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"Two Tribes" is the second single by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, released in the UKmarker by ZTT Records in May 1984 (see 1984 in music). The song was later included on the album Welcome to the Pleasuredome.

The single was a phenomenal success in the UK, staying at the top of the singles chart for nine consecutive weeks, during which time the group's previous single "Relax" climbed back up the charts to number two.

The single was unable to repeat this success in the USAmarker, where it peaked at number 43.

The track was featured in the The Comic Strip movie The Supergrass, and was also on the soundtrack.

The track minus the vocals is used to introduce the judges and contestants on ITV's The X Factor in 2009.

Origins and context

A version of "Two Tribes" was originally recorded for a BBC John Peel session in October 1982. The session version makes clear that the basic structure of the song, including its signature bass-line, percussion arrangement and idiosyncratic introductory and middle eight sections, were already intact prior to any involvement from ZTT or eventual producer Trevor Horn.

The song's title derives from the line "when two great warrior tribes go to war", from the film Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (the line is also spoken by Holly Johnson at the beginning of the session version).

The single was released at the height of the cold war, when general fears about global nuclear warfare were at a peak. Although Johnson would attest in a 1984 radio interview that the "two tribes" of the song potentially represented any pair of warring adversaries (giving the examples of "cowboys and Indians or Captain Kirk and Klingons"), the song does contain the line "On the air America/I modelled shirts by Van Heusen", a clear reference to then US President Ronald Reagan, who had advertised for Phillips Van Heusen in 1953 (briefly reviving the association in the early 1980s), and whose first film had been titled Love Is On The Air.

Johnson also noted: "There's two elements in the music — an American funk line and a Russian line. It’s the most obvious demonstration of two tribes that we have today."

To accentuate this inherent musical tension, Horn juxtaposed the driving funk/rock rhythm section with a dramatic formal string arrangement and plenty of orchestral stabs, a novel technique that Horn himself had pioneered the previous year in producing Yes's "Owner of a Lonely Heart".

ZTT aggressively marketed the single in terms of its topical political angle, promoting it with images of the group wearing American military garb in combat, as well as Sovietmarker-style army uniforms set against an American urban backdrop.

The original cover art featured a Soviet mural of Lenin and images of Reagan and then-UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The sleeve notes, attributed to ZTT's Paul Morley, dispassionately reported details of the relative nuclear arsenals of each superpower and the unknown power of "synergisms". The various mixes were subtitled in terms of the expected aftermath of nuclear conflict.

Original 1984 mixes

Twelve inch picture disk of "Two Tribes"
The track featured actor Patrick Allen, who recreated his narration from the Protect and Survive public information films for certain 12-inch mixes (the original Protect and Survive soundtracks were sampled for the 7-inch mixes).

The 12-inch A- and B-sides also ostensibly featured voice parts by Reagan, as played by actor Chris Barrie who also voiced the character on Spitting Image.

The standard 7-inch mix featured a pop/radio-oriented production that dispensed with a section of the song's middle eight altogether. A significantly different guitar-driven "We Don't Want To Die" mix appeared, with complete middle eight, on the limited edition 7-inch picture disc.

The first 12-inch mix ("Annihilation") started with an air-raid siren, and unfolded as a ground-breaking extended deconstruction and reinvention of the basic track, including Allen's starkest advice about how to tag and dispose of family members should they die in the fallout shelter (taken from the public information film Casualties).

The "Carnage" mix was, by comparison, altogether more conventional, featuring enhanced string treatments, a percussive midpoint flurry of vocal samples (from Allen and the group's B-side interview), but broadly following the prevailing instrumental/vocal 12-inch structural paradigm. The eventual album version ("For The Victims Of Ravishment") would derive from the "Carnage" mix.

White label Hibakusha mix
"Hibakusha" mix was originally released in a very limited edition, and appears on the Japanese-only Bang! album from 1985, even though the Japanese liner notes admit that the title is not pleasant to the Japanese readers. This mix was musically based on the "Annihilation" mix, but with a unique middle section comprising orchestral samples and percussive breaks that have much in common with the work of fellow ZTT act Art of Noise.

