A new documentary celebrating lost punk heroes Johnny Moped is set to premiere in London tonight (19 September). An eccentric, yet endearing tale of the Croydon band and its eponymous frontman, Basically, Johnny Moped shines a light on a neglected, yet influential corner of British music. Ahead of the screening at Camden’s KOKO – which will be followed by a live set from the band – director Fred Burns has written Q a guest column explaining why Moped and co’s story needed to be told on the big screen.
Seeing as my dad, Captain Sensible, was in a band with him for seven years and has championed him ever since, you’d probably think I would have heard of Johnny Moped before. Well no, I had never heard of him, had no idea what his music sounded like and was completely unaware of the legends that surrounding him.
In 2009 my dad took my brother and me to watch his team, Crystal Palace, play in his hometown Croydon. We didn’t do this very often and it was a kind of a reunion for my dad and his mates. We all went to the pub after the game and this is where I met Johnny Moped (see above).
He was really not a man that would grab your attention in any way. He had thick glasses, grey hair and was wearing a beige jacket, which was covering his Asda uniform (as he’d just finished work there), but this guy was the centre of attention. This was obviously someone very special from their past.
I heard how Johnny had been painted in green and jumped out of dust bins on stage, how he sported a Hells Angel‘s tattoo despite never being a member of the biker gang and how the band had to kidnap him just to get him to gigs as his mother in law wouldn’t allow him to play. There were many hilarious anecdotes to be told and I thought to myself, these need to be captured one day.
I came back to the idea a couple of years ago. As I researched the story and interviewed everyone involved I started to realise that it was much bigger than I originally thought. It became a feature film and has completely taken over my life since then.
The screening and gig at KOKO tonight is the best possible way I could ever have hoped to launch the film. In 1978, at their height of success, Johnny Moped headlined KOKO twice (known as the Music Machine back then), which makes it an accidental 35 year anniversary show too. As soon as the credits come to an end Johnny will grace the stage, transformed back into his on stage persona, with his band and my dad accompanying him once more.
For more details, including ticket news for the KOKO show, head to basicallyjohnnymoped.com.