Alan Murphy-Guitarist

Go West

After one of the SFX gigs, Peter Cox and Richard Drummie gave Alan a demo tape of their material. Despite being recorded on a 4 track ‘Portastudio’ the quality was fantastic. Alan was taken aback by this material and 2 months later was in a studio re-recording this material with them. This took place in a tiny studio and it was the early days for using midi, where it was common to have several keyboards connected up, leaving very little room to move! Alan was often at his most creative and inventive during early takes as he played through the chord progressions.Although they were happy with the results, they couldn’t attract any record company interest. The name of the band was ‘Go West‘.

In 1984 Alan continued his session work in Japan, and just as he was going to bed one night, he received a call from London. It was Peter Cox, and he told Alan ‘Go West’ had got a deal and could he return to the UK to record at the Rooster studio at Shepherds Bush. By the time Alan returned, most of the backing tracks were completed with Peter playing some of the smaller guitar parts. Alan came in and played the solos and lead parts in 3 days. This was to become the first ‘Go West’ album.

Alan heard no more for approximately three or four months until the bubble burst and they had their first hit single. Alan not only felt committed to join them, but also recognised this was the opportunity he had been looking for. Within the style of Go West’s music he saw a role for a guitarist of his skills to really shine, and when it was time to go on the road, Peter phoned Alan to ask if he would join as a full time member (on permanent retainer.) Alan was keen to join, particularly as this gave him the opportunity to play solos and lead parts, unlike a lot of the session work he had been involved with.

It was Alan who recommended the other members of ‘Go West’ including Tony Beard from SFX and bassist Graham Edwards. Richard Cottle would have joined too but was in Miami working with Peter Frampton and there was no time to wait. Instead they chose John Peter John Vettese, (who later produce a solo album for Peter).

Peter recalls the “awesome combination of having the fiery and emotional playing of Alan Murphy to one side and Tony Beard’s ‘row’ behind – giving a completely new and exciting dimension to their sound”.

In 1985 Peter and Richard were invited to play at the Princes Trust concert. There was a core band that included Level 42’s Mark King on Bass. They insisted on having Alan with them as they were going to play ‘Don’t look down’ and they couldn’t imagine anyone else playing the solo on this. Unfortunately the pressure of being amongst so many of Peter’s respected peers contributed to a very nervous performance which Peter was very self-critical of.  He felt he was singing out of key, but Alan sensing the situation, seemed to pull out all the stops,  and ‘barnstormed the guitar solo’ and which went someway to rescuing the situation. Watch the video footage below, you will see Mark King taking note of Alan’s outrageous playing Alan from 3:30 onwards. Who would not want this raw talent in their band one day….

Peter remembers that Alan always seemed always anxious not to ‘over-play’ or get in the way of his vocal lines.

After the success of the first album (and 4 hit singles) Peter, Richard and Alan rented a house in the Isle of Man in early 1986 to write material for the second album . By this time Alan had become very close friends with Peter and Richard. Whilst in the Isle of Man, Alan inspired Peter to work out regularly in a local gym. Whilst it was Peter’s aim to keep trim, Alan was just there for fitness and actually had a struggle to put weight on.

In mid 1986 they went over to Denmark to record the album ‘Dancing on the Couch’ in PUK studios based in Aarhus. This was such a remote location that Peter was able to do the vocal for  ‘From Baltimore to Paris’ whilst standing in the middle a field!

It was common at this time to release singles in both 7″ and 12″ formats,. To extend the track into a 12″ format usually involved a re-mix by an engineer or producer adding drum machine edits etc. ‘Go West’ didn’t like this approach and opted to re-record any extra parts in order to get a more authentic sound and mix. One highlight of this method was Alan’s solo in the 12″ version of ‘SOS’. Alan actually achieved the sound for this solo by recording it from the studio’s stairwell. As usually this was achieved in 2 takes.

Whilst recording the song ‘The King is Dead’ they felt it needed a Kate Bush style of vocal on it. Alan said “well let’s get Kate to do it”! He telephoned her and she agreed to help out. There was a problem however – Kate was not keen on flying. To get round this they sent her the 2″ master sub-mix with some spare tracks and she recorded her parts at her home studio. When the parcel arrived back, Peter remembers being very anxious but excited as they unwrapped it. They were delighted with the results.

The second album was not the success that was expected and this contributed to mounting internal conflicts within the band.

Peter remembers that whilst in San Francisco, Alan was suffering with a bad bug. On reflection Peter believes that Alan learnt that he was HIV+ from tests results he had carried out there. That night Alan played the gig sitting down which seems to make some sense now.

It was possible that Alan now knew his time was limited and when the offer of  joining ‘Level 42′ came along, Alan jumped at it, which gave him a great opportunity to play rather that spend precious time waiting for the ‘Go West’ situation to be resolved.
Alan Murphy | Go West Guitarist