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The Pop Group was a post-punk band from Bristol, England whose uncompromising, dissonant sound spanned punk, free jazz and dub reggae. Their lyrics were, more often than not, political in nature.

Formed in 1978 by Mark Stewart (lyrics, vocals), John Waddington (guitar), Gareth Sager (guitar), Simon Underwood (bass) and Bruce Smith (drums, percussion), they issued their debut single, “She is Beyond Good and Evil” on the Radar label the following year.

Their debut album Y, was produced by reggae veteran Dennis Bovell to critical acclaim but low sales figures. Although it did not chart, the album’s success was sufficient to convince Rough Trade to sign the band, but not before more line-up changes, with Dan Katsis replacing Underwood on bass.

The band’s career with Rough Trade commenced with what is possibly their best-known single “We Are All Prostitutes”, which featuring a guest appearance by free improviser Tristan Honsinger on cello. This was followed the release of their second album, For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder? in 1980, which included a contribution from US proto-rappers The Last Poets.

Shortly afterwards The Pop Group released a split single, “Where There’s a Will…”, with The Slits, a band with whom they now shared a drummer and managers (Christine Robertson and Dick O’Dell), as well as a growing interest in exploring musical genres such as dub and funk rhythms.

The band split in 1981, after legal wranglings and internal disagreements. Members of the group went on to form bands including Pigbag, Maximum Joy, Head and Rip Rig & Panic, the latter notable for the involvement of Neneh Cherry.

Singer Mark Stewart, meanwhile, collaborated with the On-U Sound posse, issuing records firstly as Mark Stewart and Maffia, then as a solo artist.

The Pop Group and associated bands started a Bristol ‘scene’ that would later spawn trip-hop.

Edited by barewires on 2 May 2007, 21:51

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Formed in
  • 1978
Split in
  • 1981
Founded in
  • Bristol, England
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