Sunday, October 19, 2008

"Two Tribes" and Waiting To Die

It's amusing to look at the number one hit singles in the United Kingdom between 1982 and 1983. The songs are all relatively fluffy, along the lines of "Come On Eileen" and "Uptown Girl."

Then, in 1984, the music began to change. This was the year of "Do They Know It's Christmas," "Pipes of Peace," and "99 Luft Balloons." But sandwiched in between two goofy songs by "Wham!" was the rawest, nastiest, most unpleasant slice of zeitgeist for years to come: Frankie Goes To Hollywood's "Two Tribes."

Anybody who pretends that the threat of today's "rogue state" and "terrorist cell" stuff is unprecedented is conveniently forgetting what it was like to live in 1984. We'd hit two minutes to midnight on the nuclear clock -- as Iron Maiden was happy to remind us -- and there was a terrible sense of impotent WAITING. Few of us -- especially not us kids -- felt like there was anything we could do about the world's situation: Reagan was daring the Soviets to strike, and the Soviets just weren't blinking. Nobody knew what would happen when the inevitable occurred, but we knew it would be awful.

While the media began increasingly reflecting our feeling of doomed hopelessness, somehow Frankie Goes to Hollywood scored a HIT SINGLE that summed up how many of us were feeling. It was cryptic and apocalyptic and packed full of ZTT goodness. And since ZTT were a record label who seemed to view songs as just an excuse to release a dozen excellent remixes, "Two Tribes" got reworked and toughened up by members of Art of Noise into the mind-blowing 12-inch single, packed with air-raid sirens and ominous instructions for tagging your dead relatives inside your shelter.

Holy scary sh*t. Buy the single and have a listen, if you was released on CD.

I still think that the "Annihilation" mix is one of the most powerful remixes ever made for any song. We got REALLY distressed when an updated version of the mix was made into an extended video by Godley & Creme. Showing a bloody bout between Reagan and Chernenko -- cheered on by profiteering arms dealers and a mutant Richard Nixon -- I remember that the video was controversial for its politics and its violence. I was amazed by it and I still am.

Here it is, the "Video Destructo" version, for those who want to relive their childhood terror for a little while. And it isn't too hard to picture McCain in that ring, is it?

A far cry from "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go."


Kimber said...

I used to love this video for its innate meanness! Thanks Muffy. I haven't thought about FGH for ages. And the Regan-nut-grabbing scene just put a smile on my bleary Monday morning face.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

FGH...never too fantastic, but they sure scored that time!

I'm glad it brings back fond memories. :)