This is a turn up for the books”Â¦
A piece of classic pop from a band that has been around for 34 years making a variation of melancholic pop and dark underground psychodrama on the underground. Then their driving force and singer dies, they then get his daughter into sing full time and somehow regroup and come back with one of the best pop singles of the year and stand on the verge of having a proper hit with their single ”ËColour, Movement, Sex And Violence’ (LTW review)
Section 25 has been part of my life for decades.
When I was growing up on the punk scene in Blackpool in the seventies they were the elders to our teenage scratching around. Their late singer Larry Cassidy had moved back to the ”ËPool from London where he had been to art college and seen the early punk scene first hand. That seemed amazing in a town as cut off as Blackpool. He was a made-man in punk rock terms. He had actually seen the Sex Pistols play!
Section 25 had a proper rehearsal room and they had a proper record deal. Signed to Factory Records they were arguably one of the first post punk bands and their debut ”ËAlways Now’ album, produced by Martin Hannett, is a classic of its time. Unfortunately they were over shadowed by Joy Division and when Section 25 went electro pop they were over shadowed by New Order which is tragic as they were equals with the legendary band.
Last year Larry died and it looked like it was all over for the Section 25. His brother Vin, the band’s drummer, mentioned to me that he thought the band was over but I remember telling him they should carry on as this was the story of the Cassidy family and more than just a band.
Fortunately Vin has elected to carry on and with Larry’s daughter, Beth, on vocals, the band have never sounded stronger. The debut single of the new line up should be a hit. It’s one of the best pop singles of the year.
LTW! Caught up with Beth in Manchester to discuss the strangest of band histories and her role in the rejuvenation of a great band who stand on the brink of crossing over.
Beth is a startling looking woman, on the band’s video she has the esoteric beauty of her late mother and the dark eyes of her late father. In interview she is both effervescent and down to earth in that great Blackpool way.
An art student, she was as surprised as anyone by joining her late parent’s band.
”ËJoining the band was surprising to me as well to be honest! How it happened was that three years ago I met them when they were playing that tour with Peter Hook in Germany, where I was living at the time. I went to the gig and we got talking afterwards and it came up that they were looking for a female vocalist because they wanted a different vibe and obviously, because my mum used to be the singer, my name popped up.
They were looking for a different sound. They wanted a different influence and I agreed and forget about it and then they rang back a few months later and I was like, oh shit! I had never done anything like that before even if I had grown up with the band around me. I had never been in a studio and recorded before I did the ”ËNature and Degree’ album where I guest on two tracks and it went from there.’
Despite her father being the mainstay of the band and her uncle Vin being the drummer and her late mother being the band’s singer on the band’s best known moments like the classic ”ËLooking From A Hilltop’ Beth had never thought about being in a band. After Larry died Vin emailed Beth, keeping it in the family.
”ËI remember Vin came round to see me finally two months after the funeral. You could tell it had been playing on his mind. We got excited about what was going on just before dad had died and what we had been working on with songs. When we were together just before dad died I was getting to know him as an adult and we were making a great record and I was so gutted for that as well as my dad dying. I knew what my dad sounded like instinctively and me and Vin had a chat and decided to finish the album, put it out and do a few gigs- test the waters. It was always a bit of a test to see whether or not we could do it. I was so nervous about it, hoping people didn’t think I was trying to replace my dad. I thought people might say ”Ëwhat the fuck are you doing! But they were really receptive.’
What’s the writing process now?
”ËWe rehearse religiously every Thursday. I go over to Blackpool. It’s important to meet each other every week. We record everything and spend half the time jamming. Everyone has always got new ideas. Steve the guitarist has got mad ideas! and we all come together, I try to help write the lyrics and I help to write the synths. It’s all a learning curve for me and now I got more input in the recording studio as I am finding my feet .
My mum trained as pianist and was very good. I’m sure she used to tune my dad’s bass as well! (laughs). She had a good ear and was amazing on piano and keys and I have taught myself piano when I was growing up”Â¦’
When you joined was it weird to walk in with a musical idea?
”ËFor ages I would be dead nervous to voice an idea, it felt like preaching to the converted. They said ”Ëyeah, we will try it,’ it was quite organic, it works and we get everything and piece it together afterwards and turn it into separate tracks.’
Section 25 have turned into an unlikely pop band because of you!
”ËEveryone has said the single could be a hit which is really nice of them. We played it live on Saturday and everyone went mad. It meant they liked the single the most which is a great feeling. Vin emailed me after the gig and said he had a really good night and that it had really inspired him. I guess it’s the same with every band when they play new stuff and people like it. It’s a massive relief, great it’s gone down well!’
