Number Ones: #16

016_FGTH_Tribes

  • FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD Two Tribes (ZTT)
  • Week Ending 16th June 1984
  • 5 weeks at #1

 

So, Relax was great and everything, making one hell of a mark on British pop culture at the start of 1984, but the question everyone was asking six months later had to be….how the devil are they going to follow it?

They didn’t. They comprehensively topped it with the staggering doom-disco-meets-metal assault of Two Tribes.  Hide yourself? There was no escape. Not with a production so mutli-layered, so groundbreaking, so what-the-giddy-aunt-is-going-on-here that it allegedly brought Trevor Horn close to a nervous breakdown in the search for sonic excellence. Two Tribes was designed to be an event. For a lot of people that June in 1984, it certainly was an event.

I couldn’t get enough of it, immediately buying both the 7″ and 12″ formats as soon as possible (I’d like to conjure this moment as a scene of rabid pop fans fighting to get to the front of the queue in some major-city HMV store, wild with excitement as the record went on sale, but it was actually the music department of Bentalls on a balmy evening with virtually nobody else around….very Rock’n’Roll).

The 12″ version – the original 12″ mix, that is, “Annihilation” – was extraordinary, taking the somewhat frenzied rush of the single mix, breaking it down and stretching it out to almost 10 minutes. It featured a lot more of Patrick Allen’s unsettling narration from a pair of genuine public information films from the early ’80s (Protect And Survive and Casualties), plus a series of pronouncements and quotations from a Ronald Reagan soundalike (Chris Barrie, then of cutting-edge satirical puppet show Spitting Image and later the Sci-Fi comedy Red Dwarf). If the song itself was predominently the work of Holly, Paul and The Lads (early session recordings suggest that to be the case), then the Annihilation Mix was very much ZTT’s brainchild; Horn (music) and Paul Morley (ideas, general PR shenanigans) going to an especially sizeable town with the original concept.

A multitude of remixes and different formats attempted to keep up the momentum, and with a 9-week run at the top of UK charts throughout that summer it was pretty much a job well done, even if the danger of Frankie fatigue was never far away. On my own Top 40, Two Tribes became the first single to go straight in at #1 and stayed there for a further month (a then-record), although in truth I expected it to last beyond that. Then again, a week in your life when you’re 13 years old can be a very long time…

 

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