B-sides

The 7-inch featured "One February Friday", an interview between Morley and the group's three musicians ("The Lads"), Mark O'Toole, Brian Nash and Peter Gill, over an otherwise untitled instrumental track. This technique had already been used on the B-side of "Relax", the similarly titled "One September Monday".

The principal B-side to the original 12-inch single was a cover version of "War", which became the subject of an accomplished extended remix in its own right (subtitled "Hidden") on the single's third UK 12-inch release, where it was promoted as a double-A-side with "Carnage".

With the exception of this AA release, all 12-inch versions featured the following additional B-side tracks:
  • A shortened version of the 7-inch B-side interview (without music)
  • A largely instrumental version of "Two Tribes (We Don't Want To Die)" with faux-live overdub treatments (subtitled "Surrender")
  • A sequence of Patrick Allen outtakes, known as "The Last Voice".


The UK cassette single featured a cut-together combination of "Surrender", "Carnage" and "Annihilation", plus Reagan snippets and interview sections not included on any other release.

Videos

The Godley & Creme-directed video depicted a wrestling match between then-President Ronald Reagan and then-Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko for the benefit of group members and an eagerly belligerent assembly of representatives from the world's nations, the event ultimately degenerating into complete global destruction. This video was played several times at the 1984 Democratic National Convention. Due to some violent scenes ("Chernenko" biting "Reagan's" ear, etc.), the unedited video could not be shown on MTV, and an edited version was substituted.

A longer version of the video (based on the "Hibakusha" mix) included an introductory cut-up monologue by Richard Nixon ("No firm diplomacy... No peace for America and the world"), plus similar contributions from other world leaders, including Lord Beaverbrook, Yasser Arafat and John F. Kennedy. The complete soundtrack to the extended video was eventually released as "Two Tribes (Video Destructo)" on the German version of the Twelve Inches compilation. A third version of the video, included on the band's compilation of videos, retains the introduction, but loses most of the inserted clips in the main wrestling sequence.

Chart performance

Country Peak

position
Australia 4
Japan 3
Germany 1
Italy 15
The Netherlands 1
New Zealand 1
UK 1
US 43


Track listing

  • All discographical information pertains to the original UK single release only
  • "Two Tribes" written by Gill/Johnson/O'Toole
  • "War" written by Strong/Whitfield
  • "One February Friday" credited to Gill/Johnson/Morley/Nash/O'Toole/Paul Rutherford


"Two Tribes" 7-inch picture disc (P ZTAS 3).


7": ZTT / ZTAS 3

  1. "Two Tribes" (Cowboys And Indians) - 3:57
  2. "One February Friday" (Doctors And Nurses) - 4:55


7": ZTT / P ZTAS 3

  1. "Two Tribes" (We Don't Want To Die) - 4:10
  2. "One February Friday" (Only Bullets Can Stop Them Now) - 4:55
Cover art for "Two Tribes (Carnage)" (X ZTAS 3).


12": ZTT / 12 ZTAS 3

  1. "Two Tribes" (Annihilation) - 9:08
  2. "War" (Hide Yourself) - 4:12
  3. "One February Friday" [abridged] - 1:46
  4. "Two Tribes" (Surrender) - 3:46
  5. ["The Last Voice"] - 1:14


12": ZTT / X ZTAS 3

  1. "Two Tribes" (Carnage) - 7:54
  2. "War" (Hide Yourself) - 4:12
  3. "One February Friday" [abridged] - 1:46
  4. "Two Tribes" (Surrender) - 3:46
  5. ["The Last Voice"] - 1:14
Cover art for "War (Hidden)" (WARTZ 3).


