In the wake of significantly renewed activity from the politically-charged post-punk funk agitators The Pop Group, it seems like recordings of their early years, many once considered “lost,” are finding their way out of the woodwork with increasing frequency. Only a few months ago, DM shared the video for the band’s signature single, “We Are All Prostitutes,” which had been missing for decades, and which turned up in an amazingly timely manner—just before the song was released as an add-on to the reissued LP For How Much Longer do we Tolerate Mass Murder? (We expressed some cynicism about the timing of that coincidence when we posted the video, but we’ve been assured that its discovery at that time was a genuine fortuity.)
Given the increased interest in the reactivated band, the worthy material culled from all those basement tapes has naturally been compiled for releases—in 2014, Cabinet of Curiosities assembled unreleased live tracks, Peel sessions and alternate takes. This year, The Boys Whose Head Exploded will feature live tracks, mostly from 1980, recorded in Cologne, Milan, Sheffield, and Helsinki, with a video adjunct—footage shot by no less a notable punk archivist than filmmaker Don Letts of The Punk Rock Movie and Big Audio Dynamite fame. Letts shot segments of the band in performance at the Beat the Blues Festival, held on June 15, 1980 at London’s Alexandra Palace. A sound recording of that performance was released as part of the Japan-only live 2xCD comp Idealists In Distress From Bristol, but the video has never been seen before.
We’ve arranged to share a little bit of that video below, but first, check out this performance of “Shake the Foundation,” recorded in Cologne in 1980. That song was performed, but not recorded, both by The Pop Group and by their lesser known but still quite excellent contemporaries Glaxo Babies, who released it as a single simply titled “Shake!”, and under the title “Shake (the Foundations)” on the LP Nine Months to the Disco. There doesn’t seem to be any extant studio version by the Pop Group, or at least none I can find that’s been released.
As it happened, both bands had a common member in Dan Catsis, the Glaxo Babies’ guitarist who later served The Pop Group as bassist. Asked about the shared song and band member, TPG singer Mark Stewart reminisced thusly:
I first came across Dan Catsis armed with a dildo attacking his guitar in a sleazy backstreet blank wave bar in Bristol, and we immediately struck up a friendship over our shared fetish for white noise, pink noise and underground politics. As soon as our first bass player Simon Underwood left the band to form Pigbag, my first choice was Dan and “Shake The Foundation” is in fact my favourite ‘Bristol bass’ tune of all time and straight away we wanted to do a Pop Group/Glaxo Babies mutation.
Because I can never resist doing the A/B thing, here’s the studio version by Glaxo Babies.
And finally, here’s the Don Letts footage from Beat the Blues, a snippet of the song “Feed the Hungry,” a blistering song/rant featured on Mass Murder.