‘Moped was enamoured with the biker thing,’ Captain Sensible explained in John Robb’s Punk Rock: An Oral History. ‘He wanted to be Johnny Harley, Johnny Vincent, Johnny Norton – some powerful bike name – but we wouldn’t let him, so we called him Johnny Moped all the time!’
Still as names go it has to be better than Slimey Toad, the band’s guitarist.
Moped remains one of the great eccentrics of the punk era, a spectacularly unreliable performer who sometimes forgot to turn up at gigs and sometimes wasn’t allowed out the house by his wife and disapproving mother-in-law (seriously). He also on occasion had to be kidnapped and forced into a recording studio and he would ask to be dropped off at a bush somewhere in Croydon post-gig where he would presumably sleep.
At different points his band contained the aforementioned Captain as well as, very briefly, Chrissie Hynde. They supported The Damned on numerous times back in the heyday of punk, played The Roxy and appeared on the Live at the Roxy WC2 compilation on Harvest Records that charted in the summer of 1977. Independent Chiswick Records signed them and they released three singles and one album, Cycledelic, before deciding to split up (for the first time).
The debut single was No-One but the flip side is the song that best encapsulates the spirit of the band. As original member Dave Berk put it in the liner booklet for The Best of Johnny Moped CD: ‘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 papers the next week.’
Critic Ira Robbins has described the music on 1978’s Cycledelic as being played by a ‘seemingly drunken bunch of grungy simpletons’, while reviewing the album for NME, Monty Smith wrote that stylistically, the band were: ‘all over the shop, ranging from the goonish anarchism of “Mystery Track/VD Boiler”, through the punky & western of “Darling”, to straight-ahead rock’n’roll (“Little Queen”) and the climactic trilogy of hooligan rock, “Wild Breed”, “Hell Razor” and “Incendiary Device”.’
If you’re looking for music that’s delivered with an unhinged machine-gun ferocity and sometimes deranged sense of humour, Johnny Moped should be for you. This is Incendiary Device:
Incendiary Device has been complied on many a punk rock compilation, most recently on 2014 Souljazz release, Punk 45 Vol.2: There Is No Such As Society, where it joined some fantastic independent singles by acts including Josef K, The Prefects, Television Personalities and The Lines. From 1978, this is The Lines with White Night:
On April 23, Johnny Moped play the Lexington in London and then on April 29, they’ll be appearing at the Prince Albert in Brighton.
For more on Johnny Moped (and the documentary on him) click here.