Brian Barnett, 28th May 1963 – 22nd November 2018
Mourning the loss and celebrating the life of a huge figure in the Pompey punk scene.
Portsmouth punk fans and musicians are grieving the loss of one of their own this week. Brian Barnett, guitarist in one of the South’s leading hardcore 1980s punk bands, Ad Nauseam, and founder member of comedy punk outfit 5 Go Mad, passed away in the early hours of 22nd November at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth.
It’s testament to the status and popularity of Brian that The Damned dedicated perhaps their greatest song, New Rose, to him at a gig in the city last weekend.
Tributes have been pouring in online from far and wide – he wasn’t just a local hero, he was well known across the country. As a regular visitor to the annual Holidays in the Sun and Wasted festivals in Morecambe and Blackpool, Brian cut an instantly recognisable figure and always had time to chat and to play pranks on unsuspecting friends. In the early 2000s, he was even interviewed alongside Charlie Harper, TV Smith and other punk legends for the documentary All Grown Up, recording the lives of older punk musicians.
In the early 1980s, Pompey’s leading hardcore punk band, Ad Nauseam, began to gain some critical attention, and eventually secured a deal with Flicknife Records for their debut EP release, Brainstorm, in 1983. Taking their cue from the growing UK thrash scene, the four tracks on the record were short, fast and loud, with lead track Thatcher chanting that hated name in a desperate, breathless rant over distorted bass and chugging guitar. Brian joined the second line-up of the band after their initial split in 1984, and their sole album, The Greatest Show on Earth, followed in 1987 with the aggression turned up several notches higher to deliver the band’s strongest recorded output of their career, an underrated contribution to the growing metal punk crossover movement. Ad Nauseam split again in 1988, and Brian became more widely recognised in the audience rather than onstage for many years.
Brian was also an avid participant in martial arts, at least until his health issues forced him to retire from the sport, as Kev Luce recalls, “Anyone who was playing in bands during the 80’s would have encountered Brian at some point. Although I knew him from his band Ad Nauseam, I didn’t actually speak to him until the late 1999/early 2000 when I was a budding photographer, taking photographs for a series of martial arts books that a friend of mine was writing. I was at the North End Gym/Dojo (next to what used to be the Job Centre) photographing a karate class when I encountered Brian; he was a keen member of the club as it turned out. We got talking. Later on I used to see him regularly at my local, the John Jacques in Fratton and we’d often chat.”
In August 2015, Brian returned to the stage with 5 Go Mad, a comic punk band owing more than a little to his ribald sense of humour. They were shambolic, crude, rude and hilariously funny, and quickly built a solid reputation for their live performances. 5 Go Mad were reviewed on Louder Than War ( live, the debut album and the live album ) and played Rebellion and many a punk ‘fest’ and all-dayer.
Ill health meant Brian reluctantly had to ‘retire’ from playing with the band earlier in the year. He was however planning new musical endeavours whilst in hospital.
Brian’s passing leaves a huge gap in the Pompey Punk scene. He was a real character; an archetype punk, who always stood his ground and ‘liked a bit of a rumble’ in his youth, but also a gent who looked out for his many female friends.
Online tributes came from Arturo of the Lurkers / 999, the Xtraverts among numerous punk bands who knew Brian. What follows are tributes from just some of his closest friends and band-mates… which give a full picture of the man and what high regard he was held in.
RIP Brian Barnett – once met, never forgotten. Punk for Life.
(Russ Bestley & Ged Babey)
Helen Goss (writing on Pompeypunks facebook group.)
A great friend and protector, a true Pompey Punk, dedicated musician and subcultural influence . . . his Ad Nauseam days made us very proud and recently with 5 Go Mad we got to experience again his endless passion for punk. . . his fabulously filthy sense of humour gave him that edge you expect from a punk, that unpredictable ‘what IS he going to do next?’ aura . . . yet he was a true gent and gave such fantastic bear-hugs. . . he fought so hard to stay with us these past years, he achieved so much, he kicked arse right to the end . . . we will miss you big guy, you were always there, we are devastated, you are such an inspiration, another taken from us far too soon. RIP Brian, we love you. the pompeypunks
(Some amazing archive footage has just been uploaded to the Pompey Punks website here!)
Pinky (Night of Treason singer/ Gosport punkfest organiser)
I first met Brian at Grannies during a Chelsea gig, in the bogs. He scared my mate witless offering to ‘hold it for him’, but I realised it was just his wicked sense of humour.
I saw Ad Nauseam a few times.. proper noisy thrash punk better than GBH. Years later he would support Night of Treason and Gosport Punkfest many times and once even thwarted a violent chav who attacked me. He got the chair to the head treatment. I called him ‘The Brian Tamer’ after that… Like a big punk lion tamer with that chair!
