Brian, Punk Rock and Me.
I first met Brian when I discovered lying to my parents to get to gigs at about 15. We were born the same month and were 13-14 in ’76 -’77 and 16, the month Thatcher got in , not old enough for first wave, but punk and hormones struck at the same time… and had a lasting effect!
Portsmouth had a good punk scene, still has … loud raucous and boisterous as fuck… the currency was sarcasm and laughter … and if you were into the music you were ‘in’. Be a prick and you were ‘out’. Shunned, probably forever! Brian’s outlook was exactly the same .
The first time I met Brian was at a Ruts gig at the Locarno. I say ‘met’ Brian, no words, he picked me up, chucked me to the front of the pit and I was suddenly and unexpectedly crowdsurfing, and yes, it’s as fun as it looks! Brian’s idea of banter.
I moved to Southsea at 16 for the ‘scene’, the hot punk boys and blagged a job in Subway records in town as “token punk”. I moved to notorious hippy house called ‘Guessooliveshere’ and met Brian at a party the Hells Angels were having in the basement. The word went round “Don’t eat the rice, Brian’s pissed in it”. That was Brian, anything for a laugh, even if it risked a battering from the Angels, who were tucking into the curry … and rice!
Another time at the old Southern TV studios in Northam, we were asked to be extras in our capacity as “punk rockers” ..at lunch time we were all in the canteen with the minor local celebs and I suddenly heard FOOD FIGHT ! Brian (of course ) ! He vigorously chucked a bowl of blancmange at Chris Peacock (chrispy cock). It all went silent, we knew we would be thrown out so all thought, fuck it and a massive food fight similar to a scene from Bugsy Malone started. We did get thrown out, but it was worth it!
I started going out with Barry, Brian’s best friend, shortly after. They would both rather rip their own tongues out than admit they were best friends , but they were! Barry and I were together for about 7 years . The music was Crass and Discharge . He got the band together; Ad Nauseam. Brian wasn’t in the first line up, but he loved the band and was always around.
I say ALWAYS, as we were pretty much all on the dole at this point and did everything together en mass, partially to avoid getting chased by NF skinheads, but mostly because we had fuck all else to do. If one person went for fags, 8 or 9 or so would go. Torturing each other for laughs passed the time , kind of like an early version of Jackass.
I remember buying a vintage fly swat at a jumble sale which Barry fashioned into a rudimentary “piercing gun ” by ramming a rusty pin in it . Obviously no one, including me, thought of maybe washing off the dead fly on it first ! Brian was the first to volunteer by holding his ears aloft and giving it a “Come on then”.
None of us were bothered about being on the dole, no one had a job in the early 80s, besides if you had a job, you might miss gigs … der! Brian was always at a gig, right up to the end, never missed a gig. He must have seen thousands of bands!
I remember we went to see The Ramones at the Guildhall around that time, and he stuck his head in the bass bin for a laugh and paralysed half his face for about 2 weeks! I remember Barry taking the piss and Brian telling him to “Fuck off ” but only out of the one side of his mouth that moved !
Brian was in the second line up of Ad Nauseam and loved it, he was born to be in a band. We got puppies together that were brothers from “Guessooliveshere”. Barry and I had Herman (after Munster) and Brian had Boris. Boris was his ‘mini-me’, and they adored each other ,they were both hilariously funny and unpredictable .They even both had the same widows peak hairline. I looked after the pups a lot, punk rock and puppies, my 2 favourite things!
The band were doing up a disused building in the local community centre, to use as rehearsal space for them and other local bands (guessing ’83 by now, music -Subhumans ). I dog sat. You’re welcome. Walking with Boris was like being with Brian, trouble came looking for him and he never backed down. Neither would take any shit!
The band were pretty successful and we spent a lot of time in the back of a transit vans gigging and giggling . Often with me yelling “Watch my fucking shoes you wanker ” or something at Brian every time he pissed in an empty beer bottle and didn’t put the top on properly … so would have to avoid sitting in piss puddles all the way to fucking Leeds or somewhere! The gigs were too numerous to mention. Brian would have been able to tell you exactly who they played with, what date, what support. As I said, he loved it !
A strong memory was a trip to the Isle of Wight, there was, as usual, about 10 of us. We had been there less than an hour when Brian stripped naked for a laugh on the beach and picked up a washed up dead squid and hurled it at us, spraying random passers by with ink . A van load of heavy handed coppers arrived to nick us and throw us off the island ! A video of us that day on the beach emerged a few years ago and I realised how bad it looked, we looked like a gang, all leather jackets, spikes and mohawks! Horrified members of the public were shielding their childrens’ eyes. At the time it was just us having a laugh – as per, we seldom met any members of the public, they were irrelevant and I genuinely thought THEY were picking on US because we were punks.
Fast Forward to the more recent years, Brian got ill and had to stop drinking. He did it, straight away, he was a wilful fuck, and I don’t think he ever drank again! I’m glad I told him he “should be proud of himself, because that’s a hard thing to do, especially around the same crowd, with everyone else still drinking, a lot of people couldn’t do that” … and he should be proud! He tutted at me .
He was a frequent visitor to my shop Dress Code, as he lived 2 minutes away and often popped-in for a gossip and a coffee . Typical conversation:
“Alright Lin. Just watched that new film about The Clash. Brought it in see if you want to watch it?”
“Cheers Bri ,whats it like ? ”
“Shit ! ”
When he joined ‘5 Go Mad’ he was so happy to be in a band again, it brought him a new lease-of-life and took his mind off his illness, and, of course a good excuse for more gig going. They even played his beloved Rebellion Festival. That’s something he WAS proud of. He became designated driver and liked to tell people if they had been a twat while drunk.
I’m trying not to be sad he is gone because, he was bored of being ill and had, had enough! Any way if you knew Brian you laugh and have a funny story to tell . The Damned played Pompey on Saturday, a couple of days after we lost him and some of the members of Brian’s secret harem of female friends (it’s not just me) got a message backstage and Vanian dedicated New Rose to “Brian Barnett – local punk musician”… the crowd went mental!
Brian would have been so-o-o-o chuffed!
R.I.P Brian, my lovely, loose cannon, mate of 40 years, outrageous clown, defender of women, loyal big-hearted friend and … most of all … punk rocker.
As he once said, with genuine bewilderment; “What do people do, you know, who don’t like punk?”
(C) Linda Fitzgerald 2018
Photo’s, videos and other tributes are published on Louderthanwar here >https://louderthanwar.com/brian-barnett-1963-2018-ad-nause…/