13
Aug 09

FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD – “Two Tribes”

FT + Popular125 comments • 20,133 views

#536, 16th June 1984, video

In 1982, armageddon came to the pages of 2000AD. The Sov-Bloc, sworn enemies of Judge Dredd, invented a missile defense shield that allowed them to strike at Mega City One with impunity. They did so, having first maddened and weakened its already-decadent populace. In one memorable scene, as the missiles fall, citizens in as yet unbombed zones take advantage of the radiation heatwave to strip down and dance, singing a catchy tune called “Apocalypso”. It was a typical 2000AD touch, absurd but with a kernel of resonant truth. In the face of certain annihilation, what else to do but dance it on? “Two Tribes” – as thrill-powered a record as has ever hit the top – asks the same question and gets the same answer.

The first three Frankie singles, according to their ideologue Paul Morley, took on the biggest themes going: sex, war, religion. But which was which? “Relax” restaged sex as an arena fight, with the British public as the scandalised and delighted audience, thumbs twitching up or down. “Two Tribes”, on the other hand, takes the “Relax” blueprint and makes it even sleazier. More driving and more grandiose, yes, but Holly Johnson’s barks and gasps sound just as depraved, and the crazed robo-bass that thunders through the track – black leather on metal hips – gives “Two Tribes” an anchor in rock’n’roll “Relax” had lacked.

Like several hit records, “Two Tribes” is notionally about the futility of war: like few of the others, it reacts to this with a nihilist lust. If sex and horror are the new gods – and the lipsmacking way Holly asks the question leaves no doubt it’s rhetorical – then what better way to worship than a world sacrifice? Like a Shangri-La’s record, “Two Tribes” taps into pop’s doomed-youth death-drive, except it’s not just some Jimmy or Johnny on that fatal motorbike ride, it’s all of us. The video ends, modestly, with the planet exploding.

The song stayed on top for weeks, then months, thanks to the string of 12″ remixes ZTT rolled out to the public. Each emphasised different elements in the song, threw particular spotlights on its madness: one looped the band’s unbothered scouser voices from an interview: “My name’s Pedz, my name’s Mark, my name’s Nash…MINE. IS THE LAST VOICE YOU WILL EVER HEAR.” Another took the record’s bombastic intro and built it up into Wagnerian muscle disco. A third made too great a use of a somewhat ragged Reagan impersonator. You got the feeling that somewhere there must exist the perfect mix, the one which caught the very best moments of each version. If it were ever played, perhaps the world would end.

The single mix almost works as this imaginary highlights reel – the inhuman bass keeps the juxtapositions and sudden flourishes from seeming too wild, and only the abrupt ending lets you down. Horn had really cracked the technology by now, too, not just triggering the right samples at the right time but making them work in the song’s headspace, so the Eno-esque synth washes float over the hi-NRG thunder like battlefield mist, and the symphonic blurts sound like Pedz (or Mark or Nash) had stepped forward and simply pulled a full orchestra out of his pocket. As that summer wound on and the holidays started, I went round a friends’ house and saw the new walkman he’d just got for his birthday. I asked to give it a go and this was inside, on tape – the first thing I’d ever listened to on headphones. It was the most exciting sound I had ever heard. Still is.

10

Comments

  1. 1
    MBI on 13 Aug 2009 #

    Other party at the apocalypse songs: “1999,” “Party at Ground Zero”

  2. 2
    mike on 13 Aug 2009 #

    Ah, but there IS a perfect mix! It’s the 15-minute version on the cassette single, which splices together the best bits of the other mixes in a gloriously maximalist fashion.

    “Two Tribes” was, for me, the absolute peak moment of 1980s New Pop, and a kind of logical conclusion to the path that it had followed. To this day, I see it as a peak which, viewed from a certain angle, chart pop has never quite surpassed.

  3. 3
    Matt DC on 13 Aug 2009 #

    Absolute nailed on 10/10 for me as well, the synth hook blew my mind even hearing it for the first time relatively late on (ie in about 1991). Pretty much the high point of bombastic 80s synthpop really.

  4. 4
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 13 Aug 2009 #

    A third made too great a use of a somewhat ragged Reagan impersonator: “too great”? What mean?

  5. 5
    johnny on 13 Aug 2009 #

    watching the video, i realized i’ve never heard this before. i honestly don’t know what to make of it. seeing it given a 10 confuses me further still. i’m almost positive i am missing some context here, so i will basically take you on your word that this track is as good as you say it is. this is clearly an Event Song, and an Event Video (the first?), and being there for The Event is sometimes the key to understanding the thing itself. For me, the Event is an embargoed 1991 song by a Pop King returning to his throne. phenomenal at the time but in retrospect the Event seems to cover up a song i consider to be fairly weak. it’s a bit how i interpret this Frankie track. it sounds like “Relax” stuffed with steroids and drained of humor, though the video is quite humorous. did they really mean this or are they being ironic? both?

  6. 6
    rosie on 13 Aug 2009 #

    I’m not going to be so crass as to say I don’t think this should be a ten. I can see how it might be because this really is the beginning of the domination of a pop which, for the first time, I felt unable to respond to. To me it’s the ultimate triumph of style over substance, producer over performer. When I listen I hear a distant voice filtered through a fog of techno-noise and it moves me not one millimetre. If it’s a ten it’s a ten for a generation that I never belonged to. To me it’s a 4 at best.

    In terms of the soundtrack to my life it is of immense significance. During its reign I went camping in the Forest of Bowland with my friend Jenny, and on the day after I got back home – which I now recognise was exactly twenty-five years ago to the day at the time of writing – I went down to London to meet a friend of a friend who had asked me down for lunch. Lunch turned into afternoon drinks which turned into an Italian meal which turned into takeway gin, and I never did get home again until after work the following day. I know I crept out into the streets of Notting Hill at six in the morning and saw a London I’d never seen before, a London quiet and bleary in the half-light, a London suddenly vulnerable and loveable. Hey, I thought, I’m crossing your actual Portobello Road! Am I dreaming? And then a tube station deserted but for the smell of disinfectant and the constant rumble of escalators; an echoing platform, a distant light of a train in a tunnel, and then I’m on my way and the spell was broken. But it never was completely broken, and here begins the final stretch of my involvement in the Popular project before the life to which it has furnished the soundtrack finally changes forever.

  7. 7
    Steve Mannion on 13 Aug 2009 #

    Knew this was coming, still prefer Relax! This one is too “sporty” in a way that can irk a little (not significantly tho, still pretty much love it).

  8. 8
    Steve Mannion on 13 Aug 2009 #

    The difference in tempo between the two seems important though. ‘Two Tribes’ obviously shifts gear so I can see how that would provide a greater thrill. Easy to imaging ‘Relax’ at this bpm though with only the familiarity of the original making this seem a bit wrong (the ’93 remixes were faster tho and it survived the process, just about…less so in that Zoolander scene, amusing tho it was).

  9. 9
    Alan on 13 Aug 2009 #

    the 7″ single (pictured!) is the best version. not too long and it has the PROPER INTRO.

    i used my copy teaching Yr 7 science classes in the standard demo of sound as a wobbly line, cone of paper and pin style. very misguided – not because this was 10 years after the song was #1 and thus about the same age as the kids themselves – but because they had no idea what a vinyl record was, so the basic lesson is lost. doh

    (oh and a deep spoken voice comes out well in those cone of paper and pin demos, so the intro to 2Tribes was perfect)

  10. 10
    Pete Baran on 13 Aug 2009 #

    Yes, ten for me too, and the best nuclear paranoia song I know. At least the one that preyed into my teenaged nuclear paranoia, with its obvious but great lyrics coaxed into unbearably high levels of IMPORTANT ENERGY by the production. As for the biscuits.

    That said, I can completely see how anyone outside of the perfect age for it (eight to twenty say) at the time could be completely baffled as to what exactly makes it so good. An event record yes, though I remember it coming out when Relax was still in the charts (and not being played) so this was the Frankie it was OK to like? And its political (YAY!) and aggressive (YAY!) and there’s a shit Ronald Reagan impersonator in the video (NOT SO YAY!) It is one of those wonderful songs which is clever, though not as clever as it thinks it is*, and thus makes you the audience feel better and cleverer for liking it and them.

    *This’ll be the Paul Morley influence!

  11. 11
    Lex on 13 Aug 2009 #

    Like Johnny @ #5, I don’t really get this either. It’s…very loud and leaves me very cold, rather like Jordin Sparks’ “Battlefield”, and ends up boring me by about halfway through. It has elements of dance but no groove to actually dance to. I hate it when people do that. It’s ::political:: but not actually about anything. The video is totally stupid, how come this doesn’t get the mockery that poor Lionel did? 4, I guess? I like it better than “Relax” because it’s not as overplayed.

    The more I learn about this “new pop” business, the less I think I’m down with it or its values.

  12. 12
    lex on 13 Aug 2009 #

    Also, the past few No 1s are ably demonstrating why “80s” was a byword for naff, uncool music when I was growing up. I thought that was unfounded prejudice when I began discovering 80s artists I liked (so sad that Sade won’t be showing up here!) but it was obviously all too true.

  13. 13
    Tom on 13 Aug 2009 #

    The video is RUBBISH compared to Relax by the way, and wasn’t as big a deal at the time – IIRC even in the playground everyone was very excited by the concept and mildly embarrassed by its execution. Mark purely for the record here!

    (It doesn’t help that the soviet leader in question – is it Chernenko? – had a shorter spell in power than Relax’s chart run)

  14. 14
    Tom on 13 Aug 2009 #

    #2 Yes, this is it for the New Pop really.

  15. 15
    lonepilgrim on 13 Aug 2009 #

    YES! ten! ten! ten!
    I forget how many versions of this I bought – somehow it made consumption seem subversive at the time (not the most coherent philosophy I realise now).

    I downloaded the Carnage Mix recently knowing this was coming up and was blown away by how wonderful it still sounds. Holly Johnson cut-up lyrics are the post-punk grit at the heart of the pearl polished by Trevor Horn’s production, Anne Dudley’s orchestration and Paul Morley’s provocations.

