Larry Cassidy/Section 25 RIP

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.

Larry RIP.

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35 Responses to Larry Cassidy/Section 25 RIP

  1. anchorsholme says:

    He will be sadly missed, I was really looking forward to Section 25 and Hooky playing at The Factory. They were great in Blackpool last year.

  2. [...] Records postpunk outfit Section 25, has died, British music journalist John Robb reports today on his blog. The circumstances surrounding Cassidy’s death are not yet [...]

  3. [...] mehr? LARRY CASSIDY von SECTION 25 ist verstorben… John Robb hat dazu in seinem Blog einen RIP-Artikel verfasst. Okinawa (dem jegliche Worte fehlen nach dieser Nachricht…) __________________ [...]

  4. Simon says:

    A beautiful tribute to a unique man. Thank you, John.

    The only time I met Larry was when me and my mate turned up on his doorstep in 1995 or thereabouts (we’d have been 19 or 20) with a demo we’d made. We were surprised we’d found the right house and shocked that he was in. He came to the door with a paint-roller in his hand, looking well fucked off.

    “You’re Larry Cassidy?”

    “Yeh. Who the fuck are you?”

    “We’re … er, we’re your fans.”

    “Fuck off, lads.”

    “No, really. We’ve got every record you made. You’re our favourite band.”

    “Hm.” Massive pause. “You’d better come in, then.”

    He made us tea, told us all about how Hooky was a top lad and Wilson owed them a fortune, and was genuinely an all-round gent (albeit a scowling, sweary one: but that’s the best way to be). “I’ve got fucking hundreds of records in the loft if you can shift ‘em,” he suggested at one point.

    I’ve no idea if he ever listened to our demo. Probably not, ‘cos he’d have tracked us down and chinned us for such blatant plagiarism.

    In a truly bizarre twist of fate, Jenny ended up buying the house I grew up in when my parents sold up and moved away from Blackpool. Sadly, I never got to meet her before she died. I wish I’d got to tell her what the band meant to me; I wish I’d been able to articulate it to Larry that time, too. I’m sure he thought we were a pair of knob-ends but I hope he was chuffed all the same.

    RIP, Larry. Thank you for everything.

  5. [uzine] says:

    Great testimonial”, Simon… Sad demise. Gave it some extra exposure here: http://uzine.posterous.com/im-xxv

  6. [...] Learned today of the passing of Larry Cassidy, frontman for legendary Factory Records band Section 25. British journalist John Robb’s tribute and excellent history of the band can be found here. [...]

  7. jez says:

    One of those people you thought could never die, and to anyone who ever knew him,he never will.
    Give em Hell Larry,

  8. Dennis R says:

    Top band, top bloke. My first ever S25 record was the Bad News Week 12″ and I worked backwards (then forwards) from there. Love your work Larry – it will last forever.

  9. Butty says:

    Nice words, John.
    Larry was a true ‘enigma’,at times frustrating and at others inspiring…….And also a friend.
    I am proud to have been in Section 25.
    Im gonna miss the sod. x

  10. factory051 says:

    Great Tribute John.

    I’ll never forget treking from FY5 to the Kings Arms gig in 2006, Fes Parker, Kevin Hewick and SXXV. So much energy!

    http://www.cerysmaticfactory.info/section25_kings_arms_salford_110806.html

    RIP Larry. ‘Always now, forever’

  11. Andrew Weatherall switched me onto the first Sonic Youth EP that was massively influenced by Section 25. And how about in ‘Losing My Edge’ when Section25 get a shout out.
    Unique, relentless intensity of vision, went to a zone seldom would dare tread. I love Larry’s lost voice and the cracked/breaking inflections that punctuated his delectably strange songs. Superb talent.

    RIP Larry Cassidy!

  12. Ronald | Anja says:

    Our thoughts and condolences go out to family and friends he left behind.
    Ronald | Anja, from Amsterdam

  13. Scotty says:

    That was a great piece about Larry hope plenty of people listen to section 25 after reading it. My favourite is still the early New Horizon song, I love the rawness of it. Larry was a great brother-in-law, funny in his grumpiness but a very different sort of person, kind and honest if he thought someone was a t**t he would tell them. I loved his pictures of Joseph Stalin and his model planes and I loved him!

  14. Rob C says:

    Section 25 were a fantastic band. I never got to see them live, but I also never mistook them for Joy Division acolytes and anyone who took the time to listen to the music could hear that. They had their own distinct sound, with From The Hip being one of the era’s lost classics. A fantastic return to form with the last two albums, it really looked like the band were here for the distance and their music was vibrant & energetic with the inclusion of daughter Bethany. To hear a fitting tribute to the band’s legacy, seek out For Against’s fantastic cover of “Friendly Fires” on the 2008 album Shade Side Sunny Side.

    RIP Larry Cassidy – you will be missed.