He will be missed very much, by just about everyone.. he became a constant presence at many many gigs in Pompey and all over …always supporting the local bands, he was a kind man.. a big man with a big heart and also a funny filthy joker… but always thoughtful… helped me out many times.
Russ Bestley ( Watch You Drown singer/bassist)
I’ve known Brian for around 38 years… We got closer again in recent years. … I was always impressed with the way Brian treated younger members of the punk community, as with his generosity and support for Adam in 5GM. Totally in character, no pretensions and no ego, even though Brian was a highly respected ‘punk statesman’ in the Pompey scene.
When Watch You Drown played a gig in Gosport that 5 Go Mad had had to pull out of at the last minute, we spontaneously decided to play 5 Go Mad’s Drinking and Wanking, inviting Brian up to sing the verses… it was hilarious. After that, when 5GM played and I was in the audience, Brian would simply take off his guitar and pass it to me for that song… not many guitarists would be so generous, or would be able to avoid being precious about their guitars and their status on stage.
Adam Hall ( former 5 Go Mad Bassist)
Without a doubt the strangest person I’ve ever met, but also one of the kindest and funniest. He often made me want to vomit (foul arse, Victorian bathing suit, sharing hotel rooms etc) but he had a great sense of humour, a heart of gold and was always there for me. 5 Go Mad was my first band and I’d only ever played guitar before joining them, I had just two weeks to learn the set and it was Brian that invited me over and taught me all the songs. A truly great guy and a punk legend
Andy Matthews ( 5 Go Mad rhythm guitarist)
Brian was the one who convinced me at 49 to start playing guitar and was certainly the man who taught me how to stand up and hold a barre chord. Against my better judgement, he and Alan persuaded me to join 5 Go Mad. Although I wasn’t very good, he (nearly) always had something positive to say about my playing and I will be forever grateful.
Linda Fitzgerald (Friend and confidante, owner of Dress Code)
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?”
India Gibson (friend & former 5 Go Mad manager)
Of all Brian’s female friends there seems to have been only one little lady who really stole Brian’s heart -his adopted grand-daughter Rudi. Her mother India:
He was an amazing granddad to Rudi. I’ll never forget her first ever chocolate cake, which he bought her. We are going to really miss him (and his sordid jokes.) Love you to bits. RIP you legend xxx
Ged Babey (Louder Than War writer)
I went with my wife to visit Brian in hospital about six weeks back (Jooles knew Brian far better than me, from back in the 80’s, whereas I only got to know him a bit in recent years). He was on good form in his Top Cat pyjamas, but bored and itching to get home. Jooles asked if I had any books I could lend him while he was in there. ‘Nah, nothing you’d like Brian” I said, meaning he’d probably already read all the punk biographies I own. Jooles scowled at me as it wasn’t clear that was what I’d meant.
“You’d be surprised what I like” said Brian. He told me he’d been listening to and reading about Django Reinhardt the gypsy-jazz/bebop guitarist and reading the Factories Run By Robots punk-poetry book.
“When you started coming to Pompey gigs a few people thought you were a bit up-yourself… and not a proper punk” said Brian matter-of-factly, much to my wife’s amusement, “But I put them straight”.
I was apoplectic, insisting that it’s not compulsory to like the bloody Anti Nowhere League… and I had seen the Antz and the Mental in ’79 … but Brian had taught me to never under-estimate him.
He did go on to say how much he liked my review of 5 Go Mad’s first album, how it was spot on and he absolutely loved it, which I was pleased about… But, because I had edited-out a bit, following a polite request from another band member, he was furious that I had “Censored” it.
“You should never do that”. He said. ” Never censor yourself.”
Thanks for the advise Brian. Words he lived by. And thanks for putting the bastards straight.
a poem for brian by trev paviour
a big man as strong as an ox,
blonde spikey hair,
loved punk rock.
loved the stage,
dropping his trousers
live bands king of the mush pit,
loved to party,
stood up to bullys,
looked after his mates,
proud of his belly,
a good listener,
a straight answer,
a heart of gold
if you needed help.
one of us
a pompey punk.
so raise a glass and never forget
born a rocker die a rocker
Rest Easy Brian. You will be remembered by a lot of people with huge affection for a long, long time. Love and condolences to your brother, family and close friends.
Brian Barnett’s Funeral takes place on Wednesday 5th December 2018 at 12:45 at the Oaks Crematorium in Havant (PO9 5NA) and afterwards at RNOC Club, 86 Lake Road, Portsmouth PO1 4HF
Compiled by Ged Babey for LTW. Thanks to Russ Bestley, Linda Fitzgerald, Andy, Adam, India, Pinky, Trev, Helen Goss and Rory Greener. Apologies to all of those who would have liked to contribute we couldn’t contact.