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 (giving the examples of "cowboys and Indians or Captain Kirk and Klingons"), 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". ZTT aggressively marketed the single in terms of its topical political angle, promoting it with images of the group wearing American military garb in combat, as well as Soviet-style army uniforms set against an American urban backdrop. The original cover art featured a Soviet mural of Lenin and images of Reagan and then-UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The sleeve notes, attributed to ZTT's Paul Morley, dispassionately reported details of the relative nuclear arsenals of each superpower and the unknown power of "synergisms". The various mixes were subtitled in terms of the expected aftermath of nuclear conflict. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.
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