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“Are we living in a land where sex and horror are the new gods?”

#43 Two Tribes Frankie Goes To Hollywood

[536] Writers: Peter Gill, Holly Johnson & Mark O’Toole. Producer: Trevor Horn
16 Jun 84 – 21 weeks – 9 weeks at #1 frpm 16 Jun 84
Remixes made #16 in Feb 94 and #17 in Sep 2000 (3 weeks on chart each)

Taking their name from a newspaper headline about Frank Sinatra, this second #1 hit of three for the Scousers absolutely dominated the Summer of 1984. You couldn’t get away from those Katherine Hamnett t-shirts in the media (although I didn’t notice too many of them on the streets of leafy Warwickshire, just one in Leamington, once). The TV premiere of the video for Two Tribes was A Big Event. It was shown late at night (on Channel Four?), on an evening when I happened to be in a club (if Chimes in Leamington could be called a club in any modern context). They showed it on the screens over the dancefloor and I was in awe. The track was so powerful, and the video so 'political'. At the height of the Cold War, they showed the Soviet and American Presidents in a wrestling match. Two Tribes was propelled straight in at number one, where it took up residence for the Summer, becoming the longest-running #1 of the 80s. It was helped by the fact that it was available in more different versions than any other single I can remember, with loads of different mixes. I think I must have bought three or four versions of it, including a 12" picture disc which depicted a scene from the video on it.

Two Tribes proved to be the Frankie filling in a Wham! sandwich, toppling Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go and eventually succumbing to Careless Whisper. It was also another #1 for Trevor Horn, who had co-produced Video Killed The Radio Star as half of Buggles on their 1979 #1. With Relax following it back up the chart, FGTH became the first act to be at #1 and #2 since after John Lennon’s death (early 1981). The Beatles had been the only group to do it before 1984.

Christmas Day 1984: Top Of The Pops is on the TV in the lounge, which we can hear but not see as we’re in the kitchen having Christmas dinner. Of course, Relax won’t be on, as it’s been banned from TV and most radio all year after the ‘Mike Read incident’. But as we’re tucking in, the strains of “give it to me one time now-owwwww!” pour forth from the lounge. I leap up in excitement, nearly choking on my parsnips, to catch the leather-clad ones back on the box. A classic TV moment, and it all seemed so wonderfully naughty that it was on Christmas Day too.

This is #3 for Matt E and also for Mark G, who sums it up;
“'This is the sound of the air attack warning'....This still makes me shiver, as the sirens scream out. It was 1984, I was 13 and the Cold War was in full swing. It was English reading class & I had chosen a cartoon. I couldn't help myself. Right there in class I blubbed onto the pages of Raymond Briggs' 'When The Wind Blows'. I was very afraid. I visited the local library and selected the government pamphlet 'Protect And Survive' as a suitable sequel. FGTH's (or rather Paul Morley's) Two Tribes is in effect that pamphlet set to music. Listening to it now, I wonder how we made it through the eighties.”

Factette: Two Tribes is one of a select band of #1s to mention the phrase ‘number one’ in their lyric (as in “Cowboy number one – a born again poor man’s son”). The Tide Is High and Super Trouper were consecutive #1s which managed this feat. Feel free to name any others you can think of.

Will Frankie be back later with either of their other two #1s?

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