THIS IS OUR MUSIC: The Pop Group – “Where There’s A Will”


THIS IS OUR MUSIC: The Pop Group – “Where There’s A Will”.

Originally released as 7” single in 1980 and unavailable for several decades, ‘Where There’s A Will’ has been remastered from original tape for reissue as the opening track of The Pop Group’s compilation of rarities ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’.

An incendiary dance, it revels as much as it rebels. The song unleashes a feral form of torn, breakneck agit-funk with its potent urgency and savagely scathing vitality undimmed since its original release. A breathless torrent of writhing deviant disco bassline and volcanic free jazz sax, the song is electrified by Mark Stewart’s vocals, a rasping blitz of politically-charged calls for defiance and solidarity.

The countercultural militant message is delivered as a hysterical, riotous spree, as Gareth Sager (guitar, sax) explains, “The group’s best attempt to mix a message with a groove plus some real free playing. If you’re really unhinged you may be able to dance to this.”

The ‘Where There’s A Will’ video, which reworks rare footage of the band performing the song on Belgian TV in 1980, has been realised by The Pop Group’s visual collaborator, NY based artist Rupert Goldsworthy,

The Pop Group formed in Bristol in 1977 out of a sense of disenchantment with the increasing conservatism of punk.
Drawing on an eclectic range of influences from free jazz, conscious funk, heavyweight dub to avant-garde experimentalism, alongside contemporaries like Public Image Limited, This Heat and Throbbing Gristle, they were at the forefront of a musical period marked out by its ground-breaking innovation.


THIS IS OUR MUSIC: Buggles – “Video killed the radio star”


THIS IS OUR MUSIC: Buggles – “Video killed the radio star”.

One of new wave’s most charming singles, the Buggles’ prescient 1979 hit “Video Killed the Radio Star” is also one of the most knowing and ironic: A pop song about pop itself, it celebrates the golden days of radio with shiny, futuristic synths and then-contemporary studio techniques.

The irony was complete when the song’s video became the first clip aired on MTV. Fortunately, “Video Killed the Radio Star”‘s ironies work in the song’s favor. With its broadcast-quality vocals and bouncy rhythm, the song plays like an extended jingle, delivering hooks and sonic flourishes at every turn, appropriately enough for the story of a singer made obsolete by TV. 

The breathy, girlish backup singers, twinkly synths, and other intricate layers in “Video Killed the Radio Star”‘s arrangement and production also foreshadow Trevor Horn’s evolution into a first-rate producer.

But just as the song looks back on the radio songs of the ’50s and ’60s, now “Video Killed the Radio Star” can be looked on as a perfectly preserved new wave gem. It still sounds as immediate as it did when it was released, however, and that may be the song’s greatest irony.



THIS IS OUR MUSIC: Sufjan Stevens, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith – “People Have the Power” (Tibet House Benefit)


THIS IS OUR MUSIC: Sufjan Stevens, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith – “People Have the Power” (Tibet House Benefit).

At 2017 Tibet House Benefit Concert, also featuring Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard, Philip Glass, members of New Order, Ben Harper, Laurie Anderson, and more.


THIS IS OUR MUSIC: Blondie – “X Offender”


THIS IS OUR MUSIC: Blondie – “X Offender”.

Blondie’s first single (originally called “Sex Offender” before a skittish Private Stock Records insisted on changing the title), 1976’s “X Offender,” cleanly summarizes everything that was great about Blondie’s early phase as New York punk’s premier pop culture obsessives. Debbie Harry’s arch lyrics about a criminal’s love for the cop who busted her (co-writer Gary Valentine’s original lyrics were about how an old girlfriend’s disapproving parents had him arrested when he turned 18 and she was still a minor) are funny, odd, and a wicked parody of a certain breed of early-’60s teen melodrama. 

Musically, the song is faultless, with Jimmy Destri’s ultra-cheesy Farfisa organ recalling memories of “Runaway” and “Palisades Park” while Valentine, drummer Clem Burke, and guitarist Chris Stein attack the rhythm with the surefooted verve of a hot instrumental surf group. Just about every element of “X Offender” is deliberately reminiscent of an earlier tune or musical style, but the lifts are done with so much evident love that it’s impossible to be miffed by them.



THIS IS OUR MUSIC: Stan Ridgway – “Operator Help Me”


THIS IS OUR MUSIC: Stan Ridgway – “Operator Help Me”.

This song is by Stan Ridgway and appears on the album Holiday in Dirt (2002).

Holiday in Dirt is an album by Stan Ridgway, released in 2002 through Ultramodern/New West Records. It is a collection of leftovers, rarities, compositions for film soundtracks. A quasi-cinematic project, the release of the Holiday in Dirt album was accompanied by a showing of 14 short films by various independent filmmakers, each film a visual interpretation of one of the songs on the album. 

A compilation DVD of the films, titled Holiday in Dirt: 14 Short Films of the Music of Stan Ridgway and produced by Minneapolis filmmakers Chris Strouth and Rick Fuller, was released in February 2005.