PUNKNET 77 - Johnny Moped



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The text is taken from the booklet of The Best of Johnny Moped CD and is written by Dave Berk, original member of Johnny Moped.

Well, where to start? Let’s have a look at the ordinal album ... Oh my god! that Nuremberg rally, nothing to do with us, someone’s idea of representing Johnny preaching to the masses I think. Oh yes, and then there’s the Family Tree. I don’t know how interesting it is to wade through it all but ‘basically’ the band was originally known as Genetic Breakdown and consisted me, Johnny, Xerxes, Fred, Captain (Sensible) and Phil (Captain’s brother).

We were a strange band, rehearsing / jamming in Phil’s bedroom or my garage, and tape recording everything during the day so that we could have a few beers in evening and listen to it back. We always refused to play the same thing twice and this put quite a demand on Johnny and Xerxes to ad-lib new vocals and make up new songs every week!

We tried to find bizarre venues for listening to the tapes, the Gas Works, on top of multi-storey car parks, Gatwick Airport and I remember on one occasion we decide to simply go to the local park armed with gaz stove and some grub, but we attracted too much attention (particularly when Captain set fire to the place) and the police arrived just as we were vaulting over the fence. I was asked "Oi! Where are you going with that saucepan of baked beans?"

We were always trying to get a gig but it was hopeless so we put on a gig in my back garden and paid a couple kid to watch. But of course the big problem with the band was always Johnny’s reliability. He hardly ever turned up.

Johnny lives with Brenda, Brenda lives with Brenda’s mother and Brenda’s mother hates us, so we used to have to wait for him outside where he worked, dressed in black, wearing shades, and bundle him in the car. He usually arrived ‘Moped class’ ... in the boot. This was all very well when you only had a gig in the back garden to do but when it came to trying to form a professional band .... Anyway, Captain cut and dyed his hair and joined the Damned and we did our first few gigs supporting them (with Captain on guitar on our set as well as theirs) but it soon became obvious we needed a permanent guitarist. We has two applicants: Slimey Toad and Christly Hynde. I had played with Slimey in a band called Tor (I was the replacement drummer for Rat Scabies) and I’d also played with Christly and Fred in a band called The Unusuals. We hired them both and started gigging at the Roxy but Slimey felt Christly didn’t quite fit in: "It’s me or her" he said.

We appeared on the Roxy album, issued the infamous Official Johnny Moped Bootleg ourselves and eventually signed to Chiswick Records. Our first single was supposed to be Incendiary Device but "stick it in her lughole" didn’t go down too well with Radio 1 so we switched it to the B side and promoted No-One. Our second single Darling, Let’s Have Another Baby was issued one week, gained ‘Single of the Week’ in all 3 music paper the next week. "Let’s make the record really legendary" enthused our managers. (In fact it wasn’t deleted at all, but plugged mercilessly, but sadly still failed to chart. Croydon girl and ex-member of the Drug Addix, Kirsty McColl, did a cover version of the song in the early 90s.)

Our first album Cycedelic was a nightmare because Johnny was virtually under lock and key by this time and we only had few days to get the vocals finished. We had to drive to where he worked, spin a story about some emergency that we needed to see him about (I think it was we’d run his mother over by accident!), explain that really we just wanted a chat in the cafe about the future of the band, and once he was in the car drive non-stop to the studio. "How far is this cafe?" Johnny asked.

We got all the vocals done that day. However a few weeks later Roger Armstrong (one of the Chiswick directors) had the idea if putting a "mystery track" on the album. This originally appeared as piece of concentric tracking on the record in the same place as V.D. Boiler so that you either got V.D. Boiler or the "mystery track" depending on where the stylus landed. We had to ring Johnny at work from the studio phone for this one.

The other tracks on this album are from a live recording made at the Roundhouse and Johnny nearly didn’t get on stage that night. We couldn’t find him at all and we turned up at the venue without him, asking Xerxes to sing instead. We found Johnny with 15 mins to go, queueing up at the front entrance to get into his own gig!

