For the first leg of my journey, that for the sake of clarity (and SEO purposes) will be plainly called “My Summer of Learning to Play Every Song on the Village People’s Go West Because I Promised My Father (35 Years Ago) I Would,” I learned how to play the first song on the Village People’s Go West.
“In the Navy” was simple enough to semi-master, especially on the guitar (meaning, especially the way I play the guitar). What was hard was playing the song in front of a live audience. It was so hard, in fact, that I didn’t do it. My micro-, two-song set at an open mic last week did not include “In the Navy.”
I could say that I didn’t think I could pull off the song lyrically. I could say that my attempt to hide the verses (with their lines about “learn[ing] science and technology”) within a “Beyond the Sea” mashup didn’t work. But what it comes down to is I couldn’t commit to the song as it was meant to be sung: heartily, and with great enthusiasm.
And so the first leg of my journey produced its first lesson: I am not the Village People.
Thirty-five years ago this summer, my father bought me the Village People‘s Go West. It was the first album that could be called my album; it was the first album that I wanted to be called my album. I was 11, and I was desperate to start my record collection with this disc. I was so desperate that there, in the aisles of Wherehouse Records in Los Angeles’ Westwood Village, I promised that, in exchange for a copy of Go West, I would learn to play every song on Go West. On the accordion.
That did it; my father was sold. I got the album. I did not, however, learn to play any song from Go West on the accordion or on any other instrument, although I eventually did publicly perform “Y.M.C.A.” on acoustic guitar (something which is neither here nor there as it relates to my Village People promise since “Y.M.C.A.” was from the group’s 1978 album, Cruisin‘, and not from 1979’s Go West.)
In any case, a promise is a promise, and 35 years behind schedule or no, I have decided my summer project this summer will be to learn to play every song from Go West. On the accordion. Or sometimes on the ukelele.
And while my father never got to hear my non-ironic cover of “Manhattan Woman”—he died 10 years ago from causes unrelated to my unfulfilled Village People promise—you can if you stay tuned here for my occasional updates and videos.
Go west, won’t you?