Punk veterans Johnny Moped to play at Undercover Festival

WHEN the legends of punk rock are recalled, a name that often gets forgotten is Johnny Moped.

But the band formed in Croydon in 1974 were one of the originals, playing regularly at the legendary Roxy Club in Covent Garden and appearing on the classic 1977 album, Live at the Roxy, alongside Buzzcocks, Eater, The Adverts, X-Ray Spex, The Damned and Slaughter and the Dogs.

Johnny Moped are playing at Woking’s Undercover Festival in March

With so few of those bands still playing, Johnny Moped provide a rare chance to see genuine punk veterans in action. Still led by singer Paul Halford, aka Johnny himself, they’re coming to Woking in March.

The current line-up includes long-time members guitarist Slimey Toad, bassist Jacko Pistorius, drummer Marty Love and second guitarist the Rock and Roll Robot.

“To be in the Mopeds you have to have a silly name,” says Rob Brook. “Slimey Toad called me Rock and Roll Robot. I don’t know why he calls me that, maybe he thinks I play like a robot.”

Rob knew the other members growing up in Croydon but didn’t join the band until 1991, saying: “It’s 28 years, but I’m still the new guy.

“I never saw the original band, as I was only about 11 when they formed. But I’ve known them all for years. It wasn’t really even a conscious decision to join, I played with them and then just hung around after that.”

Johnny Moped released a string of singles like No One, Darling Let’s Have Another Baby and Little Queenie at the height of punk, along with the 1978 album, Cycledelic. There was then a gap until 1991 when The Search For Xerxes came out followed by It’s A Real Cool Baby in 2016 and last year’s Lurrigate Your Mind.

Despite their longevity, the Mopeds have managed to avoid major success – even once dismissed as “moronic punk ’n’ roll”.

Rob thinks it’s down to luck. The band featured Ray Burns (Captain Sensible) in the original line-up, but he left to join The Damned as punk exploded, and Chrissie Hynde appeared with the Mopeds at the Roxy before going on to front The Pretenders.

“There’s some old footage on YouTube of her singing at the Roxy,” says Rob. “But apparently Johnny asked her to leave because Toad didn’t want two guitarists in the band… but now we have two.”

The bad luck continued when the band was revived in 1991 as the Johnny Moped Big Band.

“When the second album came out we played three or four dates,” explains the current second guitarist. “At one of them, Kirsty McColl jumped on stage with us and someone was filming the gig from the balcony. In the film Johnny says ‘Welcome to Kirsty McColl’ and then the batteries went. The film then comes back just as he says ‘Thank you very much’.”

Having a legendary punk name does not pay the bills and Rob admits: “Johnny is probably the only professional in the band. Toad picks up wood and recycles it, I do a bit of ‘electrickery’, Pistorius packs meals and Marty sells toilets. We do live a very glamorous lifestyle!

“I got a royalties cheque through last week, for £3.67. I don’t know what I’m going to spend it on. I also get statements from our record label, Damaged Goods, every six months for about 3p. It’s unbelievable.

“If we were in it to make money we wouldn’t do it at all. But we’re going to play in Europe this year and, of course, play at Undercover in Woking.

“We still play some of the old songs from the Roxy days. We have quite a few to pick from now but we still love the old ones. We’ll definitely play some stuff from Cycledelic at the festival in Woking.”

And Johnny Moped will carry on – despite the lack of major success.

“I think it’s just John, we love playing with him and he loves it, so why not?” says Rob. Why not indeed.

Johnny Moped will play on Saturday 7 March at the Undercover Festival at Woking’s Fiery Bird. The event runs on Friday 6 March and Saturday 7 March, with acts including Subhumanz, Roddy Radiation and the Skabilly Rebels, Menace, Chelsea, XSLF and Radical Dance Faction.

Punk band 999 have had to pull out for personal reasons and will be replaced by The Hot Rods.

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