Where are they now? Exclusive interview with band Cassie

IT MAY have taken 38 years, but a band is belatedly enjoying the fruits of an ode to rebellious youth first released in 1982.

The amazing story of four-piece Cassie, whose single Change My Image was re-released earlier this year by New York label Reminder Records, offers hope to aspiring artists persevering in difficult times.

Almost four decades ago, London based A.K.A Records released the single to little fanfare. The label’s demise shortly afterwards appearing to extinguish lingering hopes of widespread acclaim.

Guitarist Nigel Hayles died in 2002, but the three remaining band members — Barnet based singer/songwriter Debbie Coles, bassist Eric Biggs who lives in Ryde and drummer Hugh Kim Lewis who divides his time between Southsea and Köycegiz, Turkey —  shared their thoughts regarding the recent release and what the future may hold.

How did Cassie form?

Hugh: Cassie were known as Flirt at the time and I was in another band, I left to join the guys in around 1980.

Debbie: I met Nigel via his pirate radio station, Radio Cathy, around 1976. I started as a backing singer with the band — then known as Blackdog — and progressed to lead vocals and writing songs.

Hugh Kim Lewis, who played drums in Cassie.

When A.K.A Records went bust, did you think that was the beginning of the end for Cassie?

Debbie: Not really. We didn’t have any input into the release of the single or what happened afterwards, so we carried on. There were no big bust ups either, things just sort of fizzled out.

Hugh: We did write other stuff and featured on the IW compilation album Feet on the Street in 1984.

Do you look back on that period from 1978 to 1985 with fond memories?

Eric: Yes, there are so many stories, and I remember the buzz of hearing one of our songs on the radio for the first time.

Hugh: I remember us signing our first recording contract with Video Records in an office in Portsmouth. Another standout moment was meeting Lulu in De Lane Lea Recording studios in Wembley.

Then there was the time I got so drunk playing a gig at the Royal Sandrock Inn in Niton that I needed to run to the loo in between songs — hopefully nobody noticed!

Debbie: The first time our demo was played on Radio Victory in Portsmouth and the band getting so much interest were amazing moments.

There were regular gigs at the Buddle Inn in Niton, where we built up a local following with a combination of covers and original material. The crowd chanting requests for our original tracks and singing along to them was really special and has stayed with me.

Cassie rehearsing in the 1980s.

Nigel is sadly no longer with us. Would he have enjoyed the belated acclaim the band is receiving?

Hugh: Nigel would have loved what’s going on now. He was a key member whose enthusiasm for what we did was always fantastic — he was the heart and soul of the band.

Debbie: Nigel was a really talented musician with a wicked sense of humour. He was the founder and beating heart of the band, and was the one who kept the peace when things got heated —which was fairly often.

It’s sad he isn’t here to share in this, he would have loved it, but he lives on through his distinctive guitar riffs that make up the Cassie sound and will always be a key part of the band.

Who wrote the song Change My Image?

Eric: Debbie, but we all played our part.

Hugh: Debbie usually wrote the lyrics, the rest of us would work on the music.

Debbie: I came up with the tune and lyrics, with the band working out their own parts.

Singer Debbie Barker during a 1980s gig.

When/how did you first get wind of the single being re-released by Reminder Records?

Hugh: In December last year the record company phoned me and expressed an interest in re-releasing the single.

Debbie: Hugh then called me at work and asked if I was sitting down — I was worried it was bad news! In actual fact, it was the best and most surprising news ever. I couldn’t believe it at first, I still can’t really.

Did the song stand out for you at the time as one the best you’d written as a band?

Eric: Yes, but not necessarily the best we ever wrote.

Hugh: I agree, it was a good song but we wrote other good songs as well.

Debbie: It is a great song and still very relevant, but just one of many equally great power pop tracks we produced.

Cassie bass guitarist Eric Biggs.

Have you all remained in contact since the band split in 1985?

Eric: I only reconnected after seeing an article online last week.

Hugh: I never lost contact with Debbie, and our families have spent time together over the years. We like visiting them in London, and they have been out for a holiday to our house in Turkey. I hadn’t seen Eric for ten years, and it’s great to be in contact with him again.

Debbie: I last saw Eric at Nigel’s funeral. It is great to be back in touch with him.

Is there a chance of a reunion for Cassie?

Eric: Maybe.

Hugh: I’d be up for it, it would be great fun to play together again.

Debbie: You never know!

Jeremy Thompson of record label Reminder Records said Change My Image is proving popular, with orders from all over the world, including Japan and Europe.

Limited edition heavyweight import pressings may still be available by contacting AAA Records through Facebook or phoning them on 07530 690442.

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Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me. I meditate and wash daily when possible.

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