Album: Welcome To The Pleasuredome (1984)
Charted: 1 43

Songfacts®:

  • The lyrics were inspired by US president Ronald Reagan's belief that Christ would return after a nuclear war. The "two tribes" are America and the Soviet Union, who were engaged in the Cold War, putting the entire world under threat of annihilation.
  • The song features British actor Patrick Allen reading extracts from a government civil defense leaflet. Allen is well known in Britain for his distinguished voice, which has narrated many television adverts and films for over 30 years.
  • This was written by the band two years previous to release and was featured on a BBC Radio 1 John Peel session in October 1982.
  • In the extended version, the announcer states, "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 verdict of this court - for she acquits us." When Adolf Hitler was tried for his failed putsch in 1924, he said these words (rather a very close paraphrase of it) in his concluding speech: "Pronounce us guilty a thousand times over: the goddess of the eternal court of history will smile and tear to pieces the State Prosecutor's submission and the court's verdict for she acquits us." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Mark - Hamilton, Canada
  • Former 10cc band members Lol Creme and Kevin Godley produced a memorable video featuring a no-holds-barred, hand-to-hand fight between Reagan and then Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko. Godley recalled to Q magazine: "It was a very intense shoot. We were trying to get the audience to behave in a manner that we wanted to by chanting, 'Kill! Kill! Kill!' A few of them seriously got into the spirit of it by jumping in the ring and beating each other up!"
  • Trevor Horn produced this track. He spent weeks juggling with the sound and remixing it to perfection. He used a Synclavier synthesizer and Linn drum machine on the track.
  • In the UK for two weeks, this was #1 while Frankie Goes To Hollywood's song "Relax" was #2. They became only the third act to achieve this feat, after The Beatles and John Lennon, who like Frankie Goes To Hollywood, came from Liverpool. Madonna broke the Liverpool streak the next year.
  • In the UK, this sold close to 2 million copies, making it one of the biggest-selling singles of the '80s. This was partly due to Horn's tendency to put out as many as seven different mixes of the singles.
  • This song had little impact in America, but that wasn't for lack of trying. "Relax" fared poorly when it was issued in the States, topping out at #67 in May 1984. Frankie Goes To Hollywood came to America in October to support the "Two Tribes" release, and performed it when they were musical guests on Saturday Night Live on November 10. They toured America through December, but "Two Tribes" went no higher than #43. When "Relax" was re-released in 1985, it did better, going to #10.

Comments: 11

  • Mike from United KingdomI've always assumed that the lyrics "When two tribes go to war, A point is all that you can score" refers to the points system in a football/soccer league where it's three points for win, one point for a draw. So the song is saying that in the case of a nuclear war, nobody wins and the only result possible is a draw.
  • Dave from UsaIsn't "Workin' for the black mask" supposed to be black GAS... as in "oil"?
  • Andrew from MalaysiaWould certainly love to watch a 2018 remake of the video featuring Donald Trump wrestling with Vladimir Putin!
  • Darren from Bedford, United Kingdomre: soviet leader. considering they had 4 different leaders in 2.5 years it easy to get confused
  • Darren from Bedford, United KingdomThe single was #1 for 9 weeks in the UK
  • Jon from Scotland, United KingdomUnlike "Relax!", the BBC had no objections about "Two Tribes" being played on BBC Radio One. The video, however, was banned on decency grounds (pretty tame by today's standards). Instead of showing the video on the Top Of The Pops music show, the band played the song "live" in front of the audience. Several months later, the BBC lifted the ban on the "Two Tribes" video and for the song "Relax!" ITV aired a slightly edited version of the video, but Channel Four broadcast the video for "Two Tribes" in it's entirety.
  • Steve from Aylesbury, United KingdomThe voice of Reagan for the recording sessions, which included FGHT's cover of Edwin Starr's "War" was none other than Chris Barrie - then a voice over artist for TV's Spitting Image, later to be Arnold Rimmer in Red Dwarf.
  • Andy from Orlando, FlAgreed, the 12" "Carnage" mix of Two Tribes is a Trevor Horn masterpiece in every sense of the word. I cannot hear the song any other way. Also, the 12" "Annihilation" Mix is excellent; not quite as lush in the orchestration, but more like a bomb going off on the dance floor! Frankie along with Depeche completely transformed the 12" single concept. You got your money's worth back in the 80's.
  • Pete from Ny, NyThose constant remixes and versions were also highly annoying and tended to dilute the impact of the hit. The extended 7-minute version of this (the one you heard on alternative radio and in the clubs) was a flat-out sonic masterpiece, hugely influential. The short, rockier version on the LP stunk, with none of the amazing twists and turns of the big mix. Seek out the long version only!
  • Tom from Newark, DeUhhhh....first off that was not Breshnev in the video, it was Constantin Chernyenko(sp?) who was the Soviet leader in 1984 when this song & video where made. Second, who said it was Andropov?
  • Ydur from Knoxville, TnThat's Breshnev, not Andropov in the video.
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