12": ZTT / WARTZ 3

  1. "War" (Hidden) - 8:33
  2. "Two Tribes" (Carnage) - 7:54
  3. "One February Friday" [abridged] - 1:46


12": ZTT / X ZIP 1

  1. "Two Tribes" (Hibakusha) - 6:38
  2. "War" (Hide Yourself) - 4:12
  3. "One February Friday" [abridged] - 1:46
  4. "Two Tribes" (Surrender) - 3:46
  5. ["The Last Voice"] - 1:14


  • Limited to 5,000 copies.


MC: ZTT / CTIS 103

  1. ["Have Sex With As Many Objects As Possible"] - 1:04
  2. "Two Tribes At Madison Square Garden" - 3:11
  3. "The Carnage / The Annihilation" - 12:05
  4. "One February Friday" - 1:08
  5. "War" (Somewhere Between Hiding And Hidden) [identical to "War" (Hide Yourself)] - 4:12
  6. "War Is Peace" - 0:28


  • Titled "Two Tribes (Keep The Peace)".


Reissues

Since 1984, "Two Tribes" has been re-issued several times, generally involving third-party remixes bearing little relation to the original releases in terms of either song structure or overall ethos.

1994 reissues

7": ZTT / FGTH4

  1. "Two Tribes" (Fluke's Minimix) - 3:50
  2. "Two Tribes" (cowboys and Indians) - 3:54


CD: ZTT / FGTH4CD

  1. "Two Tribes" (Fluke's Minimix) - 3:50
  2. "Don't Want To Die" - 4:11
  3. "Two Tribes" (Fluke's Magimix) - 5:27
  4. "Two Tribes" (Fluke's Magimix Instrumental) - 5:27
  5. "Two Tribes" (Hibakusha Mix) - 6:35
  6. "Two Tribes" (Annihilation Mix) - 9:09


CD: Warner / 4509-96148-2

  1. "Two Tribes" (Intermission Legend Mix) - 5:10
  2. "Two Tribes" (Intermission Legend Instrumental) - 5:10
  3. "Two Tribes" (Intermission Workout Mix) - 5:30
  4. "Two Tribes" (Intermission Workout Instrumental) - 5:30


12": ZTT / FGTH4T

  1. "Two Tribes" (Fluke's Magimix) - 5:27
  2. "Two Tribes" (Carnage Mix) - 7:55
  3. "Two Tribes" (Fluke's Moulimix) - 7:02
  4. "Two Tribes" (Teckno Prisoner Featuring Adamski) - 6:20


2000 reissues

MC: ZTT / ZTT 154 C

  1. "Two Tribes" (Rob Searle Club Mix Radio Edit) - 4:13
  2. "Two Tribes" (Apollo Four Forty Remix Edit) - 4:05


CD: ZTT / ZTT 154 CD (*)

  1. "Two Tribes" (Rob Searle Club Mix Radio Edit) - 4:13
  2. "Two Tribes" (Apollo Four Forty Remix Edit) - 4:05
  3. "Two Tribes" (Rob Searle Club Mix) - 9:22


12": ZTT / ZTT 154 T

  1. "Two Tribes" (Rob Searle Club Mix) - 9:22
  2. "Two Tribes" (Olav Basoski's Tiberium Power Mix)- 9:39


2x12": ZTT / ZTT 154 TP

  1. "Two Tribes" (Rob Searle's Club Mix) - 9:20
  2. "Two Tribes" (Apollo Four Forty Remix) - 6:10
  3. "Two Tribes" (Fluke Magimix) - 5:27


  1. "Two Tribes" (Olav Basoski's Tiberium Power Mix)- 9:39
  2. "Two Tribes (Rob Searle's Club Dub) - 8:26


12": ZTT / ZTT 154 TX3

The Almighty Mixes
  1. "Two Tribes (Almighty Definitive Remix) - 8:45
  2. "Two Tribes (Almighty Radio Edit) - 3:59
  • UK 1-sided 12" promo


(*) Although the sleeve states CD1, no second CD was ever released.




References


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