Where does it go from here?
”ËThe reason we play hardly any gigs is that we want to play good places. Vin said he was sick of driving a transit van halfway up the country for the same old, same old. I’m up for playing interesting places. We want to play festivals.’
The band has a long and complex history, were you aware of it?
”ËWhen I joined I got really interested in the band. I didn’t understand the band when I was younger . It had always just been there. My dad buzzed off me being part of it when I joined just before he died and had being interested in what he was doing. He wanted to keep it in the family. We developed a good relationship after I joined so that made it really worth it.’
Section 25 is the story of a family, an interesting family who had their roots in a Blackpool toy firm. They made the Casdon football game which I remember getting for Christmas in the sixties when I was a kid! The band themselves has already had a few Cassidy’s in it. It’s another sort of family business.
”ËMy auntie Angie was in the band. Bar a couple of people it had to be a Cassidy! We changed the names because we didn’t want to be like the Partridge Family!’
The single may be pure pop but it also retains a dark edge.
”ËThe second track on the single has got a dark techno underground sound to it and that’s important to me. The band always do alternative music and I love dance music and the European techno dark sound and we bring that in as well as the electronic pop. We wanted a mixture of the two. With ‘Retrofit’, the last album where we re-recorded old songs to make them different there was elements from the original tracks from 30 years ago but we kept bits in, it’s still got the memory and the vibe of the originals.’
Do you still play those early songs live now?
”ËWe play the 2011 versions. We play Dirty Disco, New Horizon- they are in the set but the 2011 versions.’
What do the old records sound like to you? afterall they were recorded years before you were born in a very different place- the time of post punk disillusionment and darkness.
”ËI must say I always found the ”ËFrom The Hip’ album a lot more acesessable than the first album when I was growing up. In our family life they would never play the music so I found it myself, ”ËAlways Now’ was difficult for me at that age. I never got to grips with it until recently. I grew up listening to commercial punk and I found Joy Division really scary and I still find it haunting. It was inaccessible for me when I was small but now I really get it.’
Growing up with band parents must be a bit odd!
”ËI thought it was really normal! my mum and dad made a point of keeping it normal apart from lots of parties and lots of hip friends!
I sort of knew something cool was going on I just didn’t get it at that age. I would see pictures of us whilst flicking through record covers on the floor when I was little. The ”ËLove and Hate’ album cover has that picture of my mum and dad and me and my brother when were are little on it but apart from that it seemed like an extremely normal family life”Â¦’
We both come from Blackpool which is an endlessly misunderstood town. Most people think candyfloss and stag and hens and we think of a very different place”Â¦
”ËI was thinking that. Blackpool is essentially a cabaret town and we always wanted to break out of that, break of the stigma of Blackpool and try and do something different. When I lived abroad and mentioned Blackpool some people knew of the place and would go on about donkey rides, every day I was trying to break those boundaries, my dad and my uncle started that boundary breaking and I carry on with what they think. They would never leave the town. They loved and hated it. They had so any chances to move to Manchester but on a personal level we have got a huge family here and they not moving away from that. Most of my family still live there.’
Section 25 music is the other side of Blackpool”Â¦
”ËI love that though, I realise through my art and music that I’m attracted to dark and miserable things. I think what I been through with my mum and dad both dying gives me a melancholic point of view. We have all been through a lot, and from my experience that melancholy comes through.’
When we were growing up your Dad famously grumpy. We all thought his band was great but found him not the easiest person to deal with, in recent years, though, he seemed to become an affable old rogue and very likeable.
”ËI remember the story of when a 17 year old Johnny Marr was approached by Tony Wilson to join Section 25 after the first guitar player had left and he said no. I thought that was hilarious and thought of course he was going to say no to a band that was far older and really grumpy. He wanted to be in a band of his own age.’
Section 25 never got the recognition they were due (so far).
”ËI’m glad you said that. I was clearing out my dad’s house and found these printed typed out letters inviting journalists to gigs he was organising with Joy Division and they were doing the music at the same time as Ian Curtis and he was getting the important people there but somehow they were overlooked.
Was it frustrating for him?
‘Absolutely. No wonder he was grumpy! but he mellowed out and stopped taking himself so seriously. He always had lot of time for Ian (Curtis) and Joy Division and respected them, and respected Hooky for always supporting the band. It took a lot for my dad to say he respected a band so he must have meant it.’