Our gigs were infamous for not only Slimey Toad’s antics (performing from the top of the PA, wearing a sieve and shorts, and shaving his legs so that the gob ran down them) but also you never knew what sort of a diatribe Johnny was going to go into during the songs. You got his views on Students ("why do they eat Kentucky Fried Chicken, bar of Mint Cracknel and drink Colt 45?"), Honing a Bludgen, Moped Mechanics and, included on this CD, Starting a Moped (Johnny is actually astride a Raleigh Runabout on this track).

We weren’t always booked into the right gigs either. At the time there was a real rivalry between Heavy Metal band and Punk but that didn’t prevent our manager booking us on a tour with Motorhead. We played the Hammersmith Odeon and got booed ON. Still ... we were expecting it and invited all our friends along to the gig to join us on stage in a long line across the front and shout abuse back. We left the stage with 2.000 people chanting "Shit! Shit! Shit!"

Anyway the album came out, we did some gigs, but it was always an uphill struggle (Fred developed a drink / Depression problem as well) and we called it a day toward the end of 1978, (I joined the Damned for 3 weeks, memorable for when the Police supported us in Paris and Sting came into the dressing room and asked if he could have one of the beers on the rider. Brian James put him straight: "Fuck off and come back when you’re as famous as us!")

Just for the record there was another album issued in 1991 (in fact 1990 and it's called The Search for Xerxes - Jukka) that contained a lot of the songs we wrote in 1978 and we have done the occasional re-union gig. Recently we had the Johnny Moped Big Band at the Marquee - five guitars, bass, keyboards, two drums and three backing vocalists - only made possible because Johnny had fallen out with the mother-ini-law temporarily. After the gig we went to drop him off and he guided us to his new home on the Purley Way in Croydon "Yeah, just stop here lads, I’m in the second bush on the left" ....

Where are they now? Slimey drives trucks, Fred is deceased, Johnny makes beer pumps and I send out the gas bills.

When I was asked to write these notes I arranged to meet Johnny in the pub to get some of his recollections. He never showed

Dave Berk - July 1995

Some notes by Jukka:
Best known line up: Johnny Moped (vocals), Slimey Toad (guitar), Dave Berk (drums), Fred Berk (bass) - all additional musicals were mentioned in Dave’s article, Captain was most important of them and he also played in the 1990 LP.

Discography:

Indendiary Device / No One (Chiswick S-15) -77
Darling, Let's Have Another Baby // Something Else / It Really Digs (Chiswick NS-27) -78
Little Queenie /Hard Lovin' Man (live at Roundhouse) (Chiswick NS-41) -78
Basically the Orginal Moped Tape (7" promo-EP; Chiswick PROMO-3) -78
** LP ** Cycedelic (Chiswick WIK-8) -78
** LP ** The Search for Xerxes (Deltic Records DELT-LP6) -90
** CD ** The Best of Johnny Moped (includes all studio recording excluding The Search for Xerxes + 11 live track from Roundhouse 19.2.78) (Chiswick CDWIKD-114) -95

Most important tracks on compilations:

Chiswick Chartbusters Vol. 2: No One (Chiswick CH-5) -78
Live at Roxy: Hard Loving Man (live) (Harvest SHSP-4069) -77
Geef Voor New Wave: No One (Ariola 25541 ET) -77
Never Mind the Other Labels Here's Chiswick: ??? (10" promo; Chiswick 0900.045)
Pogo a Go-Go: Indendiary Device (cassette; NME) -86
Good Clean Fun: Groovy Ruby (live) (Chiswick CDWIKX-162) -95

Johnny Moped links:

Johnny Moped - Trouser Press
Johnny Moped: Basically : The Best Of (Chiswick)
Johnny Moped - All-Music Guide


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Created by JJu: February 6, 1996        Basically this is called ... history

Last Updated: February 3, 1999