    I’ve been struck by how much Frankie’s first two records put me in mind of the Stones with HJ an OUT version of Jagger’s sexual ambiguity – ‘I modelled shirts by Van Heusen’ – ‘that man comes on to tell me How white my shirts can be’ ; ‘Relax. don’t do it’ – ‘I can’t get no satisafction’ – and the nihilism of both hits is cut from a similar cloth to ‘Paint it black’.
    It’s a recurring mood in many UK hits – one that I’m not sure features so heavily in the US charts – although perhaps it takes a different form – Country maybe?

  16. 16
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 13 Aug 2009 #

    The video is like a (well-edited) Spitting Image parody of itself, all bad rubber masks and cheap models — I hated it at the time, which impacted on my feeling for the song (contra Rosie, not ENOUGH auteurist rigour at the director’s end, rather than too much).

    The problem with L.Ritchie’s video is more in the territory of unintended consequences, isn’t it? That the story (and tone) of the video clashes with the story (and tone) of the song, to comickal effect.

    haha i’d forgotten the chernenko problem — oops!

    dear god sade was such a drip — she is the indie of soul

  17. 17
    ace inhibitor on 13 Aug 2009 #

    ‘apocalypso’ = better title. I do see the appeal of this, but my main problem with it is the line ‘a point is all that you can score’ which is a bit rubbish – anticlimactic (when 2 tribes go to war, yes yes, what happens? Oh), not entirely meaningful, rhythmically clunky (the stress on ‘you’ doesn’t feel right)

  18. 18
    ace inhibitor on 13 Aug 2009 #

    and I seem to remember an interview where Holly explained it as a reference to fencing?! which didn’t improve matters

  19. 19
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 13 Aug 2009 #

    Lex to continue the discussion elsewhere I think you’d like a lot of 70s from the 70s just on the basis of “80s = naff and uncool: so look to the opposite”

    (tho in a way I think Frankie is the apotheosis of certain strands of 70s music — Pleasure Dome as a remake of Tarkus!) (i only just thought of that: Horn’s — correct — line on prog is that it needed more gleam and stricter editing and sense of form; but he made a mistake doing away with the actual musicians perhaps)

  20. 20
    lex on 13 Aug 2009 #

    Dunno what Sade is/was like as a person but her music is impossibly decadent and gorgeous. To me she stands for penthouse suites, cocaine and champagne, expensive shit and great sex. She is the balearic of soul.

  21. 21
    johnny on 13 Aug 2009 #

    did this track or video cause any controversy upon its release? i imagine the public sighing with relief at this one – “whew! it’s ok, dear. the pop stars are only singing about war on this one.” a bit anticlimactic after “relax”, no?

  22. 22
    Tom on 13 Aug 2009 #

    The lyrics of Apocalypso (the bit I can remember)

    “Apocalypso! Apocalypso! The bombs they come to fry our fat!”
    “Apocalypso! Apocalypso! The population going – SPLAT”

    This last an actual missile landing right on top of the singer.

  23. 23
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 13 Aug 2009 #

    i’ve always assumed that “one is all that you can score” (which is indeed rubbish) was something to do with Game Theory, and Zero-Sum outcomes as poorly understood by a.n. pop group

    Their next single should have been “The Prisoner’s Dilemma”, then they could have called PleasureDome “Panopticon”

    (ignore me i am trying to write something elsewhere and it is going badly)

  24. 24
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 13 Aug 2009 #

    great sex WITH ROBERT ELMS (= indie)

  25. 25
    Steve Mannion on 13 Aug 2009 #

    penthouse suites, cocaine and champagne, expensive shit and great sex = David Lee Roth

  26. 26
    Tom on 13 Aug 2009 #

    Certainly nobody banned it. The main controversies were i) around the video, which was a bit of a feeble one and everyone involved – makers and banners – were going through the motions on it ii) genuine crossness at how badly FGTH were scalping the public with the endless 12″s (they changed the chart rules I think).

    Only anticlimactic if “Holidays In The Sun” is an anticlimax post “God Save The Queen” I think.

  27. 27
    Tom on 13 Aug 2009 #

    “The Power Of Mutual Co-Operation Strategies”

    (The Bunny’s Dilemma)

  28. 28
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 13 Aug 2009 #

    Can’t remember if I said this on the “Relax” thread: I meant to — I think Frankie’s relationship to “Rave Culture” was

    (a) some of Frankie themselves were regulars at gay dance clubs, and
    (b) Trevor Horn had a deep but rather abstract understanding of where the technology was taking music which is more like an evolutionary convergence — the multiple mixes, the sense that everything is done in the studio, in layers relating to timed effects, build, groove and so on, the indifference to “song” as a formal skeleton at any stage — but he WASN’T a DJ, even if he know what DJs were doing, so while it’s a kind of mainstream precursor of rave in some ways, a lot of it is subtly off (and in fact NOT so subtly if you know a lot about club music)

    I *loved* the whole “too many mixes to keep up with” thing: it really appealed to me, more than anything else about them I think (not sure if i bought *any*).

  29. 29
    Alan on 13 Aug 2009 #

    “one is all that you can score” is a slogan-sharp flip of the WarGames “The only winning move is not to play” tag. WarGames was out (in the UK) in 83.

  30. 30
    Steve Mannion on 13 Aug 2009 #

    Paul Rutherford made a couple of (probably quite good!) house tunes e.g. ‘Get Real’

    may be interesting to compare Horn with rising contemporaries SAW wrt getting a handle on the changing dance culture. Horn surely loved Dead or Alive.

  31. 31
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 13 Aug 2009 #

    WHERE NONE IS A NUMBER

  32. 32
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 13 Aug 2009 #

    SAW: Well, “rising” in the sense they had so far worked together on Cyprus’s entry in 1984 Eurovision, and THAT’S IT. The record they made with Divine wasn’t out till July (acc.wiki). I think the grasp of what was to come goes the other way round: except they WERE DJs (or were anyway much more locked into the sensibility).

  33. 33
    Steve Mannion on 13 Aug 2009 #

    we’ll get the ‘too many mixes’ thing on another big 80s #1. i wonder if it actually hampered the 12″ sales tho, preventing them from surpassing ‘Blue Monday’ (tho Relax and Two Tribes obv sold a lot more overall, both in the top 5 biggest-selling singles of the decade iirc) which ended up with the similar achievement of having had more remixes of it released than any big hit.

  34. 34
    will on 13 Aug 2009 #

    I always thought it was “a point is all that you can score.”

    I’m not sure how I feel about Two Tribes these days. At the time I got carried away by the whole gynormousness of the whole, yes, event. The biggest sounding record was the biggest selling record about the biggest issue in all of our lives at the time. Straight in at the top and then Number One for nine whole weeks. It was hard not to by dwarfed by it all.

    And now? Well, there’s not much of a song there, is there? And now that nuclear paranoia is no longer an ever-present fact of life, it feels more of its time than perhaps any other 1984 Number One. Some pop songs grow in stature as the years go by, Two Tribes feels like one that’s shrunk.

  35. 35
    Mark M on 13 Aug 2009 #

    Re 20: “Penthouse suites, cocaine and champagne” more likely to = somebody droning on with ferocious urgency about brand identity than to be the precursor to great sex or anything else. And as assorted folk have pointed out, the fact that she was shagging dear old Bob Elms extinguished any mystery remaining around Sade after you’d heard her soporific tunes.

  36. 36
    logged-out Tracer Hand on 13 Aug 2009 #

    lex have you listened to very much Sade? Her music is much more about loneliness, bare feet, skunk, and being sad.

  37. 37
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 13 Aug 2009 #

    THE INDIE OF SOUL

  38. 38
    Pete Baran on 13 Aug 2009 #

    Yes, shagging this would wipe away all sophistication I think.

  39. 39
    mike on 13 Aug 2009 #

    As it happens, SAW’s first release did pre-date “Two Tribes” by a few weeks or so: “The Upstroke” by Agents Are Aeroplanes, which was conceived as a direct rip-off of “Relax”!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwF8F8fc-so

    (Also, SAW/Divine’s “You Think You’re A Man” started getting radio play round about the same time as “Two Tribes.”)

  40. 40
    lonepilgrim on 13 Aug 2009 #

    btw – is Corinne Bailey-Rae the Sade of today?

    I don’t mind either of them – although neither of them are as ‘sophisticated’ as they are often portrayed

  41. 41
    Miguel Toledo on 13 Aug 2009 #

    Appreciating Sade for being decadent, then dismissing FGTH (probably the most decadent ensemble ever) is totally off the mark.

  42. 42
    Martin Skidmore on 13 Aug 2009 #

    I have some real love for this mostly because of a very memorable scene in the Comic Strip’s TV movie Supergrass. Actually it is the only thing I remember about the whole film: Robbie Coltrane in a suit carrying a guitar case along a sea wall/jetty as waves crash across it, soundtracked by “Two Tribes.” You can watch it now: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gL9XM2_S_sM.

  43. 43
    Conrad on 13 Aug 2009 #

    Well, I absolutely love New Pop and don’t go at all with this style over substance argument. In great pop there is plenty of room for both.

    But this. THIS!

    This is such a non event as a piece of music. A real non-event. The moment where Horn’s production brilliance spilled over into parody. The incessant bass riff is great, but the rest is a drag. I admire the ambition, but a song as sleight as this comes nowhere near carrying it off.

    I am genuinely surprised at the enthusiastic response to this one. I think it must be partly an age thing to an extent – in early/mid teenage a gap of only 3 or 4 years can make a significant difference. I still loved pop in 1984 but New Pop, rather than being at its peak, seemed well past its sell by date by now.

