Formed on the Isle of Wight in 1978 the four-piece of Nigel Hayles-Guitar, Debbie Barker - Lead Vocals, Eric Biggs-Bass and Chris Lines was originally known as FLIRT before changing their name to CASSIE in 1979; likely as a nod to BLONDIE whose songs the group favored along with the likes of THE PRETENDERS, RAMONES and EDDIE & THE HOT RODS. Despite recording demos for WILF PINE, the former mobbed-up co-manager for BLACK SABBATH, major label deals were not forthcoming. Thus CASSIE issued their only single of two Barker penned, Pine-produced tracks, ‘Change My Image,’ backed-with ‘Will You’ on A.K.A. Records in 1982.
Whether or not the name of the label used for the release - A.K.A. - was any reference to Pine’s numerous underworld connections is unclear. What is clear, however, is the strength of the two Barker originals. ‘Change My Image’ is a bratty bubblegum-punk paean to future sell-out success (‘Gonna kick off my jeans and start smoking fancy cigarettes!’) while the furious guitar riffing on ‘Will You’ fortunately for today’s listeners finds CASSIE about three years out of step with the prevailing New Pop styles of 1982.
Instantly obscure upon issue, CASSIE’s only record became instantly hard to find. The band would continue to perform without issuing any further material before finally breaking up in 1985.
Our take: Reminder Records reissues this 1982 obscurity from the Isle of Wight, and it is a full-on blinder. While, judging from the label’s description, Cassie couldn’t catch much of a break during their original run as a band, these two songs show that it wasn’t for lack of talent. Perhaps by 1982 they were just late, as these two slices of amped-up, punky power-pop make me think the pop gems bands like the Pointed Sticks, Nasty Facts, and the Go-Go’s were pumping out a few years earlier. Vocalist / songwriter Debbie Barker’s unpretentious lyrics and high-energy vocal style are the star of the show, but the band is explosive here, summoning 60s garage energy and filtering it through a new wave pop style. Another reason Cassie’s single might not have taken off is the production. Like the Protex album Sing Sing Records reissued in 2010, it has a grainy sound that isn’t up to major label production standards, but is just perfect for those of us who love discovering old punk singles like this. What a kick off for Reminder Records! I can’t wait to see what they bring us next.