Larry Cassidy/Section 25 RIP
In another tragic twist in the Factory records story, that has seen so many of its prime movers meet relatively youthful demises, it was sad to hear of the passing of Larry Cassidy- the frontman of Section 25.
I had known Larry on and off for 32 years since the days when we were fumbling around in the Blackpool punk and post punk scenes and Section 25 (named after the late Fes Parker- another Blackpool legend- when Fes had been sectioned because of mental illness) were the key band in town. They were organised and had invented their own sound- a deceptively doomy, powerful, stripped down, bass driven, dissonant, post punk that combined the nihilism of the times with Larry’s art school cool.
Section 25 were leagues ahead of everyone else in Blackpool (and an unacknowledged frontrunner in post punk) when the energy of punk was being channelled into new musical forms. Not only could they play but they had somehow invented their own sound- that strident bass driven, dramatic, moodiness that was perfectly captured on their Martin Hannet produced debut LP for Factory records ‘Always Now’. The band’s sound perfectly suited the Hannett sense of space and they were one of his favourite bands. It also came packaged in a brilliant sleeve from Peter Saville- arguably one of his best from the period- a stark black and yellow affair with a psychedelic interior which somehow mirrored the music with its stark exterior – a fold-out cover that resembled a match-book. and tripped out marble interior. It was rumoured to be the most expensive sleeve of the times.
The melancholic, powerful sound was too easily mixed up with Joy Division and whilst Ian Curtis was a big fan of the band and co –produced their first single “Girls Don’t Count”, in 1980 at Rochdale’s legendary Suite 16/Cargo studios Section 25 very much had their own sound. That was the problem with being on Factory- on one hand they got some sort of cult recognition on the other they were swamped by the success the JD’s which may have contributed to their first split in the early eighties after the release of their second album, ‘the Key Of Dreams’.
Formed in November 1977 by the two Cassidy brothers when Larry retuned from art school in London with his head fired by the possibilities of the early punk scene, their early gigs round Blackpool were stunning in their intensity. Larry and his brother Vin were a perfect rhythm section- Vin laying down the disco punk beats and Larry with those deceptively simple bass line and howling yelping vocals whilst Paul Wiggin layered up a wall of sound on his guitar- they were one of the best post punk bands but were sneered at by the press for some reason but the people who understood the post punk period knew that this was a great band.
I always remember Larry’s red and black striped bass and his charismatic stage presence- looking like a freaky art school teacher with issues- he was a good few years older than us and must have rightly thought we were all annoying scampering brats but he always shared his rehearsal space and would moodily pass on tips on how to be in band properly to us naïve waifs.
The Membranes eventually moved into Section 25’s Singleton Street rehearsal space- a huge echoey room that created the huge sound that we would utilise in our ‘Spike Milligan’s Tape recorder’ period.
In the eighties they reinvented themselves as moody techno with their song ‘Looking from A Hilltop’, produced by Barney from New Order being one of the best unrecognised songs from the era. It’s a fantastic song- a dark lament that you could dance to, sung by Larry’s late wife Jenny- it’s better than anything New Order ever did- and that’s saying something and was great precursor to their third album, ‘From the Hip’.
In 1984. The group fell apart leaving Larry and Jenny to compete their fourth album in 1988- ‘Love And Hate’ before they knocked it on the head for a couple of years a planned reunion was ended by the death of Jenny in 2004 before the band emerged again for gigs in 2007.
New Order’s Hooky himself (and also the great Jon Savage) recognised the genius of Section 25 and was always quick to big them up in interviews and always claimed they were one of the few bands to make money for Factory. He liked them so much that he even played bass for them on tour last year- I saw the show in Rochdale when we were putting the blue plaque up for Suite 16 studios- it was a great gig with Larry singing the words off a music stand- as eccentric and charismatic as ever and looking wizened but with a far more jolly demeanour than thirty years ago. We hung out and laughed at the ridiculousness of it all. I had bumped into him on a regular basis in the last few years- sometimes at sad occasions like Fes Parker’s funeral, sometimes at some Factory related shindig in Manchester- the last time I saw him was at a gallery launch in Manchester a few weeks ago where he looked perky and mischievous. It was always great to see him and I will miss his occasional presence.
Section 25’s records stand the test of time and they deserve to be re-appraised- please don’t put them down as JD copyists because they were anything but. They captured the darkness of the period and were psychedelic renegades with freaky music that they somehow shoe horned into a tough disco punk of their own- they were making this sound before Joy Division appeared and I know that because they were doing it on our local Blackpool circuit.
Another great lost genius- maybe Larry Cassidy’s sad death will wake everyone up to how great his band was.