  44. 44
    Alan on 13 Aug 2009 #

    most urgent, er point, is that it does indeed appear to be ‘(a) point’ is all you can score. judging by the miming on display in the ToTP videos on YouTube it’s definitely plosive looking with a swallowed to non-existent ‘a’. the rest of the world is not so sure acc to google:

    “one is all that you can score” 242 results
    “a point is all that you can score” 349 results

    the lousy lyrics sites fall in the latter camp, and although they do just rip each other off i see more reputable sites there too including (ahem) MTV with a “gracenote” credit.

    doesn’t stop the rest of the world having another view. FOR TWENTY FIVE YEARS.

    and the same gracenote credited lyrics do include the backing line “sock it to me biscuits, now”. so i’m still not 100% convinced

  45. 45
    LondonLee on 13 Aug 2009 #

    I’d say “only” a 9.5 from me, but at the time I would have gone up to 11.

    I haven’t heard the 7″ version in a long, long time so it never really occurred to me to think about how much or little of an actual “song” there is to this. To me it’s always existed in long, epic, widescreen form (either the Annihilation Mix or the OTT 16-minute Cassette Mix) way beyond the pop song structure of verse-chorus-hook etc. Is there a “song” in all the mayhem and effects? Probably not, just a couple of refrains repeated over and over again and enlarged to Cecil B. DeMille size by Trevor Horn.

    There was more that one version of the video too, wasn’t there? Around this time my friends and I used to drink in this bar/club off Regent Street which had a big screen that was always showing a long version of the video which used cut and spliced old clips of Richard Nixon to great effect. One of the first vids I ever saw that did that sort of “mash up”.

  46. 46
    Alan on 13 Aug 2009 #

    that’s the video linked in the main post BTW

  47. 47
    Tom on 13 Aug 2009 #

    #43 – well I would see this as a last hurrah of New Pop, rather than Mike’s peak, but he’s a bit older than me and ‘was there’.

    To be absolutely honest with you, I’m quite glad to see the back of NP. Amazing at the time, the records absolutely stand up, but surely it wasn’t meant to become the slightly sniffy measuring stick it has sometimes been in these comments boxes? Not getting at you in particular Conrad – we’ve all been at it – but all this ‘what was real New Pop and what wasn’t’ is a bit, I dunno, puritan for my liking. Like it was Power Pop or something. I’d known this was likely to be a 10 from decades off, and now it’s exploded over yr screens in purple praise I’m really keen to be getting onto the less historicised, more contestable second half of the 80s!

  48. 48
    Steve Mannion on 13 Aug 2009 #

    I’d never heard the term ‘New Pop’ until a couple of years ago so talk of it has been a little lost on me although I can see what the tunes tagged with it have in common, just about.

  49. 49
    Tom on 13 Aug 2009 #

    OK, re-reading that I’ve been way too harsh (crabby after 5 hr journey home from work, plus internal issues surrounding quite different bits of writing I’m doing about other bits of ‘pop history’).

    Conrad’s comment wasn’t saying anything LIKE what I was reading into it, and I’m obviously getting this sense of New Pop evolving into a critical cult from somewhere else completely. (I’d say Rip It Up And Start Again, maybe, except I’ve never read it!)

  50. 50
    Miguel Toledo on 13 Aug 2009 #

    The cult of new pop is about to enter Momus’ “anxious echo” land? I won’t change my mind and I’ll always stand by new pop, but 80’s nostalgia? It’s about time it goes back to rot in hell.

  51. 51
    AndyPandy on 13 Aug 2009 #

    Bang on Conrad’s comment @43 – New Pop could contain style, substance and just about everything else but surely it was dead in the water by about mid 1983 and Frankie Goers to Hollywood were an awful parody and in this responsible for 1 of the ugliest Number 1s there’s been.
    And also ironic in its use of ‘mixes’ and the 12″ format for something so relentlessly un-dancey…

    This didn’t have any substance and defintely didn’t have any style…

  52. 52
    Izzy on 13 Aug 2009 #

    I was having a nostalgic look at the whole cold war horror chic when I revisited this record a while back. Fascinating stuff and curious that we all lived under its shadow, but what’s most amazing is how it all (‘Protect and Survive’, ‘Two Tribes’, that famous daisy-picking advert) permeated my consciousness as a child at the time – I had nightmares about nuclear attack – even though I have no actual memories of seeing or hearing any of it. Its incorporation into this moment I still consider some kind of proud, cynical pop genius.

    I mean, there’ll’ve been nothing like this in Russia.

  53. 53
    Tom on 13 Aug 2009 #

    I had not seen that Seth Godin-esque chart of Momus’ before now!

    No, not really an “anxious echo” in the way he’s using it.

    I think it’s more about the difference between the good and the interesting.

    When pop critics look at history, because they’re fans too they generally look at the good bits first. So these are the bits that get narrativised, and idealised, and New Pop is an example of this. Helps too that it was being narrativised at the time by Morley, etc.

    But once that’s happened those bits become less interesting, unless all you’re interested in is peak moments at least. The times that don’t fit into the narratives, on the other hand, have been comparatively neglected and end up more interesting. Even though they’re not as good. So: 60-62, 70-71, 75, 80, 85-86….

    (You can really see how this is going to pan out for the 00s too)

  54. 54
    Tom on 13 Aug 2009 #

    #51 – like a lot of records dance music fans describe as un-dancey, this is incredible fun to dance to.

  55. 55
    Conrad on 13 Aug 2009 #

    I agree that the term New Pop has been used (too) exhaustively over the past couple of years or so of Popular entries.

    Funnily enough, for me it always meant more a feel than anything else – a bright, yellowy, spring into summer ’82, ABC, Haircut, Dollar/Horn, Simple Minds, Associates et al …and of course Paul Morley’s NME Singles reviews.

    So, yes there’s a clear lineage to Frankie via Horn and Morley, but not remotely the same feel. I appreciate ‘feel’ is pretty nebulous. I just think part of the fun of NP was its transience and its summery-ness – perhaps it can’t be subjected to too much in-depth critical analysis in the way more weighty matters such as punk or hip hop can.

  56. 56
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 14 Aug 2009 #

    it occurred to when stevem brought up SAW that in the end the problem w/the FGTH project — and actually the whole ztt project — was that it needed (like SAW) to be churning out a ton of flimsy in-between stuff to get its pop antenna right: it was too small working on too few BI-I-IG projects

  57. 57
    TomLane on 14 Aug 2009 #

    Here in the U.S. “Two Tribes” peaked at #43. “Relax” was re-released after “Two Tribes” and went Top 10. The video for “Two Tribes” , however, was an MTV staple. An easy 8 for the song and a 10 for the video.

  58. 58
    Steve Mannion on 14 Aug 2009 #

    Well they sort of “made up” for that in the 90s and beyond with a pretty lousy roster (808 State and a few Seal and SOR songs aside) from Honky to Raging Speedhorn to David Jordan. A big part of why ZTT’s early years seem so great to me is just how controlled (freakily) it is by just a handful of people, seemingly a lot more organised (and consequently successful) than Factory (tho big similarities in how much both struggled after dizzy Thatcher year heights). It’s a shame they couldn’t keep that going. I should read whatever stories there are about their rise and fall. Tom’s pfork review of the recent box set summed it all up well.
    http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/12519-zang-tumb-tuum-the-ztt-box-set/

    I’m really annoyed that nothing from the label is on Spotify and it seems like there are many licensing probs and legal issues with the catalogue.

  59. 59
    Steve Mannion on 14 Aug 2009 #

    #52 if you want to relive the nightmares of nuclear attack further I suggest watching the video for Ultravox’s ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’. Stirring stuff or wot?!

  60. 60
    Snif on 14 Aug 2009 #

    >>I always thought it was “a point is all that you can score.”

    I always thought it was “money’s all that you can score,” which kind of added to the relentless bleakness of it.

  61. 61
    swanstep on 14 Aug 2009 #

    Sorry (overlord) Tom, but I don’t see that Two Tribes has the ‘dancing while the bomb drops’ vibe that you say it does (just as well because, taken literally, *that* idea’s always a complete loser, from that 2000 AD case you mention to the wretched Matrix sequel’s farcical rave/orgy scene). As others have said above, it’s not especially danceable, and, as you get at by saying how great it sounded to you through headphones, it’s fundamentally something one *listens to* rather than something one grooves to, or gets down to, etc.. Your headphone anecdote is telling: TT was an audio carpet-bombing. With all the mixes both of TT itself and its stellar symbiote, the cover of Edwin Starr’s War (when two tribes go to war, a point is all you can score because war what is it good for? absolutely nothing, say it again…) Trevor Horn had strapped the biggest, best studio cans you can find on the whole nation/world, and turned it up. (I vividly remember my mental image of Horn – half-shadowed memories from the Buggles really – blurring into that of Eldon Tyrell from Blade Runner. Exciting, but frightening too. It was his audio world, we just lived in it.)

    Anyhow, I love the fact that the vid. has Chernenko in it! This nails the track down to its very specific moment: when the Soviet Union was most dangerous and expansive but also strangely rudderless and simply unintelligible. Chernenko would go on in March 1985 to be the third Soviet leader in three years to die in office, which was just crazy, but…in fact things had started to change before that. December 1984 Gorbachev visits the UK, is clearly the coming man, says v. publicly “Opportunities for the prevention of nuclear war exist. These opportunities must be used to the full,” and Thatcher announces v. loudly (if somewhat chillingly) ‘Here’s someone we can do business with.’ And so it proved.
    Whereas in 1984 there really was a sense that, holy crap, all this deterrence stuff was going to fail (let’s just take the one point then!) because there were lunatics (see Melle Mel on the same moment from about 2 minutes in here: [url]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrfO6kW8EIs[/url]) on ‘our’ side, and god-knows-who on ‘their’ side, 1985 saw deterrence yield a relatively rational, relatively cooperative equilibrium (there won’t be war, we’re just going to gradually walk this back…).

    Beyond this, 1984 was a bad bad year for AIDS – it was clear it was a massive plague but *still* people were only guessing about causes and means of transmission, which meant lots of fear, denial, etc. on all sides. In 1985, however, basic facts were settled, first International Conferences were held, first hopes of vaccines etc.. Most deaths still to come of course, but in some sense we were on the glide-path back to medical normality (just as were at last on the glide-path back to political normality of a relatively undivided world).

