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40 years of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘Two Tribes’

Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s iconic track Two Tribes marks its 40th anniversary today.

Originally released on the 4th of June 1984, the song was the follow up to the band’s massively successful debut single Relax which had been released the previous October.

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Relax had a slow climb up the charts, not entering the UK Top 40 until early January, and it reached the number one spot three weeks later – a BBC Radio 1 ban on the track helping its sales.

For their second single the Liverpool band presented an anti-war song for Generation X. The single featured images of Russian revolutionary Vladamir Lenin, while the songs video featured actors portraying then US President Ronald Regan and his soviet counterpart Konstantin Chernenko.

The song came at a time when the nuclear arms race was a growing international concern, the cold war was in full swing, and stories of thermonuclear apocalypse were commonplace.

The previous year the Matthew Broderick film War Games had been a hit, the Robert C. O’Brien book Z for Zachariah was compulsory reading in the Australian high school English syllabus, and not long after Sting would start signing about how he hoped that the Russians loved their children too.

Impending death from nuclear war was everywhere in 1984.

The band released several different mixes of the track, each featuring different components including a wide range of audio snippets from news broadcasts and retro public education films.

Some of the mixes also feature future Red Dwarf actor Chris Barrie doing an impression of Regan. One of the original 12-inch mixes of the song clocked in at an impressive 15-minutes length.

The song would become the band’s second UK number 1, spending an impressive nine weeks at in the top spot. It reached number 4 on the Australian charts.

Continuing the anti-war theme one of the tracks B-sides was a cover of the 70’s protest song War, which was originally performed by Edwin Starr.

Over the year the song has been remixed and re-released many times. In the early 90’s Rob Searle and Apollo 440 created new mixes of the song, and in 2014 German producers Blank and Jones created a new reconstruction of the track using the original master tapes.

The song won a 1985 Ivor Novello award for its music and lyrics, the award going to Holly Johnson, Peter Gill and Mark O’Toole, the three band members who wrote the tune.

The band’s run of hits would continue with their next single Power of Love and then another hit came with the title track to their debut album Welcome to the Pleasuredome.

The band’s follow up album Liverpool failed to match the success of their debut and they broke up soon after. Lead singer Holly Johnson then launched a solo career.

OUTinPerth chatted to singer Holly Johnson in 2014.

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