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Johnny Moped

A bona fide band or just the alias for cycledelic singer Paul Halford, Croydon’s JOHNNY MOPED were initially the stamping ground for CAPTAIN SENSIBLE and CHRISSIE HYNDE, before they went from obscurity into the respective arms of The DAMNED and The PRETENDERS.
Between May 1974 and early 1975, the pioneering punk group played under various guises; the 5 Arrogant Superstars, Assault And Buggery and The Genetic Breakdown, were just a handful of the monikers chosen until JOHNNY MOPED popped up. Referred to as a pub-rock outfit at this stage, Ray Burns (aka CAPTAIN SENSIBLE) subsequently bailed to join Messrs Rat Scabies, Dave Vanian and Brian James, though this enabled the ‘Mopeds to support The DAMNED as they made their punk breakthrough in 1976. The JOHNNY MOPED outfit, who’d featured more permanent members in the Berk boys, Dave and Fred (aka drummer Dave Batchelor and bassist Colin Mills), plus Xerxes and Sensible’s brother Phil, they’d one more choice to make when the aforementioned American journalist Hynde (from The Unusuals), was dropped after a few gigs for guitarist Slimy Toad (aka Simon – brother of PATRIK FITZGERALD); Phil and Xerxes/John Skinner were then surplus to requirements, although the latter turned up on post-split records.
As 1976 unfolded into ’77, JOHNNY MOPED were finding acceptance among the punk elite far more responsive, to which they played at The Roxy venue; their original (very rough!) version of `Hard Lovin’ Man’ was one of the highlights on the infamous V/A concert album, `The Roxy WC2’. Moronic punk ’n’ roll fusing future Chiswick label mates MOTORHEAD with the manic humour of JOHN OTWAY, the latter track was a pogo-floor favourite at many a punk disco. The aforementioned London independent imprint were either brave or stupid enough to give the band a break; releasing their semi-classic debut single, `No One’ (b/w `Incendiary Device’), late that summer.
Romantically inclined, or at least in their own minds, JM delivered their somewhat mellower follow-up, `Darling, Let’s Have Another Baby’, a taster from their retrospectively-feted debut long-player CYCLEDELIC (1978) {*8}. The collection featured the group’s inimitable interpretation of CHUCK BERRY’s R&B gem `Little Queenie’, a laugh-a-minute for those with a sense of humour, sacrilege for anyone over 40 (at the time!). Fast and furious for the most part, `VD Boiler’, `Panic Button’ (complete with intro burp!) and `Make Trouble’, had equal gob’n’roll effect.
However, nutty boy Halford dismounted his JOHNNY MOPED and subsequently quit the music scene altogether; Dave joined The DAMNED, to deputise for Rat Scabies on tour (he later formed wee groups Fish and King); Slimy Toad (as SLIME) issued a single in 1978 entitled `Controversial’; Fred/Colin Mills committed suicide some time in the 80s.
In 1990, when the outfit played live again, JOHNNY MOPED released a comeback LP (with songs penned in 1978): THE SEARCH FOR XERXES (1991) {*5}. Featuring Halford, Slimy, Dave and the re-introduction of the Captain, it was good for former fans if nothing else; there was a cover of EDDIE COCHRAN’s `Cut Across Shorty!’.
Just how much the group were missed was apparent after the band’s documentary, Basically, Johnny Moped, an insight into the antics of Halford and Co (produced by Dave Berk) that was premiered in 2013. Back from the brink of cult obscurity when Damaged Goods Records gave them a third chance a few years on, preview 7-inch singles – `Ain’t No Rock’n’Roll Rookie’ and `Real Cool Baby’ – peppered the long-awaited “comeback” set, IT’S A REAL COOL BABY (2016) {*6}. The band, now consisting of Halford, Slimy Toad, Dave Berk, second guitarist Rob “Rock‘n’Roll Robot” Brook and bassist Jacko Pistorious (giving his own “weather report”), JOHNNY MOPED were sticking it in our lug-holes as if ’77 was only just yesterday. Dressed in leather-studded jacket on the cover shot (as on stage supporting The DAMNED), a hefty 60-something Halford looked as lost and rebellious as in his heyday; further tracks `Bert Bullethead’, `Everything Is You’ and `Post Apocalyptic Love Song’ hopefully proved the ‘Mopeds might be just getting into gear.
© MC Strong 1999-2003/GRD series // rev-up MCS Mar2016

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