    There’s much more to be said… but, at least if you were paying attention, 1984 was an incredibly bonkers and stressed out time. Watchmen, although set in 1985, has the stench of 1984 (soviets rampaging through afghanistan, whereas gorbachev in 1985 despite giving the place one last try, is really trying just to get out) all over it in my view, and similarly with Angels in America. Some of the biggest, most impressive art-stuff that people are still grappling with today flows out of the moment that Frankie/Horn/Morley *did* capture in real time. Not quite sure how to score Two Tribe/War myself. It’s not mesmerizingly weird, perfect, timeless pop the way Dancing Queen or Whole Lotta Love or Wuthering Heights are. But it’s a perfect memento of a crisis, the way Ghost Town is (and what’s the soundtrack to current crises?), so, yes:
    10

  62. 62
    Miguel Toledo on 14 Aug 2009 #

    #53 Tom, I thought so, but I had to ask. Personally, I think New Pop will never be the subject of shame. It’s much more possible it’ll end up as the ABBA of this decade: music whose importance is so indisputable nobody will ever argue about it. But, as you say, by not being discussed, it’ll become less and less interesting.

    I have a hunch about the future: when the next battleground settles down, Pop Will Eat Itself will end up standing pretty well.

  63. 63
    Jonathan Bogart on 14 Aug 2009 #

    “Music whose importance is so indisputable nobody will ever argue about it” doesn’t describe ABBA in the US!

  64. 64
    Tom on 14 Aug 2009 #

    #63 Isn’t “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes” about a nuclear meltdown not a nuclear war? Splitting hairs I guess. My Dad worked in nuclear power at the time, so maybe that’s why I put that interpretation on it.

  65. 65
    Tom on 14 Aug 2009 #

    #61 Great comment Swanstep, which got marked up as spam for no reason at all that I can see (I hope long comments aren’t getting spamblocked). I’ve rescued it.

  66. 66
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 14 Aug 2009 #

    Why were they dancing at a powerplant? No wonder there was a melt-down. I blame George Michael.

  67. 67
    Tom on 14 Aug 2009 #

    No no he works at the power plant then comes home for a last dance with his wife!

  68. 68
    Erithian on 14 Aug 2009 #

    Wow – so much to say about this one, so many memories and issues arising from the above comments.

    Firstly the record – here’s one occasion where Tom’s idea of the record of the year coincides with mine (unless he’s got an even better 10 coming, watch this space). I was reminded of “Two Tribes” when Johnny commented on “The Reflex” being a continuous stream of 3-second hooks in place of a song: as others have commented upthread, it’s not the most coherent song, but the sheer rush of ideas coming thick and fast carries everything before it, the aural carpet-bombing as described by swanstep #61. All held together by that fantastic bass riff. Fittingly the first nine-week number one for six years – for six of those nine weeks it had “Relax” joining it in the top three, and for the first two weeks of July ’84 Frankie’s entire recorded output was 1 and 2 in the singles chart. In those days when there was a separate 12-inch chart, “Two Tribes” was outselling the number 2 by a ratio of 7 to 1, while someone said that if the “Frankie Say” t-shirt sales had been counted as a single, they’d have had the top three to themselves. Event? Most certainly.

    If I’d got onto this thread early enough I’d have done a mini-quiz, which I’m sure most of you could have answered, although probably not so many of the wider listening public. Whose was “the last voice that you will ever hear”, and the sonorous voice talking about the air attack warning in the intro? It was the late Patrick Allen, also known for the Barrett Homes ads and Shooting Stars.

    And the Soviet president depicted in the video alongside an equally ropey Reagan lookalike? Yep, Chernenko. Swanstep above nails the important transition that was going on at the time, with the result that Chernenko has the rum fate of being better known for his role in the video than anything he did in office. Soon after Gorbachev took over, someone found a Nostradamus quatrain which went roughly like this: “There will be three old and sick tsars [Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko], and then there will be a fourth tsar known as Michael the Marked [cf Gorby’s birthmark]. He will be the last of the tsars [Soviet leaders] and after him will come the war with the yellow people”. Which is as spot on as Nostradamus gets!

  69. 69
    Erithian on 14 Aug 2009 #

    Tom #67 – so Midge Ure = Homer Simpson. Hmmm.

  70. 70
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 14 Aug 2009 #

    also: homer simpson = one of the yellow people! it all fits!

  71. 71
    Erithian on 14 Aug 2009 #

    Number 2 Watch: Nik Kershaw’s “I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” for one week, then those two weeks of FGTH at 1 and 2, then – yikes! – Neil from The Young Ones with “Hole In My Shoe” for three weeks.

    I was taken with Conrad’s description of a “feeling” to New Pop, describing spring/summer ’82 as “yellowy”. I guess I’m not alone in ascribing certain periods or seasons with nebulous concepts that almost have colour, and which are a combination of mood, the pop songs of the time and what was happening in my life. So for instance autumn ’75 feels very distinct from spring ’76 for me and not just because of the weather. It’s almost like the way those autistic maths geniuses talk about numbers having individual characters, and it’s a concept almost as difficult to explain to anyone who wouldn’t feel it. Can anyone else have a better stab at putting it into words?

    The notion is particularly relevant here, perhaps, since this was the last number one while I was in full-time education, and subsequent times in my life are no longer marked by the rhythms of the academic year. There are good times and bad times, great songs and duff ones, to come, but somehow it gets less exciting from here on.

  72. 72
    Rory on 14 Aug 2009 #

    “Two Tribes” peaked at number 4 in Australia, one place higher than “Relax”, but in my memory it had always been the lesser track, a retread of elements of its predecessor without a proper song at the heart of it. The video held more interest, given that we had never been allowed to see the banned video of its predecessor, although the amazingly unlifelike Reagan impersonator was a bit distracting. But there wasn’t enough in it to make me go out and buy the single.

    Reading these comments has prompted a rethink about why it didn’t capture our hearts and charts the way it did yours. When I play the YouTube video today I can see the potential for greatness, but also suspect that the greatness lies elsewhere, in all of the extended mixes that turn it into an ever-shifting long-form monster of a track. The short version seems to stop just as it gets going, as if Frankie have fast-forwarded to the big finish and passed over the actual substance. At first I wondered if this was down to having only two lines to play with, but “I Feel Love” used a similar number of words to hypnotic effect, so no; it’s more that problem of trying to compress the entire “Two Tribes” musical landscape into four minutes.

    And this is where I suspect its Australian chart potential was reduced. We didn’t get the UK’s seven different single incarnations; Festival deigned only to release one 7″, two 12″s, and a cassingle. Not only did this reduce the potential for repeat purchases to keep the song in the charts, but it reduced its breadth. That sense of there being more to Frankie’s songs than the 7″ version was a big part of their appeal, I remember; the idea that your infatuation with a song didn’t have to end when you’d tired of the 7″ version, but could be reinvigorated mix by mix. We knew from the music press that Frankie were a phenomenon over here, and that you had been getting all these extra 12″ versions, but in those days there was no easy way to hear them; getting your local store to import a record was a long and laborious business. You might do it for an album, but only the truly obsessed would do it for a single.

    But all of that assumes that we’d decided to part with our dollars. Until we did, our exposure to the song was limited to radio and TV, and the sound-quality of either was pretty average. Television in those two-channel days (in my state) meant one or two screenings of the video on Countdown. Radio still meant AM, on the whole; superior-sounding FM radio was starting to take off around this time, but roll-out was slow in my hilly area, and the signal was much less reliable. Unless you had a friend who could play you the track on a Walkman, your chances of hearing Trevor Horn’s production to its best effect were limited.

    So we were in something of a catch-22. If we owned the single, we could hear it at its best and be convinced of its qualities; but until we owned the single we couldn’t. If we owned all the many 12″ mixes, we could be convinced that this wasn’t just a song but something so much bigger, a suite of different versions all meshing into something huge; but we couldn’t buy all the different mixes that you could. (A skeptic might view all those different UK releases as a gaming of the charts, but while they must have extended its number one reign, they can’t have been the reason it got there – except in this intangible sense of the song being so much bigger in music-buyers’ imaginations than a four-minute single, which is impossible to quantify.)

    Given that this was the sound of the future, of the wave of electronic dance music that has been washing over us ever since, it’s a shame that the Australian charts couldn’t make more room for it; we were too busy waking up before we went-went. But that’s history, and we can’t rewrite what “Two Tribes” meant to us any more than I can rewrite what it meant to me. Hearing it again now, I want to love it more for everything it represents, but I’ll have to call it 7.

  73. 73
    mike on 14 Aug 2009 #

    While “Two Tribes” was at Number One, I left West Berlin – where I had been living since August 1983 – and returned to Nottingham for one final year at university. My year in Berlin had been a period of absolute freedom, which I knew could never quite be repeated – and so I left the city with a heavy heart and a vague sense of retreat (back to the old campus, the old stamping grounds, the old life).

    My final weeks in Berlin had chiefly been soundtracked by “Two Tribes” and Laura Branigan’s “Self Control” (a massive and ubiquitous hit in West Germany, which I think was 1984’s best-selling single over there). Along with “The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight” by The Dominatrix, the Top Three in my weekly personal chart (lovingly hand-written, and retained to this day) had remained static for a few weeks – and since I more or less abandoned the personal chart upon returning to Nottingham, there’s a part of me which still thinks they’re sitting there.

    So it’s not just that “Two Tribes” marked the final peak of New Pop – it’s also that it soundtracked the final peak of my carefree, irresponsible, naively bubble-dwelling youth.