  15. Andy T says:

    Very good read and tribute, John. I’ve been a huge S25 fan here in San Diego, California since 1982. One of my top five favorite bands. I believe I have everything they have released. Shocked to learn of this news. Was hoping to catch them in LA possibly for a US tour. I know there was talk of it. Larry’s bass-driven songwriting & Section 25′s catalog have had a profound effect on me as a musician. RIP Larry. Perhaps now people will take notice of your genius…

  16. Doug says:

    Superb words as always John
    New Horizon was for me
    The most positive song ever
    Wrapped in deliciously dark
    broody atmosphere

    The perfect juxtaposition

  17. Vic Mulvey says:

    Terrible news indeed.Our thoughts and prayers with the family.
    You left your mark Larry…thank you

  18. Carl Howard says:

    This reeks! I do not accept this at all! They never got a change to return to America to play for peons like me who saw S25 in 1983.

  19. Beth Cassidy says:

    Really touching, can’t quite believe the amount of support and tributes to my Dad, completely overwhelming, thanks Rob

  20. Beth Cassidy says:

    and Simon – reading that made me laugh a lot, and my Dad would have been proper chuffed :)

    • Simon says:

      Thank you, Beth: I really can’t explain how touched I am by that.

      This is far from the only place where the tributes are flowing, too: I’m an occasional poster on the I Love Music messageboard, where there’s always been a huge amount of love and respect for the band and for your dad — a lot of it from people in America. His wonderful contribution to the Shadowplayers documentary a couple of years ago has been mentioned a lot there these past couple of days.

      You, your brother and all the rest of Larry’s family and friends are very much in my thoughts right now — and I know that’s true of a lot of other fans and music-lovers too.

      Simon

  21. Nancy says:

    Larry, thank you for such great music you had been sharing with us over the years. But one is for sure, your geniusness will never be forgotten.
    My deepest condolences to your family and your closest friends.
    The rather superb 12-inch of “Looking From A Hilltop” has been in my player ever since I discovered it many years ago. One of the grooviest tunes ever.
    Rest In Peace
    ~ Nancy from Croatia (but currently residing in UK) xxx

  22. Just wanted to say thanks to you all for all the kind words that have been flooding in from all over the world. It has made me so proud of Dad’s achievements and the love and respect that everyone has for him.

    Rob – Thanks for your beautiful words.
    Simon – Thanks for making me laugh at such a sad time.

    Love to you all,

    Nathaniel.

  23. stevenD says:

    I am in California and never saw them live or even been to the UK, but I love Section 25, lots of great songs, but New Horizon takes me to a special place in my mind that cannot be explained…

    RIP Larry and best wishes to his family and friends…

  24. David Cross says:

    I had a flood of memories of Larry (and Jenny) last night when Beth broke the sad news to me. I counted and first met him over 30 years ago. Time flies.

    Larry was wonderfully faceted like a rough diamond and could be simultaneously enlightened, pessimistic, optimistic, cynical, humorous, crotchety and warm-hearted. And always mischievous! :-)

    I remember the late nights at Singleton Street when the ladies who owned neighboring hotels and guest houses would bang their shoes on the door to tell Section 25 to shut the bloody hell up in the wee hours.

    And the time Larry explained how he loved it when people tailgaited him, following too close while driving his Land Rover and the look n their face when he’d jam the brakes on!

    He was a wonderful man with a great laugh, a big heart and such a colorful perspective on life.

  25. John Frye says:

    If only you knew how many records and albums I have. Hundreds of bands, thousands of songs. But I always loved Section 25. It is no coincidence that Always Now was in my car stereo before news got out of Larry’s passing, it is just one of those CD’s that I am always coming back to. I bought Key Of Dreams twice because I was afraid that some accident would befall one copy and I’d lose that sound forever (this was in the days before digital duplication of course). I also cherish my cassette, the original Illuminous Illumina, work that has never appeared in digital format. I traded emails with Jenny years ago when the Section 25 website was first set up and she was so nice and pleasant. I was so honored to make that connection since I am an American who grew up with Section 25′s music years after it was created-everyone who was THERE when it happened, in the studios, in the clubs, Cypress Tavern, the Hacienda, to have experienced it, never lose that memory. Nothing is greater than seeing a band live, and to be a part of such creative, unique talent is the most important experience life has to offer.

  26. Nick Dyer says:

    I first saw Section 25 supporting New Order at Reading University and I was blown away by their lack of structure and improvisational nature. When they combined with New Order to deliver an encore in “protest” to the idiot skinheads heckling New Order their place was cemented in my heart.

    These and many other performances were absolutely anchored around Larry Cassidy’s rock solid bass playing. One of music’s massively underrated bass players, Larry’s legacy is to leave a rich pageant of recordings behind him that will honour his memory.

    As John Robb has so rightly pointed out the SXXV back catalogue is a treasure trove of wonders….

    ….”always now, always contemporary”……

    RIP Larry – and thanks!

  27. Razo says:

    If a relative or friend was out of work and you were in a position to hire them, would you even though you knew deep down they would be all wrong for the job?

  28. I just got back from a 3 week long trip to Cambodia. Wish I would have found your blog sooner.

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