Jon Waine flexi disc, 1982.
The origins of Jon Waine lie in New Jersey at Montclair State College where Bill first teamed up with fellow art student and guitarist Brian McCormack. At first it was just the two of them with a drum machine, goofing around in the student union coffee house, with Bill lifting his lyrics from the weather report and matchbook advertisements. In 1979 they got serious adding Franc Palaia (drums), Ellen LaForge (bass), and later Steven Davison (rhythm guitar). Although the group would never make much money, they regularly played at well-known clubs in Jersey and NYC, finally disbanding when the musicians hit their 30s, and the rock scene gave way to DJs.
Playing predominantly to white audiences at clubs like CBGB, Danceteria and Maxwells, Jon Waine billed itself as “Afro Newave,” a nod to their lead singer and to the ska and funk styles they were incorporating into their music. The 1982 flexi disc captures the group at its height with Bill improvising, altering his voice, and scatting on songs like Do The Tic and Boogie Down The Congo. At a time when new wave music was consciously seeking its own identity, one critic thought the group had “too many black affectations.”
The extroverted Pope.L began his performances in a white jump-suit under which were additional layers of clothing, like a suit and tie, and a Superman costume that would be revealed as the concert proceeded. Pope.L revived the business suit for his Tompkins Square Crawl (1991) and brought back the Superman outfit for The Great White Way (2001-2009). It was also during the Jon Waine years that Bill altered his last name to Pope.L by adding the initial from his mother’s maiden name.