  74. 74
    johnny on 14 Aug 2009 #

    #71 – i believe the term you’re looking for is Synethesia. Sound have a visual effect, either mentally or physically. i don’t know too much about it scientifically speaking but, though it is a common feature of autism, it’s possible for the non-autistic to have a lowgrade form of it. personally speaking, it definitely affects the way i hear and play music. hearing a certain song or sequence of chords produces a sort of color wheel in my memory. assuming the sequence isn’t too challenging, it’s very easy for me to walk over to a guitar or piano and reproduce the sequence using this color wheel as my guide. it’s very common among musicians. i’m sure some others here may have a similar ability.

    it’s a bit cliche at this point to say that the quick-cut editing of MTV videos has over time produced a generation which suffers from an exceedingly short attention-span. however, the more i listen to this song and watch its video, it seems that the former is almost taking its cues from the latter. in other words, i get the feeling “two tribes” was composed with a video already in mind and i wonder how common this was by ’84 (the initial awe of MTV still very much a factor in pop music). it seems that many of the tracks we’ve heard in the past year or so (in Popular-time) have featured either a) songs that translate extremely well to music video, or b) songs that seem to be translating video editing techniques into their aural framework. in this way, “two tribes” seems to be more than a song with a video to promote it, more like a multi-pronged Concept (song+video+remixes). i used the word “Event” yesterday but maybe that’s not accurate and possibly cheapens what i meant to convey. videos and songs wouldn’t always be created and marketed this way. the lustre would eventually wear off of MTV, but at this moment i get the feeling many musicans are as excited and inspired by MTV as they would be by some new piece of musical gear or recording equipment.

    sorry that’s a very long and convoluted thought someone else could probably express much more coherently!

  75. 75
    Erithian on 14 Aug 2009 #

    Johnny – yes, the first time I heard the Human League’s “Mirror Man” – “The water shines / A pebble skips across the face a dozen times… ” I could almost see the video. Come to think of it, I’m not sure I ever have seen the video since I was in France at the time.

  76. 76
    swanstep on 14 Aug 2009 #

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXWVpcypf0w
    is the original (no nixon, cruise-missile stuff at the beginning), better (more coherent and violent!) version of the vid., with great audio too (it appears to be ztt’s channel).

    I liked the vid. but don’t remember it (or see it now) as being anything like the tail that wagged the dog (as it were). Rather, it was the entree/taster for the ‘Annihilation mix’:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIi9jMjThGs
    whose bits of reagan-impersonator dialogue were in turn the opening act for all the different slabs of reagan-impersonator discussing che guevara and revolutionary love, and the logic of belligerence, and on and on, in the War cover and all its remixes. Note that War sounded *pretty* awesome even without all the Morleyisms. Check out driving across the judean desert to it here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hgJyS037P8

  77. 77
    Weekend roundup « Paperhouse on 15 Aug 2009 #

    […] I’ve been listening to the first thing Tom Ewing listened to on headphones: “It was the most exciting sound I had ever heard. Still […]

  78. 78
    Steve Mannion on 15 Aug 2009 #

    #74 I like the idea that pop acts were excited about making music videos on this basis. In most cases the videos don’t hold up as they banked mostly on the novelty factor enabling directors to set iconic precedents in the medium which viewers would remember, from MJ’s pavement dancefloor to Run DMC and Aerosmith’s ego war to the hapless CGI grafters of ‘Money For Nothing’ fame – vivid imagery that thu a wilfully nostalgic lens is all treasured by many young enough to accept and appreciate this as a vital part of the pop experience (with TV as much a gateway as the radio…maybe another part of why I disliked ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ during my childhood was that I felt it simply wasn’t true…yet). Imagining most of the successful acts of this time (and pretty much any hereon) without the imagery of their videos is very difficult for me.

  79. 79
    MikeMCSG on 15 Aug 2009 #

    The bass line is copped from “I Feel Love” so it was getting a second airing on a chart topper.
    I seem to remember the band originally wrote this song based on the post-apocalyptic Mad Max 2 and then the lyrics were amended for more topicality.

    I can’t see this as a ten because the song’s a bit of a let down after that fantastic intro but it did stop quite a few crap records (hi Neil) getting to number one !

  80. 80
    admin on 15 Aug 2009 #

    The bass line is copped from “I Feel Love”

    that’s not so clear is it? yeah it’s hi-nrg, but i’ve heard plenty of tracks that do clearly re-use the i feel love bass-line, and this is some way further off. it has a different internal rhythm. ok, so i’m not hot on the technical distinctions and lingo here, but IFL is an even pulse where TT is more quick-slow-quick-slow-y

  81. 81
    swanstep on 16 Aug 2009 #

    The bass part for TT is indeed a strange and wondrous thing: there’s a bit of I Feel Love’s pulse in there for sure (but not nearly as much as in, say, Eurythmics’ ‘Love is a Stranger’ from around the same time), but there’s a lot else going on too. I detect some of the monster opening bass-pattern from Off the Wall’s ‘Get on the Floor’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ierY2nOVX64) as well as some of the awesome bass from Sister Sledge’s ‘Thinking of you’ (So i agree with #80-admin). And, most importantly, the total effect of TT’s bass part is pummelling shock and awe, not sinuous, get down joy (the thing that its important antecedents are beloved for).

  82. 82
    Jonathan Bogart on 16 Aug 2009 #

    Just a note for the relevant eyes: I think the spam-bait in #61 is the use of BBCode rather than HTML tags. I’ve made the same mistake and had posts disappear on me.

  83. 83
    Kat but logged out innit on 16 Aug 2009 #

    The I Feel Love lineage is clear to me – not for the bassline itself but the oscillating synth used to bring it to life. I am an absolute sucker for that sort of thing (see Blog 92 stuff passim but also more recent examples like Roisin’s Overpowered and Robyn/Royksopp’s The Girl And The Robot). But while Robyn and Roisin’s bibblings are wistful daydreaming, Trevor’s tense mechanical buildup (plus Holly’s ringmaster barking) is whipping us up into a frenzied dogfight where the payoff is the bombastic soundtrack to an Eastern Bloc women’s gymnastic team landing their quadruple flip off the vault to score unbeatable, ruthless, terrifying straight-across-the-board 10s. And that’s what score I’d give this song.

  84. 84
    Caledonianne on 16 Aug 2009 #

    Since we’ve been name-checking Ultravox “this means nothing to me”.

    I had a proper job by this time, and I saw all this as commercialised twaddle with an overlay of phoney politics. Didn’t buy in to all the threat of nuclear winter stuff – just saw a government with friends in big armaments looking for cover to pay lots of taxpayers’ big ones to their mates, hence the “protect and survive” hoopla. Maggie and Ron pace the Gone with the Wind pastiche, upping the ante because of the weakness the ongoing Afghanistan adventure had shown in the Soviet armour (though, at the time, we didn’t really understand the extent of the proxy manoeuvres going on there).

    As someone who is fairly political (including three years – much later – as a professional political operative)I think we are having false memory syndrome re the extent to which armageddon seemed imminent to the average Joe. If anything it felt (to me) less precarious than when we were all queuing at draughty church halls to see the banned “The War Game” in the 70s.

    To me this is “boys and toys” writ large, with nothing to say to me, a vaguely compelling rhythm distracting from the abject hollowness of the core. Emperor’s new clothes stuff. The dreary soundtrack of a vapid and dreary decade.

    zzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Next?

  85. 85
    Rory on 16 Aug 2009 #

    #84 – We’re not talking about the average Joe, though, so much as the average buyer of chart music, aren’t we? And teenagers aren’t exactly noted for their sunny, optimistic outlook.

    I distinctly remember a long conversation with my parents around this time, probably in ’84, where I expressed exactly these imminent-armageddon fears. Fortunately, by sharing their own memories of the Bay of Pigs era, they persuaded me that it might not happen this time either. Fortunately, too, none of us knew that it almost had happened by accident at least twice in 1983 alone.

    If it’s a false memory in my case, it’s hardly one triggered by Popular; I was writing about it almost a decade ago.

  86. 86
    Caledonianne on 17 Aug 2009 #

    Ach, if teenagers wanted to be gloomy or sad or cynical they should’ve listened to Lenny or Janis or Randy. You know, good stuff. ;-)With tunes, and more than two lines.

    Frankie was a cult. And I’ve always been immune to cult.

    Just wasn’t in the demographic, I guess.

  87. 87
    mike on 17 Aug 2009 #

    Oh, I think that genuine fear of nuclear Armageddon was pretty widespread amongst the teens of 1984, was it not? (Difficult for me to say for certain, being 22 at the time, but subsequent conversation and reading has suggested so.)

  88. 88
    Tom on 17 Aug 2009 #

    I respect yr disdain for all things 80s Caledonianne but the war fear of the 80s certainly wasn’t confined to Frankie. Potential game-changers were:

    – Afghanistan, which wasn’t generally interpreted as ‘weakness’ until the game was much closer to being up.
    – Reagan’s election, and a shift from realpolitik to a much more eyeball-to-eyeball US foreign policy (plus the vaguely patronising fear that he was a doddery old fool who really MIGHT bomb first and ask qns later)
    – Cruise missiles in the UK making us a primary first-strike target (which we were anyway but it brought the danger home a bit more)

    Of course I was an 80s teen so that’s when I was scared, but the above I think are good reasons to think it wasn’t JUST my own perspective that made the danger seem a bit nearer.

    Also “Threads” is way scarier than “The War Game” so there ;)

  89. 89
    ace inhibitor on 17 Aug 2009 #

    “If anything it felt (to me) less precarious than when we were all queuing at draughty church halls to see the banned “The War Game” in the 70s.”

    some of us were watching the – still banned – War Game in draughty quaker halls in 1983… less pedantically, the really big CND demonstrations, in my memory, were in 83/84 – the human chain from greenham to aldermaston, half a million (reportedly) in Hyde Park… nuclear-fear was huge, and not just among adolescents I think

    there’s maybe an echo here I think of the way opposition to the Vietnam war went mainstream in 1970/71, when the numerically biggest demonstrations were, whereas a lot of Movement people would have located the high point of protest as being 67/68 (smaller but more militant).

  90. 90
    enitharmon on 17 Aug 2009 #

    1984 was the year CND’s autumn rally came to Barrow! In order to encircle the Devonshire Dock, where nuclear-powered subs are built. (Now I’m living here in my home town again I feel it’s important to point out that we build the engines, which could be used to power merchant shipping just as easily. The destructive bits are, of course, made at Aldermaston near Reading.)

    Because it was my home town I made a big thing of making sure the St Neots CND branch had a bus going there. Once they arrived, parked on a piece of derelict dockland now occupied by Morrisons and an agreeable waterside promenade but then a bit of a mess, the driver asked when everybody wanted to go home. NOW! they all cried in unison.

