The English band The Pop Group are not easy to define. Their run in the late 1970s was brief but powerful, injecting their brand of rock music with many different musical influences (funk, punk, dub, free jazz, avant-garde...) around poignant messages about modernity and the world at large.
During this time, The Pop Group released two albums, Y (1979) and For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder? (1980), with singles such as "She Is Beyond Good and Evil" (1979) and "We Are All Prostitutes" (1979), then the group disbanded as the '80s decade began.
Vocalist Mark Stewart went on to a solo career, releasing the album Learning To Cope With Cowardice in 1983. Finally, The Pop Group reunited in 2010 with new material and continue to tour (pandemic permitting). The frontman still remains passionate about all genres of music. The way he explains it, music was practically in his blood from conception.
"I started listening to music at a very early age," says Stewart. "In fact, I’m sure I was listening to music when I was in the womb; my mother’s heartbeat resounded with a huge, reggae style, one-drop snare beat. From there, me and my older brother had flexi discs, one being ‘Purple People Eater’ by Sheb Wooley, which I seem to recall had a picture of Switzerland on the front. It made me a rocker at five years old.
"Music is a nutrient to me, I take it intravenously at least 10 times a day — help! As Lee Perry says ‘music is the teacher, dub is the master.’ I would probably be hustling magic carpets if the melody hadn’t saved me."
Within the last year, The Pop Group have reissued their studio album Y (Mute), for its 40th anniversary, remastered and cut half-speed for vinyl, with bonus tracks for a "definitive' edition, as well as Alien Blood / Y Live.
Mark Stewart has given Goldmine the 10 Albums that changed his life.
A hidden past within the development of punk in the U.K. was the feral rockabilly scene in 1974-75. I believe Malcolm McLaren was involved in bringing over Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard to The London Rock and Roll Show at Wembley stadium in 1972, the footage of which totally captures the styles that rocked us young teds just before punk.
Various Artists - Jamaica Is the Place to Go: An Invitation to Jamaican Mento
Mento is a fascinating style of music that developed the first sound systems in Jamaica. I’m really into it. You can trace a line from mento, through ska, rocksteady, reggae, all the way to dancehall. This compilation serves as a great introduction. For me one of the tracks featured, Count Zebra & The Seasiders "Bedbug," is the seed that spawned all the rhythms I love from that special island.
Russell Haswell – Value + Bonus
Working with Russell, Mika Vainio and Adrian Sherwood for a project at the Donau festival a few years back involving a large Busby Berkeley-esque flight of stairs made me a believer in THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF NOISE. This album has a similarly powerful effect.
Various Artists - Bustin' Out 1982: New Wave To New Beat Volume 2
Another amazing compilation chronicling a fertile period in new sounds, covering everyone from Man Parrish to Dub Syndicate to Chris & Cosey, Pylon and Portion Control.
ADULT. - Anxiety Always
Living in Vienna in the electroclash period and listening to ADULT., along with Christopher Just (who made ‘I’m A Disco Dancer’), was a staple diet. Going to their gigs at select clubs around the city I became exposed to the hub of an amazing scene that, to me, was reminiscent of the no wave era in New York.
Yabby U – Dread Prophecy (The Strange And Wonderful Story Of Yabby U)
‘The strange and wonderful story’ of Vivian Jackson encapsulates the sustenance I get from (sufferers rock).
Tino Rossi – 48 Titres Originaux
This Corsican singer is an early antecedent in a bloodline that includes Yves Montand, Leo Ferre and Charles Aznavour’s work with Edith Piaf. Chanson is always a go-to for me in times of drama.
Various Artists - Ninne Nanne - Buonanotte Fiorellino
My favorite track ‘Danza Della Fata Confetto’ is a true portrayal of my often infantile character. Thunderbirds records and a vinyl with the sound of an Action Man toy helicopter are in a similar vein and were very influential on my sound.
Various Artists - Don’t Call Us Immigrants
A fantastic compilation of the sounds I heard in St. Paul’s, Bristol in the late '70s, which became the soundtrack of my life at that time. Featuring the soon to be Pop Group producer Dennis Bovell and his band Matumbi and perhaps my own anthem of doomed youth, Pablo Gad’s "Hard Times." CLAAAAASSIC.
Cesare Dell'Anna (feat. Esma Redzepova) – Girodibanda
Mike Watt, of Minutemen fame, once told me he bought The Pop Group’s Y whilst crate digging just because of the cover. I often buy records based on the same reason and this was the case here. It turned out to be a good choice as these arrangements of haunting, ancient Italian melodies have been a balm for my soul this year.