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Two Tribes

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Two Tribes

"Two Tribes"
Single by Frankie Goes to Hollywood
from the album Welcome to the Pleasuredome
B-side "One February Friday", "War"
Released 4 June 1984 (1984-06-04)
January 1994 (1994-01)
2000 (2000)
Format 7", 12", cassette
Recorded 1983–1984
Genre Hi-NRG[1]
Length 3:57
Label ZTT (ZTAS 3)
Writer(s) Peter Gill, Holly Johnson, Mark O'Toole
Producer(s) Trevor Horn
Frankie Goes to Hollywood singles chronology
"Two Tribes"
"The Power Of Love"

"Two Tribes" is the second single by [2] The song was later included on the album Welcome to the Pleasuredome. Presenting a nihilistic, gleeful lyric expressing enthusiasm for a nuclear war, it juxtaposes a relentless pounding bass line and guitar riff inspired by American funk and R&B pop with influences of Russian classical music, in an opulent arrangement produced by Trevor Horn. The recording makes extensive use of samples of the British Protect and Survive public information films on how to survive a nuclear attack.

Supported by a striking advertising campaign depicting the band as members of the Red Army and a wide range of remixes, the single was a phenomenal success in the UK, immediately entering at the number one position on 10 June 1984[3] and staying at the top of the UK Singles Chart for nine consecutive weeks,[4] during which time the group's previous single "Relax" climbed back up the charts to number two. It was the longest running number-one single in the UK of the 1980s. It has sold 1.58 million copies in the UK as of November 2012.[5] Songwriters Johnson, Gill and O'Toole received the 1984 Ivor Novello award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically.[6] In 2015 the song was voted by the British public as the nation's 14th favourite 1980s number one in a poll for ITV.[7]

The track was featured in The Comic Strip's movie The Supergrass and on its soundtrack, as well as in the video games Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Sky Sports used the song as the intro for Super League in the late 2000s and the X Factor frequently use the song for the contestants' introductions.

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.

An excerpt from Two Tribes (Peel Sessions 1982)

Problems playing this file? See .

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

The single was released at a time when the Cold War had intensified and 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 line "On the air America/I modelled shirts by Van Heusen" is 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 [sic] 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."[8]

To accentuate this inherent musical tension, Horn arranged the 'Russian' segments as 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". The driving funk/rock rhythm section was played on synthesisers.

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 Soviet-style army uniforms set against an American urban backdrop.

The original cover art featured a Soviet mural of Vladimir 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

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. Barrie's parts as 'Reagan' included praise for the band, the line "this'll be the day that I die" (a quote from American Pie) and, most provocatively, parts of Adolf Hitler's speech to a court after the Beer Hall Putsch: "You may pronounce us guilty a thousand times over, but the Goddess of the Eternal Court of History will smile and tear to tatters the brief of the State Prosecutor and the sentence of this court, for She acquits us." Barrie would return for the band's next single, "The Power of Love", imitating Mike Read in a parody of the DJ's banning of their previous single, "Relax".

The standard 7-inch mix (by the name of "Cowboys & Indians") featured a pop/radio-orientated 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.

The "Hibakusha" mix was originally released in a very limited edition, and appears on the Japanese-only Bang! album from 1985. 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.

Apart from these five original single mixes ("Cowboys & Indians", "We Don't Want To Die", "Annihilation", "Carnage", "Hibakusha"), there was also the version which appeared on the LP and cassette editions of the album Welcome To The Pleasuredome. This version was shorter than any of the other versions at only 3 minutes, 27 seconds and went by the name "For The Victims Of Ravishment". CD editions of the album contained the "Annihilation" version.


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 12" B-side master was cut without the wide bands usually used as track markers on vinyl records, giving the visual impression of being one continuous track or programme.

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.


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 ("Reagan" biting "Chernenko"'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, heavily edited monologue by Richard Nixon taken from an ad from his 1960 US Presidential campaign ("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
Australia 4
Belgium 1
Canada 6
France[9] 22
Japan 3
Germany 1
Greece 1
Italy 15
Ireland 1
The Netherlands 1[10]
New Zealand 1
Norway 4
Sweden 9
Switzerland 4
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

7": ZTT / ZTAS 3 United Kingdom

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

7": ZTT / P ZTAS 3 United Kingdom

  1. "Two Tribes" (We Don't Want To Die) - 4:10
  2. "One February Friday" (Only Bullets Can Stop Them Now) - 4:55
  • Released as a 2 track 7" picture disc.

12": ZTT / 12 ZTAS 3 United Kingdom

  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
  • "The Last Voice" is an unlisted track.

12": ZTT / 12 XZTAS 3 United Kingdom

  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
  • "The Last Voice" is an unlisted track.

12": ZTT / WARTZ 3 United Kingdom

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

12": ZTT / X ZIP 1 United Kingdom

  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"] [Edited] - 0:35
  • "The Last Voice" [Edited] is an unlisted track.
  • Limited to 5,000 copies.

MC: ZTT / CTIS 103 United Kingdom

  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
  • Cassette is titled: "Two Tribes (Keep The Peace)".
  • "Have Sex With As Many Objects As Possible" is an unlisted track.
  • "War Is Peace" is an unlisted track.
  • "Two Tribes At Madison Square Garden" is an edited/cutted version of "Two Tribes (surrender)"

Most parts of this cassette was rereleased in 2012 on CD Sexmix Disk 2 Tracks 4-10. Just "Two Tribes At Madison Square Garden" is missing and "The Carnage / The Annihilation" is replaced by the full version of "Two Tribes (Carnage)"


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.

1989 reissue:

CD: ZTT / 651 325 Germany

  1. "Two Tribes" (Annihilation) - 9:07
  2. "War" (Hide Yourself) - 6:00
  3. "Two Tribes" (Surrender) - 3:40
  4. "The Last Voice" - 1:17
  • "War" (Hide Yourself) also includes "One February Friday" (Edited).

1994 reissues:

7": ZTT / FGTH4 United Kingdom

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

CD: ZTT / FGTH4CD United Kingdom

  1. "Two Tribes" (Fluke's Minimix) - 3:50
  2. "Don't Want To Die" - 4:11 (A 'Two Tribes' mix given a different name.)
  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 Germany

  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 United Kingdom

  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 United Kingdom

  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 United Kingdom (*)

  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 United Kingdom

  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 United Kingdom

  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 United Kingdom

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.

Preceded by
"Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" by Wham!
UK number one single
16 June 1984 – 11 August 1984
Succeeded by
"George Michael
Preceded by
"Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham!
"Hole in My Shoe" by neil
Irish Singles Chart number-one single
23 June 1984 - 21 July 1984
4 August 1984 – 11 August 1984
Succeeded by
"Hole in My Shoe" by neil
"Careless Whisper" by George Michael
Preceded by
"One Love/People Get Ready" by Bob Marley
New Zealand RIANZ singles chart number-one single
14 September 1984 – 28 September 1984
Succeeded by
"Pride (In the Name of Love)" by U2


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  3. ^
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  6. ^ Lister, David, Pop ballads bite back in lyrical fashion, The Independent, 28 May 1994
  7. ^
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  9. ^
  10. ^

External links

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