    My partner and I sneaked across the Walney Bridge to the Ferry Hotel – quite a good pub in those days, crap now – to spend the afternoon enjoying pints of the sadly defunct Hartleys XB.

    NB – don’t know why I’ve suddenly become enitharmon – should be rosie. Let me check something.

  91. 91
    Rory on 17 Aug 2009 #

    Don’t forget the impact of nuclear winter on the teenage psyche at this time (and not just teenagers, as others noted). The concept entered the popular consciousness just before 1984 — see this 1983 Carl Sagan piece, for example — and it shook up beliefs such as being able to sit it out in a bunker, some parts of the globe being less affected than others, and so on. In my corner of the world we might previously have kidded ourselves that we were out-of-the-way enough to avoid the worst; now we were being told we would end up envying the ones taken out by the bombs themselves. (Cf. Cormac McCarthy’s recent novel The Road, a harrowing recreation of such early-’80s nightmares.)

    As Sagan wrote, “But what if nuclear wars can be contained, and much less than 5000 megatons is detonated? Perhaps the greatest surprise in our work was that even small nuclear wars can have devastating climatic effects. … The threshold for what Richard Turco has called The Nuclear Winter is very low.”

    This was new, and it did change the debate. For people in my age group, it changed our outlook, if not forever, then for a long time to come.

  92. 92
    Erithian on 17 Aug 2009 #

    Rosie #90 – not wishing to denigrate the St Neots CND branch in any way, but that story reminded me of the Tooting Popular Front!

    Kat #83 – a strange analogy since unbeatable Eastern Bloc women’s gymnastic teams were highly conspicuous by their absence at the LA Olympics which began during “Two Tribes”‘ run at number one.

  93. 93
    enitharmon on 17 Aug 2009 #

    Erithian @ 92: The comparison is entirely valid!

  94. 94
    enitharmon on 17 Aug 2009 #

    Erithian @ 92: The comparison is entirely valid!

    I like this login. It appears to have magical powers. I’m trying to think of a way of using it constructively, since I don’t seem to be able to log out of it!

  95. 95
    misschillydisco on 17 Aug 2009 #

    i have to say that the five crashing guitar chords that end the song are one of my favourite ever moments in pop.

  96. 96
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 17 Aug 2009 #

    yes they didn’t have nuclear winter in the 60s — it was invented by the scientists who realised that the dinosaurs were all made extinct by a giant asteroid and so might we be (to simplify rather severely)

  97. 97
    Erithian on 17 Aug 2009 #

    Channel 4 Top 100 Watch: with just over one and a half million sales, this is No 22 on the UK all-time list.

  98. 98
    swanstep on 17 Aug 2009 #

    The nuclear winter hypothesis functioned in two ways in the debate at the time: it seemed to show that there was little hope of survival even in places like New Zealand that probably wouldn’t take any direct hits (Rory’s point above), but it also argued that even an incredibly militarily successful first strike would be futile, because it would precipitate environmental collapse dooming the first striker. That was a new paradox for the strategists to think over. Add to this the thereat that Reagan’s mega-expensive and (still) largely fantastical SDI (‘star wars’) initiative would nonetheless potentially undermine existing deterrence strategy, and suddenly the whole ‘balance of terror’ structure seemed more unstable and absurd and obscene than it ever had before (and it was always *pretty* bad, see Dr Strangelove). This led to more and more agitatedly helpless protests by the masses, and so on. The anomalies just kept piling up… That’s the nutty pre-Gorbachev state of the world that Two Tribes and Reagan’s ‘we start bombing in 5 minutes’ joke on Aug 11, 1984 (as if he were providing a sound-bite for Frankie!) crown.

  99. 99
    AndyPandy on 17 Aug 2009 #

    I was a teen in the early/mid 80s and when I gave the situation any thought I was extremely worried by it – and that’s coming from a person who back then didn’t give a toss about politics or pretty much anything besides getting off my head and doing all the things that seemed to happen once you were off your head.

    The nuclear clock was at 2 minutes to midnight for the first time ever back then and I knew that one false move from either of the superpowers could at anytime mean that within a few minutes the vast majority of people in Britain would all be dead/dying in the most unimaginably horrible way.I couldn’t believe that our leaders were taking such a fuckin horrible risk.

    And of course one evening in 1983 we can all count ourselves very lucky to have ever woken up the next day…

    Not that most of the people I knew seemed to care.

    I think we should always remember that we (ie most of us on here who I should imagine are thinking people who probably went to university)are very different in some ways from the masses of teenagers ie the kind who I went to school with (working class, left school at 16, no qualifications)who I doubt ever gave the possibility of nuvlear anhilation a second thought.

  100. 100
    Izzy on 17 Aug 2009 #

    I don’t know, I wouldn’t say they didn’t give annihilation a thought – more likely they noted it then quickly filed it under ‘things I can’t do anything about and so not worth my time worrying about’, and then got on with life instead. I did have bad dreams for a while, then quickly adapted when I realised the world wasn’t going to end. It was only later that I learned to worry about things that didn’t concern me and prioritise ideas over the everyday, which led me to some distinctly unpopular times musically.

    They get it right more often than we do, I’d hazard. Sometimes I see the whole Popular project, in its due context, as a celebration of that view of life.

  101. 101
    Tom on 17 Aug 2009 #

    A comments century – and a very meaty one too.

  102. 102
    lonepilgrim on 17 Aug 2009 #

    The imminent threat of nuclear war permeated youth culture at that time – regardless of class or education:
    The plot of ‘V for Vendetta’ – which began publication in 1982 – takes place in a post-nuclear winter UK (in a scenario which Alan Moore has since recognised is a wildly optimistic version of what the country would look like). Raymond Briggs’ “When the wind blows’ book had also been published that year.
    There was also still a culture of resistance and protest – as seen at Greenham Common, the Miner’s Strike, Rock against racism, etc which didn’t require a University education

  103. 103
    Caledonianne on 17 Aug 2009 #

    Ace inhibitor’s point is very telling, I think. Good call re perceptions of activism. I was a member of CND in the late 70s, and felt most in danger around the time of the failed attempt to rescue the American hostages during the Carter regime (finally freed by the Iranians just as Carter had demitted office).By the 80s I knew enough Game Theory to get on with life. My sleepless nights came from unssuccessful attemps to get interdicts (injunctions) for victims of domestic violence. For me that was the “protect and survive” of the time. Never felt anything then like the apprehension I felt about using the tube in the aftermath of 7/7 (and in fact didn’t for nine months).

    Have a friend whose mother was one of the Greenham wimmin who took the MOD to the House of Lords over access rights. Game old bird, even now. Was usually in Holloway when I first knew her daughter.

    Good discussion. Still think the record’s pants, though;-)

  104. 104
    AndyPandy on 17 Aug 2009 #

    Lone Pilgrim @ 10: I’m not saying you needed a university education but surely you’re not saying the average person in their late teens/early 20s working as mechanics/builders/hairdressers/on the tills in shops etc back them had any interest in a “culture of resistance and protest”.

    And depressingly if they did have any opinions on Greenham Common/Rock Against Racism it would have been invariably hostile. One particularly ugly story that I remember circulating at the time involved a load of boozed up post chucking out time idiots driving up to the Daws Hill Peace Camp at the American airbase in High Wycombe and supposedly causing chaos by driving through the tents etc…obviously that was extreme but in all the years from leaving school spent having a succession of jobs in the building trade/or factory labouring to when I went to university I was condemned to live in a (youth)culture completely opposed to any progressive thought. Or more probably completely ignoring it.

  105. 105
    Mark G on 17 Aug 2009 #

    I had that Hibakusha mix in my box, back in the day.

  106. 106
    lonepilgrim on 17 Aug 2009 #

    “surely you’re not saying the average person in their late teens/early 20s working as mechanics/builders/hairdressers/on the tills in shops etc back them had any interest in a “culture of resistance and protest”.

    I am saying that there was a range of opinion both among the ‘average’ people – and the university ‘elite’. I was a Youth Worker in Barnsley in the years before the miners strike and the young people I worked with were more politically aware than many of the people I’d been at college with – than I was myself.

  107. 107
    enitharmon on 21 Aug 2009 #

    During its reign I hit my thirtieth birthday. I say ‘hit’ advisedly; I ran full tilt into this one and it hurt.

    I’ve always had a problem with my birthday being at the beginning of August. Other kids had big birthday parties but on my birthday other kids were always away on holiday so mine were a reduced affair. As it happens I was dreading my thirtieth as one does, because it felt like I would now be forever ancient and life as I knew it was about to come to an end. And, as so often, I was in a strange (very strange!) small town and there was nobody I knew all that well around to mark it with. So I treated myself to a meal for one in the St Neots Tandoori and in the middle of it I just burst into tears. Suddenly an impromptu party sprang up around me, with a large scotch free from the management.

    The following day I received a package, unfortunately delivered a day late. In the attached card was a note, saying that inside the package was something entirely appropriate to such a momentous birthday. And inside the package, a pair of red socks and another note saying “Red socks? Is that all?” (I’ve been a little bit disingenuous – the socks were, in fact, rather expensive Norwegian woollen walking socks.)

    It was then that I learned one of life’s most important lessons. When you are young you waste a lot of time looking ahead to a time when you will be Grown Up, and have to be responsible and stop having any fun in return for being treated with some respect. For many, it’s that ominous big Three-Oh that is the watershed, with what lies beyond being Over The Hill. But when you get there, you realise that being Grown Up was just a myth after all and ahead of you are real mountains, not hills. Forty was a ten-day party for me; Fifty a wonderful occasion.

  108. 108
    Billy Smart on 22 Aug 2009 #

    Bit too late to add very much… A few random thoughts.

    Did the Chernyenko lookalike in the video get any other work?

    In Rip It Up & Start Again, Reynolds sees FGTH as the culmination of a seven year cycle of post-punk mutating into new pop. He notes the massive sense of event and significance at the time, and the lack of any influence of FGTH on future music (unlike the Sex Pistols, who never seem to go away). I think that The KLF might have owed a bit to Frankie.

