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


Paul Eustice said...

I too remember the Braniacs with great fondness. The best performance I recall was at Cornwall College in what was the old common room. Was it 'Charlie' who was the lead guitarist? He was the fella I rated as the talented one in the band although Bert was something of a folk-legend locally at the time.

I remember Charlie used to bow forwards and back when he played which was pretty unique. He looked like a human metronome, side-on.I have the Mushy Doubt single still intact in my attic somewhere.

The Braniacs first inspired me to want to be in a band. Bert advised me the importance of making each line of a lyric count. Later, this advice was put to good use.

Steve Cox said...

Yes, you're right, it was 'Charlie' who bowed back and forth like a human rocking chair whilst playing. He also used to wear a white porter's jacket and wore round national health 'sense' which I later copied a few years later (not a great look looking back but was the Seventies).

That was a good gig at the college (didn't we play there as Flexitoys one lunchtime?. I also have a memory of a gig they did in a marquee at the college. I remember the bass player, Dave Greenaway(?)being there so maybe Mr Zoot also played? Mr Zoot with Steve Tenby on lead guitar...Camborne's very own Phil Lynott lookalike (sorry Steve...if you ever read this!). Last time I saw him was at Phil G's wedding reception in Camborne. Really nice guy even if he did go off with Kathryn Middleton!

Steve Tenby lent me his amp when the Imports played their first gig at Tuckingmill Pavillions. I also bought Dave Greenaway's 100 Watt Marshall amp head which served as my first bass amp when The Flexitoys started up.

Where are all these memories coming from?...must turn them off and do some work...

Nick B said...

I love the Brainiacs so much and I never saw them live. Just read a great piece on them in 'Unhinged' magazine in the 80s and tracked it all down from there! Have the World Inside LP on vinyl somewhere ... must did it out!

fatboysblogg said...

I remember playing support to the Braniacs at the Gulval Meadery back in the day.I thought they were amazing!!I also knew Steve Temby very well having known him as a friend since the age of 4 or 5 years old.Now Dave the bass player,was he known as Jock?Ginger hair? Excellent bass player and a bloody nice bloke.
Happy days.

Droof Boys said...

Yes, I think you're right. He was called Jock... Dave Greenaway is his name. Still playing in a comedy band by the look of things.

fatboysblogg said...

Ah good to know he's still doing something,I seem to remember him playing sax too!Last time I saw him he was living at Roscroggan.Steve swapped me an orange combo once for a vox ac30,excellent guitarist,have'nt seen him in years.I have a yap with Peter Jervis and Dave Warr on F/Book now and then.Oh and Patrick Uterharks brother Steve was actually soft as shit,we were good buds,he had the image back then :)

Steve Cox said...

Dave is playing in a band with Mike Rollings on drums (he played drums in my first punk band 'The Imports'(see an earlier post: You can see what they are now up to here:

I also remember several parties at the farmhouse at Roscroggan when Dave G. lived there. I bought a Marshall 100watt head and 4x12 cab from him when he was there also.

Steve Tenby lent me an amp for the first Imports gig at Tuckingmill Pavillions. Wasn't the other guitarist in Mr Zoot called Glyn or something like that?

Actually Peter Jervis (Jaf) was fronting a band called Zeitgeist at the ill-fated Caharrack gig I mentioned in 'The Imports' post I mentioned earlier.

I remember PJ and Dave Warr at Redruth Grammar School. It was all David Bowie, Clockwork Orange and Dr Martens in those days...

fatboysblogg said...

I actually ended up as the drummer in Jaffs band!!Dave Warr is living in Portsmouth I believe and is working as a welder.Jaff is living in London,not sure what he does for a living.Mr.Zoot,I believe there was a Glyn there too.

Steve Cox said...

So were you in Zeitgeist at the time of the Carharrack massacre?!

Yes, the name Glyn Thomas comes to mind. He was the other singer/guitarist along with Steve Tenby in Mr Zoot wasn't he?

fatboysblogg said...

Ray Harris was the drummer at that time,I was in a band called Nerve Squad.Soon after I was asked to step into Rays role.Zeitgeist eventually had the lead,Corin Arnold now a record label owner and big shot DJ in Berlin,bass Gary Small now in Rudi's Message and me all from Nerve Squad plus Jaff on vocals and Bobby Lovell on rythmn.
And yes I believe Glynns surname was Thomas.I remember they had a really good drummer,he used to be in quite a well known band at one time but I cant remember his name or the previous band.

Anonymous said...

I am very curious about the Brainiac 5 track called "working"...anyone know if these lines are relevant?....:
I've been working working
working with my body
ooh baby lean sideways
don't push too hard
waiting for time to stand still
.....if this is the track I must seek out a copy....superb

Anonymous said...

hallo peeps....anyone know if these approximate lines are in the track:Working -by Brainiac 5...

I've been workin working
working with my body
ooh baby lean sideways
don't push too hard
waiting for time to stand still...followed by excellent short guitar solo
...if this is the track I want to purchase a 45...just trying to make sure this is the track I first heard on Peely 1980
Haven't heard the other stuff but I'll guess it's equally as good..........................cheers Mel

Anonymous said...

just noticed my double query lol...sent so many out:)Mel

Jack Greenaway said...

Hello everyone, I was just looking for any signs of Mr.Zoot on the internet and I found this page im actually dave or 'jocks' son. Hes still down in Roscroggan and has facebook now If any of you would like to get in touch search David Greenaway or his email is he asked me to do this because he aint great with computers!! Anyway he said it would be great to hear from some of you again. Cheers

Steve Cox said...

Ah yes, Roscroggan, I misspent many a happy hour down at that establishment back in the day. I can't believe Dave is still living there.

I remember buying a 100 watt Marshall Amp Head from Dave around 1979 maybe...£90 if memory serves.

And yes, no trace of Mr. Zoot on-line which is a sad state of affairs. Somebody should sort that out.

Pass on my regards to your dad...fond memories indeed.

Anonymous said...

Mr Zoot was Gwyn Thomas, and Steve TeMby,Gary Fletcher,Dave Greenaway,Geoff Tippet,and later Don Fowler

Anonymous said...

The Brainiac 5 will return this summer for a Cornish tour.

Droof Boys said...

Thanks for the heads up Mr Anonymous. After a small around of poking around I found the Brainiacs on Facebook: Maybe see you there...

Anonymous said...

Hi all you old punkys

Gwyn Thomas here

I remember you guys as the younger 'up and coming' bunch at that time,I was in 'Mr Zoot' which formed from the ashes of the very popular band 'Anaconda' we used to rehearse at Dave Greenaways place,I was a founder tenant and lived there for a while in the cottage next door which his dad also owned. ('The cottage') became a very popular place for gentlemen into the more experimental side of ian Drury's song comes to mind,Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll,although not so much of the sex...

The London Hotel was THE place to go back then and I miss those days so very much.
Regards to all

Steve Cox said...

Hi Gwyn,

Great to hear from you and I remember you playing with Anaconda at The London Inn and Penventon on several occasions. What great times they were indeed.

Also had some great nights at 'the cottage'.

Probably more like 'Beer and drugs and rock 'n' roll' with more beer to follow in reality.

Hope you're well.

All the best