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February 3, 2009

There was one glaring omission from the Rough Trade canon on the C81 – The Pop Group. This meant I didn’t discover them until years later. I’d seen the t-shirt of course – every punk and his dog was wearing  Thatcher giving the v-sign on their chest, and the legend – We Are All Prostitutes. But somehow I never got to hear them until it was too late and they’d gone. I saw some of the splinter bands – Rip Rig and Panic, Maximum Joy – but I just wish I’d have been able to catch the delirium of The Pop Group Live. Just watching this performance of their explosive, abrasive debut She Is Beyond Good and Evil makes me realise what I missed. Look at those kids go. It might have kept me off the Joy Division. These guys looked to be having fun.

Now sitting in my cupboard under the stairs (not quite the floorboards yet) where I’m sent to listen to ‘unlistenable music’ on old scratchy vinyl,  listening to their last album We Are Time (funnily enough not available on i-tunes) I realise how revolutionary in every sense The Pop Group were. A mash up of punk/funk/jazz/dub/discord/dance/angst. 30 years too early.

I rediscovered Mark Stewart  on On-U Sound in the late 80s making some anguished, abrasive sounds with Doug Wimbish, Skip McDonald and Keith LeBlanc. Stranger Than Love is his most haunting piece – melding Leonard Bernstein’s Somewhere with Eric Satie to devastating effect. If Last FM is anything to go by  Mark has been sadly forgotten these days. Shame. A real shame.

STOP PRESS – it looks like there is a new documentary about Mark called ON/OFF Mark Stewart from The Pop Group to the Mafia  due to be screened ‘in selective cinemas’ ie The Watershed in Bristol. Maybe the world hasn’t forgotten him after all

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