    I showed a group of 19 year-old undergraduates ‘The War Game’ recently and they seemed to get upset by it. They were most sceptical about the use of talking heads not implicated in the action, but that may be because documentary techniques of 1965 are now rather alien to them.

  109. 109
    Billy Smart on 24 Aug 2009 #

    TOTPWatch: Frankie Goes To Hollywood performed Two Tribes on Top Of The Pops a whopping eight times! (The Christmas show I’ll come to in the fullness of time);

    14 June 1984. Also in the studio that week were; The Art Company, The Smiths, Scritti Politti, Nick Heyward and Nik Kershaw. Peter Powell & Mike Read were the hosts.

    21 June 1984. Also in the studio that week were; Gary Glitter, Cyndi Lauper, The Associates, Lloyd Cole & The Commotions and Elvis Costello. Gary Davies & Simon Bates were the hosts.

    5 July 1984. Also in the studio that week were; OMD, Ultravox, Thompson Twins and Shannon. Jimmy saville & Mike Smith were the hosts.

    12 July 1984. Also in the studio that week were; Shakatak, Neil, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Bluebells and Phil Fearon & Galaxy. John Peel & Tommy Vance were the hosts.

    19 July 1984. Also in the studio that week wereAlso in the studio that week were; The Mighty Wah!, Billy Idol, The Kane Gang, Blancmange, and Divine. Peter Powell & Richard Skinner were the hosts.

    26 July 1984. Also in the studio that week were; Phil Fearon & Galaxy, Neil, Hazell Dean, Jeffrey Osborne and Shakatak. Dave Lee Travis & Janice Long were the hosts.

    9 August 1984. Also in the studio that week were; Tracey Ullman, Windjammer, Hazell Dean and Blancmange. John Peel & Richard Skinner were the hosts.

  110. 110
    SteveM on 25 Aug 2009 #

    re 108 and FGTH’s (un)influence, the Discogs profile for Canadian MC Gonzales reveals he was primarily influenced by Frankie in his teenage years. Seems tenuous given the general dominant jazz-funk and hip-hop aspects of the Gonzales ouevre but, uh, there you go.

  111. 111
    punctum on 10 Sep 2009 #

    “However, life is cheap, dirt cheap, according to this society, judged by the way it acts, the only true test, saw Christie, dispite its pious mouthings. What it does in practice is not what it says it does. It does not care for human life: it shortens that life by the nature of the work it demands, it poisons that life in pursuit of mere profit, it organises wars from which it is certain mass killing will result…but you know the ways in which we are all diminished: I should not need to rehearse them further.”
    (BS Johnson, Christie Malry’s Own Double-Entry, chapter XIII: “Christie Argues With Himself!”)

    “It was not from modesty that I wanted to be a drummer in those days. That was the highest aspiration – the rest is nothing.”
    (Adolf Hitler, from the transcript of his final address to the judges at his Beer Hall Putsch high treason trial, 1924)

    Much as the names Joy Division and New Order attempt to make right signifiers which are otherwise irretrievably wrong, so Horn and Morley’s reclamation of the term Art Of Noise from the Italian Futurists who coined it can be viewed in a similar light. Marinetti and his disciples openly welcomed war and apocalypse, revelled in its promises of blood and carnage – and inevitably ended up cheerleading for Mussolini.

    Trevor Horn has subsequently been rather diffident about “Two Tribes,” claiming that it was more of an examination of the alleged glamour and attraction of war and slaughter rather than an anti-war record per se. While this certainly isn’t wrong – the sleevenotes juxtapose sober reflections of the infancy and subterfuge of nations who need to keep the pretence of war alive in order to justify their military budgets with detailed lists of proposed Cruise and Pershing II missile deployments in Western Europe for 1985 and remarks about the Gurkas being “the kind of men one would wish to go into the jungle with” with a deliberate phallic bent, and on the B-side’s cover of Edwin Starr’s “War,” Chris Barrie, impersonating Reagan, delivers a chilling “Relax” before admitting “I don’t want to die” – Morley certainly had different ideas.

    “Two Tribes” was designed to be to the summer of 1984 what “God Save The Queen” had been to the summer of 1977 – an inescapable and huge gauntlet of protest. The 12-inch itself featured pictures of Lenin and Reagan dead centre on either side, with the hole going through their foreheads as though they had just been shot. More than anything it was to be ZTT’s Gesamtkunstwerk; a total work of art involving not just the basic song and its infinite remixes, but the sleeve design (the rear of the 12-inch sleeve features Thatcher and Reagan in mute hand-on-heart prayer, Thatcher’s eyes closed as though in deep anticipation of imminent orgasm, Reagan smiling dopily, Donald Rumsfeld in shades and scowl lurking just behind both), the video (directed by Godley and Creme and featuring Reagan and Chernenko lookalikes slugging it out in a Jerry Springer-anticipating chat show arena), even unto the adverts and press interviews. Each element commented on, or amplified, or changed the perspective on, all of the other ones. It was New Pop’s final battle; to put the rest of 1984’s New Right pop to total and humiliating shame.

    The contemporary impact of “Two Tribes” must be put in its proper perspective. In the summer of 1984 I had just completed my Finals and graduated from Oxford, which politically at the time could fairly be said to divide into two unequal-sized camps – the CND/Labour/National Union Of Mineworkers-supporting Old Left, and the Thatcherite what-me-worry-straight-to-the-City-and-don’t-pass-the-slums New Right. Economic cold rationalism was already beginning to bite into the veins of academia, and increasingly large numbers of people saw no reason why unregulated free market economics should not be welcomed or embraced.

    But to those of us still on the Left, disgusted if not surprised by Labour’s rout in the 1983 General Election – although their 1983 election manifesto was described as “the longest suicide note in political history” it represented, and still represents, everything in which I believe. But no one else believed it at the time, despite the Greenham Common protests and lock-ins, despite the utterly palpable dread of imminent nuclear holocaust – this was in the immediate pre-Gorbachev days, when nothing had been resolved. Nevertheless the threat of forthcoming extermination breathed fire down every properly fearful neck; but no, the weapons had to be kept and maintained and added to, since every Chile and El Salvador with the brass neck to try socialism was routinely routed from the viewpoint that They Had Been Put Up To It By Russian Guys In Big Furry Hats.

    And then, more pressingly, there was the miners’ strike, which lasted the best part of a year and revealed the fascism always latent in the British establishment when challenged at its root. I well recall travelling on the motorways of Britain that summer, seeing coaches of ordinary people being routinely pulled over and emptied by police (“We’re arresting everyone this morning”) because by default they were carrying flying pickets. At the coal depots themselves police hurled themselves at strikers with bloody battlecries and set about them on live television with truncheons, baseball bats and worse. Meanwhile the smugness of the Tory heartlands radiated like capitalist plutonium; Auberon Waugh remarking in the Telegraph that the South of England had sufficient reserves of coal for decades and that the underclass were getting what they had deserved since the days of the Chartists. Among the mining communities themselves there formed irrevocable splits and rifts; those too broke or too afraid to remain out on strike tried to return to work, with consequent violence, social ostracising and, in the end, fatalities (the music press too was silent that summer due to a National Union of Journalists strike – so there is a pleasant attendant irony that no immediate critical commentary on “Two Tribes” was ever made). But there were also differences within that community itself; the 22-year-old Jarvis Cocker (though not a miner) routinely turned out for picket lines and NUM support in Sheffield and environs but he too was regularly ridiculed by miners for sitting in cafes wearing glasses and…gasp…reading books (to quote Alan Bennett’s comment on another “scab” miner, filmed against a backdrop of shelves and shelves of books, “he was clearly on a different track from his brothers even before the strike began”).

    “Two Tribes” acted as a rallying call, a protest on the part of the sizeable minority who weren’t blinded or bewitched by the alleged wonders of Thatcherism, a furious roar of defiance against the flimsy facade which 1984 Britain presented from all quarters. It was designed to flatten the opposition – and, at least in terms of that summer’s alleged pop, it did.

    The record was premiered on Radio 1 ten days before its release – and in those days that was considered a long time; normally new releases would only be played one week before release. Peter Powell opted for the “Annihilation” 12-inch version; audibly shaken, he stated that this was “the most exciting and startling record to come along in…years.” The group were interviewed live on air – there was no way that the BBC could also ban “Two Tribes” despite its far more inflammatory nature; they had already been made to look sufficiently ridiculous. Powell urged listeners to go for the full 12-inch rather than the standard 7-inch mix (which really does only tell part of the story) and then played it in full, uninterrupted. At the end there was a silence which lasted for seconds, before Powell came back on to say that “All in all, it’s more than I can cope with…I think it’s stunning.”

    It was, and it is. Opening with air-raid sirens and Anne Dudley’s biggest, boldest orchestral introduction to date, the timpani and drums explode like junior ICBMs as Barrie’s Reagan presents himself as one of the record’s two “narrators.” “Ladies and gentlemen…Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Possibly the most important thing this side of the world,” immediately followed by a Scouse snigger of “well ‘ard” from one of The Lads before the gigantic beat kicks in – hard-on-the-one, like “Relax” but at double speed. Compared with even the mainstream dance music released in 1984 this sounded like Picasso among a shed of schoolboy scribbles.

    The beat plateaus, Fairlight and orchestra re-enter, and “Reagan” intones the famous “You may pronounce us guilty a thousand times over…” speech – which is also taken from Hitler’s final summation at the abovementioned Beer Hall Putsch trial. Comparing Reagan to Hitler was not unknown in the non-mainstream music and contemporary art of the time (see Peter Kennard’s photomontages, for instance) but in the middle of the marketplace it was like a nailbomb being set off. Topped by his abstract “history will absolve” and an apposite quote from the chorus of “American Pie” it was also extremely chilling.

