubious pleasure of seeing me singing while I am absolutely soaked with rain (laughter). It really is a nice-looking package; Richard (Drummie) and I are really pleased with it. I really do hope that people will enjoy it.

You say that you are pleased with the final product. Were you and Richard involved with choosing the content?

Oh yes, absolutely. You’re kidding me aren’t you (laughter). Richard and I have always been, from a managerial point of view, very difficult to deal with because we try to be involved in every aspect of whatever we do; from the song writing to the artwork to the way that things look, so on and so on. So, yes, Richard and I have been thoroughly and deeply involved in the process of putting it all together, so much so to the frustration of people who might have liked it to have been completed much more quickly (laughter). That has always been our agenda, to make something that we can be proud of and that we hope that the fans will enjoy.

I have to be honest with you and tell you that I have played the Go West album earlier today and, in my opinion, I feel that it sounds as fresh today as it did on its original release back in 1985. Would you agree with that?

Thank you very much for saying that. I have got to give some credit to Gary Stevenson for the sound of the record. We obviously brought the songs to the table, but I think that the whole being greater than some of the parts, or whatever that expression is, is largely due to Gary and his fixation with Trevor Horn, and that very high-tech production, reverbs, echoes and all that stuff that made the Go West album sound the way that it does. So, yes, Richard and I brought the songs to the table, but it was Gary and his keyboard player Dave who together dialled in all of those keyboard sounds. We were there, we were involved in those parts, but it really was the famous five, we four and the engineer who engineered that first album.

You and Richard have been together for forty years now.

That’s right, man and boy. It really has been a very long association (laughter).

It’s actually longer than most marriages (laughter).

Yes, it is but without any of the good bits (laughter).

Have you enjoyed the ride so far?

Yes, I have, absolutely. Obviously, there is a certain amount of ebb and flow as there is with anything else. If you have told me back in 1985 that I would still be making a fool of myself in front of audiences here in 2022 I would have said that I thought that was unlikely but, here we are and I feel very lucky and very grateful to the faithful, which is what we call our Go West faithful fans who have kept us working and have enabled us to do what we do. We couldn’t do it without them, and Richard and I feel very fortunate.

Have there been any major disagreements along the way?

Yes, far too many to mention (laughter).

You mentioned that you are currently working on a solo album; are there any thoughts on a new Go West studio album?

If Richard were to be sitting in on this conversation, he would be saying that we are always working on the next Go West album (laughter). Obviously, one reason for me to be working on a solo album was that we were all isolated during lockdown, and I have got my little rig here where I have been writing and creating demos of the songs that are going to make up my solo album, so I haven’t been in touch with Richard that much. In all truth, I have only seen him when we have played a few shows recently. So, all that I can say to you is that there are no immediate plans for anything Go West wise.

We have spoken about this previously; and I have to tell you that I am still playing to death your 2006 solo album Motor City Music. I personally think that it is a great piece of work.

That’s very kind of you, and to be honest I really don’t know what to say. Let me say that I really do appreciate the support. That album really was a labour of love; Motown was the soundtrack to my teenage years, and whilst I may have thought ‘do I really want to attempt a Marvin Gaye song or a Stevie Wonder song’ these are the icons, my idols, my favourite singers. I have to say that it was fun to do, and whilst working within certain restrictions, I was very pleased with the result.

Do you have a favourite Go West song to perform?

To be totally honest with you, I always like to perform the songs that the fans know because again, when you are writing the songs you never imagine that one day in the future, we will play this song and when we get to the chorus, the audience will take over and sing that song for us. So, for example, The King Of Wishful Thinking is generally that song. It is most probably the best known song in our show, and we always invite the crowd to sing along with us, which from my point of view, if they are singing and I’m smiling then life is pretty good really (laughter).

I was recently watching an old concert of The Boomtown Rats and I have to ask; did I see a young Peter Cox backstage performing backing vocals?

(Laughter) yes, you did. Just how the hell did you spot me on that (laughter). That’s me and Colin Campsie from The Quick. Colin had been called up for that gig and he called me and said “do you fancy having a go at this” and at that time we were closer friends than we are now, it’s sad to say. I don’t see that much of Colin these days but yes, he called me and asked me if I fancied giving it a go. To be honest with you, Colin was pretty wired in those days, by which I mean cocky, confident and a ‘we can do anything’ kind of guy. I have never been wired in quite that sort of way, but I rode on the back of Colin’s confidence that we could do that, and I have to say that it was a fun day. It really was an interesting experience. I haven’t had many occasions to be hired, if you like, as a sideman, as a hired hand, so yes; it was something to be in Bob Geldof’s company, to do that gig.

Finally, I have to ask the question, are you currently on the hunt for some new white shirts for the tour?

(Hysterical laughter) there it is, the white shirt syndrome. How I have been trapped into the cycle of ironing, I have absolutely no idea (laughter). I have a pretty good supply of white shirt’s thank you, so hopefully no one will be disappointed by the wardrobe choices.

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

Thanks Kevin, you take it easy, and I hope to see you in Birmingham. Bye for now and once again, thank you for your support.