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John Robb Remembers Section 25's Larry Cassidy
John Robb , March 1st, 2010 12:11

Section 25 are on of the great forgotten post-punk groups. John Robb pays tribute to frontman Larry Cassidy

In another tragic twist in the Factory records story, 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. Their strident dramatic moodiness was perfectly captured on their Martin Hannet produced debut LP for Factory records Always Now. Section 25's sound perfectly suited the Hannett sense of space and they were one of his favourite groups. It also came packaged in a brilliant sleeve from Peter Saville, arguably one of his best from the period; a black and yellow affair with a psychedelic interior which somehow mirrored the music with its stark exterior. It was rumoured to be the most expensive sleeve of the time.

The melancholic, powerful sound was too easily mixed up with Joy Division, and while 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 of Joy Division, which may have contributed to their first split in the early 80s after the release of their second album, The Key Of Dreams.

Formed in November 1977 by the two Cassidy brothers when Larry returned from art school in London with his head fired by the possibilities of the early punk scene, their early gigs in Blackpool were stunning in their intensity. Larry and his brother Vin were a perfect rhythm section, with Vin laying down the disco punk beats and Larry providing those deceptively simple bass line and howling yelping vocals. Paul Wiggin, meanwhile, 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, 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.

[Our band] The Membranes eventually moved into Section 25’s Singleton Street rehearsal space, a huge echoey room that created the sound that we would utilise in our ‘Spike Milligan’s Tape recorder’ period.

In the 80s they reinvented themselves as moody techno with their song ‘Looking from A Hilltop’. Produced by Barney from New Order, it remains one of the best, but unrecognised, songs from the era. It’s a fantastic track - a dark lament that you could dance to and sung by Larry’s late wife Jenny, it's better than anything New Order ever did and that’s saying something - and was a great precursor to their third album From the Hip.

In 1984, the group fell apart leaving Larry and Jenny to complete their fourth album Love And Hate in 1988 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 (like the great Jon Savage) recognised the genius of Section 25 and was always quick to big them up in interviews, claiming 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, looking wizened but with a far jollier demeanour than 30 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 Joy Division 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.

John Robb is a musician with The Membranes and a music journalist. To read his blog click here.