    Then “Reagan” disappears, to be succeeded by the closer-than-the-ear-can-hear voice of actor Patrick Allen. It was Allen who had been booked to do the voiceover for the absurd Government Protect And Survive nuclear war public information campaign in the sixties (Britain’s Duck And Cover) and he was hired by Morley to recreate his announcements in this new and startling context. To hear Allen’s grave authoritative baritone reading out ludicrosities like “If you’re caught in the open, lie down” over Horn and Dudley’s increasingly harder and menacing backdrop scared the shit out of me and everyone else who heard the record for the first time that summer. Most chilling of all is the seemingly snagged tape loop of the instruction “If your mother (or grandmother) or any other member of your family should die whilst in the shelter, put them outside, but remember to tag them first for identification purposes” with shrill string and percussive screams behind Allen’s voice. This was purposely uncomfortable listening.

    That storm eventually breaks, and “Reagan” re-enters with some gallows humour – “Ha! It’s enough to make you wonder if you’re on the wrong planet!” – and then, after a quadruple quadriceps revving-up of the bass, Holly’s howl comes in and the song proper begins. Though in itself “Two Tribes” is not much more than a list of dissolute signifiers (“Shirts by Van Heusen,” “Cowboy Number One”) with the usual sexual metaphors (“Switch off your shield/Switch off and feel”) and the occasional pointed, pertinen jibe (“Working for the black gas” – then as now), as a record, and in terms of purpose-driven bigness, it is all that is required. In the instrumental break (as opposed to the Prokofiev quotations and “Love and life” beseechments in the 7-inch) Allen returns with more pointless instructions (“You will hear three bangs like this” – followed by utter silence). After his exclaimed “Keep the door shut,” Allen and Holly intermingle for one final rush, Johnson’s screams trying to climb above Allen’s determined, robotic bureaucracy. With the final reckoning of “Are we living in a land where Sex and Horror are the NEW GODS?” the final nails into the coffin of humanity are banged in again and again…and then it ends (the truly scary postscript, tucked away right at the end of the B-side, features Allen over creeping, sinister electronic drones, intoning “Mine is the last voice you will ever hear. Do not be alarmed”).

    I was working in a record shop in Oxford that summer and I remember the huge consignment of “Two Tribes” we had delivered that weekend. By about 10:30 on the Monday morning we were out of 12-inches – having handily kept copies of both the 7-inch and 12-inch aside for ourselves – and kept having to order and re-order. Queues formed outside the shop. With advance orders of close to a million, “Two Tribes” was guaranteed to enter the chart at number one, but even then few could have anticipated the gigantic side-effects. In that first week it outsold all of the singles occupying numbers 2-37 in the chart put together. They were welcomed back to TOTP and treated like royalty returning from exile. They made everything else on the programme look timid. Thanks to the usual string of remixes and remodellings – but also in part because of a worrying lack of competition – “Two Tribes” remained at number one for nine weeks, the first single to do so since “You’re The One That I Want” six years previously. Its orbit was so remorselessly attractive that it even pulled “Relax” back up the charts in its slipstream, all the way back up to number two – Frankie thus becoming the first act since the Beatles to keep themselves off the top. They owned the fucking summer and they knew it – Johnson in particular was dazed that they had become to 1984 what Bowie and Roxy had been to 1973, except that neither Bowie nor Roxy had even managed a number one single that year. With a few very notable exceptions – Prince, the Smiths, Scritti, Sylvian, Bronski Beat, Melle Mel and precious few others – the rest of that summer’s pop music might as well not have bothered. Compare Nik Kershaw’s timid and weedy anti-nuclear ditty “I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me,” which briefly occupied second place to “Two Tribes” before being unceremoniously unseated by the resurgent “Relax” and the difference is like pop before Elvis and pop after Eno – instead of CHOOSE LIFE, Frankie’s Hamnett-derived T-shirts urged ARM THE UNEMPLOYED. The original Annihilation 12-inch mix was and remains a work of peerless pop art, as sadly relevant now as it was a generation ago. At the time it seemed like the ultimate and glorious revenge of New Pop, which looked to be triumphant and omnipresent in ways at which even 1982 had only hinted.

    And then George Michael went back to number one, as he had been before “Two Tribes,” as though nothing had happened.

  112. 112
    Paul Lester on 25 Sep 2009 #

    Marcello, this is an absolutely brilliant piece on a truly brilliant single. You’re right, this was a New Pop-culminating record, and it blew my mind at the time, seemed to take over my life that summer, even if ever since I’ve been left wondering whether I must have imagined it all – it barely gets a mention in the press, and you’d think it was just some novelty Hi-NRG dance track from the way it’s consistently been ignored this past quarter century, rather than the, as you say, total work of art that it is. Good point about the press being “off” that summer – not that it would have made much difference because Frankie are one of the most weirdly underpraised bands ever, which I can only put down to jealousy on the part of NME journos of Mr Morley.

  113. 113
    Brooksie on 4 Mar 2010 #

    The thing that always bothered me about Frankie, is that the band seemed like such a groups of lunkheads. I remember listening to this and wondering how such great music could be made by such moronic sounding musicians. The answer was, of course; it wasn’t made by them. The Sex Pistols had made music under the Punk DIY ethic and had their songs tied together with Lydon’s acerbic and unforgettable lyrics. There was no question they made their own songs (more or less). With the Frankie rebellion, it was clear that the music being bought was less to do with the band than Horn’s production. It was rebellion by committee; it all seemed a little too perfect and well-timed. Naturally, when Horn and Morley left the band to their own devices they completely caved. But for this moment they ruled the world. It was then and is now – a great slice of power pop.

  114. 114
    thefatgit on 5 Mar 2010 #

    Tom’s paragraph on Judge Dredd is apt. In JD’s development arc John Wagner invents new problems and obstacles for JD to overcome. Carlos Ezquerra devised the definitive lantern-jawed look for JD, even after initially creating a blend of Death Race 2000’s Frankenstein (Ezquerra designed the poster for that movie) and Shaft. Subsequent artists, Brian Bolland, Ron Smith and Steve Dillon experiment with Dredd’s look. Ron Smith in particular attempts to soften Dredd’s image, much to the annoyance of many a fan. Dredd’s reinterpretation is almost the mirror image of the half-dozen or more (unsure of the total) mixes of the single “Two Tribes”, one becoming more dismorphic than the last.

    Punctum’s choice of the Annihilation mix as the ultimate version is unsurprisingly as far removed from the original 7″ (possibly the most unsettling piece of vinyl you could listen to, even today) as you could get, until the cassingle arrived and seemed to cherry-pick the best bits of all the previous mixes and blend it into an epic creative fable from it’s origins as a 7″.

    The summer of ’84 belonged to Frankie; Holly’s YYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH’s and those Scally jesters, Pedz, Mark and the other one(?) that made up the rest of the band, Paul Rutherford as proto-Bez, Morley’s ego cranked up to 11 and Trevor Horn revelling in the creative bombast of it all. Katherine Hamnett’s voluminous slogan t-shirts were the icing on the Frankie cake…everyone I knew at the time had bought a slice.

  115. 115
    thefatgit on 5 Mar 2010 #

    Just a minor correction to the above: it’s the Annihilation mix and not the 7″ that is possibly the most unsettling piece of vinyl…

  116. 116
    Paytes on 17 May 2010 #

    Punctum’s piece (at 109)is probably the best thing ever committed to this site and sums up what it was like (as far as my 12 year old self can remember) during that Summer

    I still like Careless Whisper , though … ;)

  117. 117
    KIJUHYGTFR on 9 May 2011 #

    BOXE NOFAL 2011

  118. 118
    Mark G on 10 May 2011 #

    #111 absolutely captures it.

  119. 119
    nick on 2 Apr 2013 #

    Great write up for the greatest song ever made

    N

  120. 120
    Mark G on 30 Sep 2013 #

    Danger.

  121. 121
    glue_factory on 30 Sep 2013 #

    Doh, I was hoping Two Tribes Longchamp Bags was one of the products they missed from the insert of Welcome To The Pleasuredome. But now my PC is spamming the world and Dr.Durotoye from Nigeria has all my money.

  122. 122
    thefatgit on 30 Sep 2013 #

    I believe the bags were named after Edith Sitwell, if memory serves correctly.

  123. 123
    Hugh on 9 Sep 2014 #

  124. 124
    hectorthebat on 5 Dec 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1-1001
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made (1989) 705
    Woxy.com (USA) – Modern Rock 500 Songs of All Time (combined rank 1989-2009) 741
    BBC (UK) – Pop on Trial, Top 50 Songs from the 1980s (2008)
    Mojo (UK) – 80 from the 80s: Our Fave 45s for Each Year, 1980-1989 (2007) 1
    NME (UK) – The 100 Best Songs of the 1980s (2012) 54
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 100 Singles of All Time (2002) 85
    Q (UK) – The 50 Most Exciting Tunes Ever (2002) 50
    Q (UK) – Top 20 Singles from 1980-2004 (2004) 19
    The Guardian (UK) – 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear (2009)
    Wanadoo (UK) – The 20 Best Songs of the 80s
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)
    Face (UK) – Singles of the Year 14
    Melody Maker (UK) – Singles of the Year 1
    Schlager (Sweden) – Singles of the Year 2
    Spex (Germany) – Singles of the Year 12

  125. 125
    Michael K on 20 Oct 2015 #

    It’s good that you start this excellent piece by remembering that so much of military and marketing ‘imagination’ is sourced in comics and sci-fi, now more than ever as Research budgets get allotted to ideas that Phil. K. Dick starved for.
    But there’s something more specifically in the Two Tribes thing, the reason why you and I were prepared to buy several versions then all the versions and then the rest of what ZTT were putting out.
    When someone, commenting, observes that all of this has been forgotten, it’s probably because all of us, at some time, totted up how much we’d spent on two or three Frankie Goes to Hollywood singles. God help those who continued to be addicted as there’s been no cessation by Horn, Morley and co in the variations right up to date.

    But back in 1984, what was happening was that Horn and Morley were summoning up all of bootleg culture (an alternative to reality) and placing it in the world of Marvel Comics (with variant covers). Underrated as the germ of genius that made such a devlish scheme possible is the band, who were just as razor-sharp.

    We shall never see their like again until the next boxed set. Oh here it comes now…

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