Monday, 16 March 2009

The Brainiac Five

Front and back of the EP 'Mushy Doubt'

Anyone who used to drink at The London Inn in Redruth at the end of the seventies would remember the fabulous Brainiac Five. Fronted by singer-songwriter Bert Biscoe on lead vocals and guitar, Charlie 'Dickie Hart' Taylor on lead guitar (I remember a fantastically battered antique white Fender Telecaster), Woody on bass and Steve Hudson on drums.

I had one of their posters for a gig at The London Inn on my bedroom wall for sometime and I'm pretty sure it had the date November 1978 on it. I am also pretty certain it was after this particular gig that several of us made the night-time assault on Carn Brea described here.

Anyway, I loved the Brainiacs. As I'd just started playing in band, The Imports, myself, I used to look up to The Brainiacs as something to aspire to. Bert Biscoe used to put on a great performance, usually whilst wearing a huge floppy pointed felt hat. I remember that towards the end of their second set he would suddenly put his guitar down, rush through the audience and exit through the front door....only to reappear several minutes later through a door at the back of the pub. My memory is vague but I think he used to do this during the middle eight/guitar solo of 'Endless River' which is one of the tracks featured on the Mushy Doubt EP pictured above.

I went down to watch them rehearse in Newlyn once. It was a hot summer's day and they had a basement in this amazing old house with a rambling terrace at the back which had stunning views over Mount's Bay. I thought that was so cool...being in a band and rocking out, entertaining the seagulls and probably half of Penzance at the same time.

Another favourite from their live gigs featured on the EP is "(I was a) Vegetable". The lyrics went along the lines of:

I was a vegetable...on a Saturday morning
I was a vegetable...she gave me no warning
I was a vegetable...I was a vegetable for yeeeewwwwwwuh....

It's a classic.

I'm not sure where my copy of Mushy Doubt has got to but in my Google quest to see if I could find anything relating to The Brainiac Five, I came across a Bert Biscoe compilation album called An Kynsa. You can play samples from this website.

To my delight, I discover two Brainiac Five tracks on it, the aforementioned 'Endless River' and another called 'Marilyn Munroe'...a punked up blues stomper (that Jean Genie riff) that I also vividly remember from their live shows.

Reading some of the blurb on that page I read:

"All Aboard" – a home recording of a song written in a moment for the moment – a warm time around Sal’s wedding to Ian – many friends."

Furthermore, as I play the sample I realise that it is in fact me accompanying Bert on my fretless bass to a song we basically jammed and made up on the spot. It was a lazy Sunday afternoon and we'd just had an even lazier lunch at "Ian and Sal's". Bert had some lyrics and we started messing around with some chords and bass lines to go with them. Bert had a little basic cassette recorder with him and it was recorded probably in one take to maybe do something with at a later time. To me, the song was always called "Riding Along on My Best Friend's Dream". I think it very much captures the feeling of the moment...such a buzz to hear it again.

It was indeed a warm time as Bert suggests. A key time in my 'leaving home' phase. I was living at Ian and Sal's in Truro at the time. I think I'd just left college and was working at Trurographics. I was also playing bass with Flight Seven Seven. Ian & Sally would often come to our gigs and if we'd played a gig at The William in Truro they would often invite everyone back to theirs for drinks afterwards which is where I got re-aquainted with Bert again.

I believe Bert still lives in Truro and is a Truro City councillor as far as I know. Here's his MySpace site.

A few years ago he brought out a book called "Meditations on Carn Brea". It's a collaboration with a photographer Cliff Jones. Some poetry and musings well worth looking at if you know the area.

Anyway, enough of the free plugs!

Must drop him an email at some point...

Posted by Steve

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Lanner Post Office

Lanner Post Office - The Glory Days

Hands up who remembers Lanner Post Office back in the 'Good Old Days'?

Every time I drive past the place these days I can't help thinking it's just a pale shadow of the establishment it used to be. The red phone box has gone for a just doesn't look right.

In it's day, Lanner Post Office was one of the key bases from which Droof Boys would launch operations throughout the late Seventies. Probably on a par with Melrose House around the corner, it was from these two key establishments, parties were held, decisions were made and much fun and frivolity was had by all.

My parents (in the photo) were deemed by most of the DB, a 'softer touch' than their peers so alcohol was supped, roll-ups were smoked and other various 'things' were consumed here on a regular basis with minimal interference.

The shop itself was obviously a major draw. Endless supplies of tins of beer, fags, chocolate and anything else you fancied at whatever time of the day or night. One just had to disarm the burglar alarm and avoid waking my parents to gain access to anything from a packet of Rizlas to a full-on Vesta Curry at 2am.

The so-called (by Mike A) 'Stevie-Snack' was forged right here at Lanner Post Office in the 70's. On occasions, several of us would regularly return here after a trip to The London Inn in Redruth feeling rather 'peckish'. (Don't forget Kebabs hadn't even been invented yet). No problem...

The Drill:

Arrive home and let ourselves in. Talking and giggling would cease. Make sure our dog ('Pickles' the American Beagle) is conscious and not going to start barking and wake everyone up. (He knew he would get tit-bits so he was on our side most of the time). Turn off the burglar the door to the shop, ever-so ever-so quietly.

