Here’s the latest edition of my monthly blog ‘Musical Diary’, where I dip back into my musical past. This month we go back to February 1978 as the seeds of British band, The Pop Group, start to sprout. It’s perfect timing with the band back together after about to release a brand new album ‘Citizen Zombie’, their first new studio album in 35 years.
The Pop Group have been together about eight months and they are starting to get recognition, despite their lack of experience and musical expertise. The flame of the original punk scene has dimmed although it has ignited several new musical fires including the vibrant UK independent music scene. The birth of new indie labels like Stiff, Radar, Fast, Rough Trade, Mute and Factory, although still in their infancy, leads to a raft of young, energetic bands, ready to question, argue and break new boundaries.
Amongst these are The Pop Group, who in 1978 are gigging in small clubs and gaining notoriety with a series of incendiary live performances. They subsequently sign to Radar Records and release the seminal single ‘She Is Beyond Good And Evil’ and their debut album ‘Y’.
The band, who included Mark Stewart (lyrics and vocals), Gareth Sager (guitar) and Simon Underwood (bass), would later sign to Geoff Travis’ London-based Rough Trade Records and release the classic single ‘We Are All Prostitutes’ and album ‘ For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder?‘ as well as the split single ‘Where There’s A Will There’s A Way’/’In The Beginning There Was Rhythm’ with the all female band The Slits.
The band were inspired by a range of musical artists and styles including Miles Davis(Free Jazz), Captain Beefheart (Experimental), King Tubby (Dub/Reggae), as well as the burgeoning punk scene. Mark Stewart’s fevered lyricism took influence from the leftist avant-garde, existential philosophy, and agit-prop sloganeering.
The band’s initial flame burned brightly, but only for a short time, as they split in 1981 after internal differences and wrangling. Several great bands sprang from the ashes of The Pop Group though, including Pigbag, Maximum Joy, Head, the Slits and Rip Rig + Panic, the latter notable for the involvement of Neneh Cherry.
If I’m honest, this is where I climbed aboard. My elder brother was a big fan of the original incarnation of The Pop Group, which is how I came to hear there early singles and albums. The two of us sitting in his bedroom, vinyl spinning at 45 or 33 1/3 rpm, on the home made stereo our dad built, sound cranked up and crackling through the speakers (also home made, woofers and tweeters covered with my mothers dyed black tights) – a great sound I might add. I owe him for those early listening/learning sessions. It wasn’t until later that I bought my own copies. I was, however, a fan of Rip, Rig + Panic and Pigbag and still have a healthy slab of their vinyl 7″/12″‘s!
Great music, which still sounds as fresh as a daisy.
In 2010 The Pop Group reformed after 30 years apart and have since performed old material and released a couple of collections/best of’/live offerings in 2013/2014. But 23/02/15 sees the release of ‘Citizen Zombie’, their first new studio material since 1981.
A tour of the USA and other locations is imminent too. The band seem to have lost none of their fire and drive either. The Pop Group‘s flame is well and truly re-ignited. Long may it burn!
On tour, playing live back in February 1978 were:
Squeeze – Birmingham, Rebecca’s
Sham 69 – Edinburgh, University
Police – London, Hope & Anchor
Until next month cheers – the MoL