Go West went global with their eponymous 1985 debut album, but by the time of its follow-up two years later they struggled to match the success.
The LP peaked at No. 18 and the three singles from it – True Colours, I Want to Hear It From You and The King Is Dead – were huge disappointments, only making it to No. 48, 43 and 67, respectively.
Looking back on the era ahead of the release of a new reissue, packaged with a disc of B-sides, remixes and rarities, plus a CD and DVD of the Hammersmith Odeon gig from their ‘Runaway Train’ tour, Peter Cox and Richard Drummie tell RETROPOP’s February issue that much of the project was in retaliation to the record company’s marketing at the time.
They were packaged as a pop act. “With lots of references to Wham!,” Peter laughs. “The label must have thought they were luckier than they actually were.”
“I was 29 by the time we got signed to Chrysalis,” the now-68-year-old continues, “which, of course, by today’s standard is positively ancient. I remember the marketing department telling me early on that I needed to start lying about my age, which I wasn’t prepared to do because I knew, ultimately, we’d get found out and then look even sillier.
“With ‘Dancing On The Couch’, we were reacting to having been marketed in a very poppy kind of way. We were a bit mystified and in shock at the success of the first album and wanted to go in a slightly different direction.”
“At gigs, there were all these screaming girls,” Richard, 64, adds. “I guess the way we were sold was as much to do with the way we looked as the music, with us wearing vests and being asked to hold our arms up in the air to make our biceps stick out.
“We did fight against it, but when you’ve dreamed of getting a record deal since you were a teenager, you don’t rock the boat too much. When it came to the second album, we thought that we had a bit of leeway to branch out a bit.”
Reflecting on its performance more than 35 years later, the singer muses: “Any label wants the next thing to be bigger and better than the last thing. It’s fair to say that we didn’t make as ‘commercial’ an album for all of the reasons I’ve already explained.
“There are some songs on there of which I’m less pleased and proud, but there are also some songs which I think do stand the test of time, like Little Caesar, From Baltimore To Paris and The King Is Dead,” he adds. Richard agrees, citing Masque Of Love as another track that’s endured.
Peter suggests a push from the record company to deliver the project sooner rather than later hindered its quality. “I’m not convinced that we had the 10 strong songs that we needed,” he says – although they did have a very special guest vocalist on The King is Dead in the form of Kate Bush.
Guitarist Alan Murphy, who worked with them on their first album and co-wrote some of the tracks on ‘Dancing On The Couch’, had also been in the Running Up That Hill singer’s band and when they listened to the first version of the song, Peter said it needed a big female vocal in the middle and Richard agreed, saying it would benefit from “a load of Kate Bushes, like a Kate Bush choir”.
Murphy said, “Well, why don’t you ask her?”, and made the call on their behalf. Bush said yes but she wasn’t keen on flying, so they sent her a tape, she did her bit, then sent it back to them in Denmark.
They unwrapped it, “And it was like ‘Wow this is amazing’,” Peter marvels. “That was a very exciting day.” Richard concurs: “When it came back, it was like opening all your Christmas presents at once.”
‘Dancing On The Couch’ is out January 26 on Chrysalis.