The single was a phenomenal success in the UK, staying at number one for nine consecutive weeks, during which time the group's previous single 'Relax' climbed back up the charts to number two. In the USA the single was unable to repeat this success where it peaked at number 43.
The song's title derives from the line "when two great warrior tribes go to war", from the film Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (the line is also spoken by Holly Johnson at the beginning of the session version). The single was released at the height of the Cold war, when general fears about global nuclear warfare were at a peak. Although Johnson would attest in a 1984 radio interview that the 'two tribes' of the song potentially represented any pair of warring adversaries, the song does contain the line "On the air America/I modelled shirts by Van Heusen", a clear reference to then US President Ronald Reagan, who had advertised for Phillips Van Heusen in 1953 (briefly reviving the association in the early 1980s), and whose first film had been titled Love Is On The Air. Johnson also noted: "There's two elements in the music — an American funk line and a Russian line. It’s the most obvious demonstration of two tribes that we have today."
To accentuate this inherent musical tension, Horn juxtaposed the driving funk/rock rhythm section with a dramatic formal string arrangement and plenty of orchestral stabs, a novel technique that Horn himself had pioneered the previous year in producing Yes's 'Owner of a Lonely Heart'.
The various mixes were subtitled in terms of the expected aftermath of nuclear conflict. The Original 1984 mixe featured actor Patrick Allen, who recreated his narration from the Protect and Survive public information films for certain 12-inch mixes (the original Protect and Survive soundtracks were sampled for the 7-inch mixes).
The 12-inch A- and B-sides also ostensibly featured voice parts by Reagan, as played by actor Chris Barrie who also voiced the character on Spitting Image. The standard 7-inch mix featured a pop/radio-oriented production that dispensed with a section of the song's middle eight altogether. A significantly different guitar-driven 'We Don't Want To Die' mix appeared, with complete middle eight, on the limited edition 7-inch picture disc. The first 12-inch mix (Annihilation) started with an air-raid siren, and unfolded as a ground-breaking extended deconstruction and reinvention of the basic track, including Allen's starkest advice about how to tag and dispose of family members should they die in the fallout shelter. The 'Carnage' mix was, by comparison, altogether more conventional, featuring enhanced string treatments, a percussive midpoint flurry of vocal samples (from Allen and the group's B-side interview), but broadly following the prevailing instrumental/vocal 12-inch structural paradigm. The eventual album version 'For The Victims Of Ravishment' would derive from the 'Carnage' mix. The 'Hibakusha' mix was originally released in a very limited edition, and appears on the Japanese-only Bang! album from 1985, even though the Japanese liner notes admit that the title is not pleasant to the Japanese readers. This mix was musically based on the 'Annihilation' mix, but with a unique middle section comprising orchestral samples.
The 7-inch featured 'One February Friday', an interview between Morley and the group's three musicians (The Lads), Mark O'Toole, Brian Nash and Peter Gill, over an otherwise untitled instrumental track. This technique had already been used on the B-side of 'Relax', the similarly titled 'One September Monday'.
With the exception of this AA release, all 12-inch versions featured the following additional B-side tracks:
A shortened version of the 7-inch B-side interview (without music)
A largely instrumental version of 'Two Tribes (We Don't Want To Die)' with faux-live overdub treatments (subtitled 'Surrender'
A sequence of Patrick Allen outtakes, known as 'The Last Voice'.
The UK cassette single featured a cut-together combination of 'Surrender', 'Carnage' and 'Annihilation', plus Reagan snippets and interview sections not included on any other release.
The Godley & Creme directed video depicted a wrestling match between Reagan and then-Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko for the benefit of group members and an eagerly belligerent assembly of representatives from the world's nations, the event ultimately degenerating into complete global destruction. A longer version of the video (based on the 'Hibakusha' mix) included an introductory cut-up monologue by Richard Nixon "No firm diplomacy... No peace for America and the world", plus similar contributions from other world leaders, including Lord Beaverbrook, Yasser Arafet and John F. Kennedy. The complete soundtrack to the extended video was eventually released as 'Two Tribes (Video Destructo)' on the German version of the Twelve Inches compilation. A third version of the video, included on the band's compilation of videos, retains the introduction, but loses most of the inserted clips in the main wrestling sequence.
Click the link below to download the following:
For the victims of ravishment - including the last voice - Album Version
Two Tribes (Surrender)
Intermission Legend Mix
Apollo Four Forty Remix
Olav Basoski Tiberian Power Mix
Rob Searle's Club Mix
End I.D. - Special Radio Mix
War (Hide Yourself) - B-Side
War (Somewhere Between Hiding and Hiden) - B-side
War (Hidden) - B-Side
Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Two Tribes - Keep The Peace Video