In we would sneak..."Can of McEwan's anyone?" "Cheese?" "Shall I cut some ham?" "Anyone need any tobacco?" etc.

Firing up the bacon slicer in the shop at 1am in the morning was a risky business but sometimes it just had to be done.

Types of beer consumed at Lanner Post Office in the Seventies

Carrying our booty, we would cram ourselves into the tiny kitchen and pull the sliding door closed. Drinking beer, smoking fags whilst cooking cheese (and ham) on toast in a kitchen measuring 4 foot square at 1.30am in the morning, whilst trying not to wake one's parents is not always possible. Most of the time we got away with it though.

The fatal error of forgetting that the dog had followed us into the shop was one of the reasons we might get caught out. His howling wouldn't almost certainly wake up my dad...."SSSTEEEEEPPPHHUUUUUUNNNNN!!!!!????"

Still, the punishments were never severe and I don't recall anyone ever getting sent home.

The only interior photo of the counter at Lanner Post Office I can find. Cigarettes on the shelves behind and the bacon slicer just out of shot. Proper Cornish pasties, sticky buns (and a box of Waggon Wheels?) visible on the counter. It was here that many of the DB would muster to purchase items of fancy at any hour of the day or night. The lady pictured here was a kindly lady named Irene if anyone remembers her.

Once ensconced in the sanctuary of my bedroom, lighting would be subdued, music would be low but audible, talk hushed but not whispered as we sat up late into the wee hours, listening to some great albums, smoking and enjoying each others company.

It was on one of these occasions that I remember the concept of 'getting a girlfriend' came up. Literally within less than a fortnight we all had one...not bad going boys.

My mother would sometimes appear in the morning with mugs of tea to the sight of several full sleeping bags over my bedroom floor.

If it was a Saturday morning we had probably already planned to walk/hitch our way to St. Agnes or Tregajorran or down to Nancemellin for one of Jon Smith's awesome parties.

To drive past Lanner Post Office now...well, you would never know...

Friday, 13 March 2009

Hair Today...Gone Tomorrow? Or Just Hair Yesterday?

As Anthony has already mentioned in several previous posts, hair has always been a big feature if you came from Redruth. Ok, that's not exactly true but if we cast our minds back beyond the Eighties and the Uber Mullets, you might begin to understand where we were coming from...and that it wasn't our fault particularly.

I present...Hair of 1973. Just a few heads plucked out at random from a school photo of the day. Hell, even the teachers were at it (bottom row).

Click on photo for closer look

My personal favourite has to go to the young man, far left, middle row. I don't know who you were sir but I am amazed that they actually let you into the school looking like that. Bloody hell...what happened? Looks like you slept in a tight corner or something. What did you think to yourself when you looked at the mirror in the morning? "Hey, nice hair...the girls are going to love that"?

Ok, that's enough about hair for now.

Posted by Steve

Famous Droof Boys No.2 - Rory McGrath

Rory McGrath on 'Have I got News For You'.
Not quite as good looking as the rest of us and slightly older, Rory McGrath is probably the most famous droof boy to come out of Redruth Grammar School and that's saying something obviously.

He was in the Sixth Form whist we were in the first and second years I think during our time at RGS. I don't really remember him specifically to be honest. He might have sold me a cream bun or a giant Tea Cake out of the 6th Form window, as they did before Buck took over and legalised proceedings with his 'Tuck Shop'.

Cream bun - as sold by Rory McGrath as a Sixth Former

Most older boys at the school had so much hair they all looked the same anyway. Hair was definitely 'in' in the early Seventies. Just look at the school photo again. Scary. Rory's hair has calmed down a bit but is still essentially a slimmed down 1973 job in my opinion. (More on hair later).

(Temporarily I am unable to locate Rory in one of the panoramic school photos. Perhaps Anthony or Phil or Mike can help out there?)

I saw Rory ranting about how he hates carrots in Cornish Pasties on 'Grumpy Old Men' a while back. He protested that they shouldn't be allowed to include carrot as they have no business being in there. With you on that one Rory mate. That also should include peas. Don't get me started on Chicken Tikka pasties either.

Beef?...yes, potato?...yes, onion?...yes, swede/turnip?...yes, salt and pepper?...yes.

Carrot?...on your bike mate.

Ban Ginsters as well whilst you're at it...bloody horrible state of affairs.

Posted by Steve

From Phil: I can remember calling Rory McGrath a poofter (for not letting me inside at lunchtime) and regretting it - got held upside down over the lav til I apologised. As I recall he was ok though.

Nice one Phil, thanks for sharing.

Famous Droof Boys No. 1 - The Aphex Twin

One of my favourite Aphex Twin tracks (shame about poor sound quality)

It recently came to my attention that not only is Aphex Twin (Richard James) from Cornwall, but he is a 'Droof Boy' proper as he went to Redruth School in the Eighties. More than that...he actually grew up in Lanner, just down the road from me. He is also exactly (minus one day) ten years younger than me. Shit, I probably sold him sweets over the counter at Lanner Post Office.
Posted by Steve