Mark, Bruce and Gareth (band members were invariably referred to by their Christian names alone) formed The Pop Group in Bristol in 1977.
They’d known each other for years and Mark finally talked Gareth into buying an old Burns guitar. They were on their way to the Roxy club when they came up with the band name, during the train journey from Bristol to London.
Bruce – who was born in California but relocated to Britain at the age of seven – already had a drum kit, and the first song they played together was My Generation. They got the chords right and couldn’t stop, a crazy noise that lasted for three hours, mark straining his lungs in the absence of a microphone.
The Pop Group issued their debut single, She Is Beyond Good and Evil in March 1979 on Radar Records. It was an exhilarating splurge of disco-funk bass, slashing punk-funk rhythm guitar, and deranged dub noise, with Stewart caterwauling lines like “Our only defence is together as an army/I’ll hold you like a gun”.
A self-consciously audacious debut album (simply titled Y) followed in April before the band moved to Rough Trade and released the single We Are All Prostitutes (October 1979).
A second album (For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder?) was released on Rough Trade in March 1980.
They couldn’t settle on just reggae, or just funk, or just jazz – so they went full throttle for all three simultaneously. The band split – amidst legal wranglings and internal dissent – in 1981.
Mark Stewart passed away on 21 April 2023. He was 62.