Directed by Fred Burns
Executive Producers: Christopher Hird and Martin Kelly
Associate Producer: Paul Kelly
Review of the documentary about punk legend Johnny Moped.
Johnny Moped is a genuine punk legend- a droog mate of Captain Sensible who was the real deal in the punk rock playground and was also musically quite brilliant. His wild story is perfect film material and luckily Heavenly films have done him a real justice as Nick Brown reports…
Genius And Parakeets
What can I say. Within minutes, I’m watching the whole proceedings with a smile on my face. This smile isn’t some cracked (and empty) smile of smug satisfaction. This isn’t some exclusive ‘Yeah I know and you don’t’ shit, this is a smile of warmth and inclusion. I’m looking at an essence. I’m viewing a crucial document of punk rock.
You either know who Johnny Moped is or you don’t. This review isn’t some educational nonsense, this is about the film and the gig.
If you’re bang into the punk rock ethos or you’re marginally interested, this documentary is for you. The viewer doesn’t need an M.A. on which is the best line-up of the Damned: he or she just needs a gentle nudge toward how seriously good the edges of that time were, why it was good, and how fucking seriously dull the musical economy of the mid 70s was. A ton of spit came along, and one of those, thankfully, was Johnny Moped.
It tells the familiar formation and disintegration story of a bunch of high school kids who had a primitive nous of rock’n’roll, slashed on it with a sense of humour, and then formed a band. It spins from 1970 through to 1978, and then on to the present day.
What makes this work is the no-frills way the film is edited. It’s a labour of love, not a statement. It’s a “well, you know, that’s what we wanted to do” thing rather than a personal political missive. The story is told in sequence with an amazing amount of period, albeit overdubbed, film and photos. The footage of them playing in a back garden, and then later, at the Roxy in Covent Garden, London, is fantastic. It spikes your curiousity to wonder what else in is someones archive – maybe that’s just wishful thinking. The narrative of the film makes sense and there’s no romaticism – thank god – about how it all eventually collapses.
The sad demise of Fred Berk and the subsequent Heath-Robinson reunion is well documented and makes a lot of sense in the context of the story.
There’s some real eye-openening confessions in the the film – Hells Angels vs The Parrot etc – but you’ll come away with a new found respect for both Chrissie Hynde and Captain Sensible, why Shane McGowans interview is included is a mystery to me.
The idea of being stood in The Music Machine/The Camden Palace/Koko, or whatever you call it these days, and watching a film about Johnny Moped is an incredible thing to behold and witness. I met people who’d travelled from all over the country to see this, and to watch whilst surrounded by an audience who are vocally enjoying it all the way through is a mark of how good the film really is.
Fred Burns has done an incredible job in filming and pulling together this footage and has made a cohesive and entertaining film. A large thank you should go to Martin Kelly of Heavenly Records for his financial belief in the idea of a Johnny Moped documetary and should not go uncredited.
It finishes and the curtain rises.
The Stooges open with ‘Loose’ and so, in the same tradition, Johnny Moped open with ‘Incendiary Device’. Start as you mean to go on.
The five piece then proceeded to career through a career of great punk rock gems. What’s particularily good about this execution is that no matter how enthusiastic the band may have been in their performance, they weren’t tempted to speed up the tempo of the songs. ‘No One’ was, and is, just as powerful as it was 35 years ago. ‘Something Else’ urinates over Sids cabaret version and ‘Hard Lovin Man’ is everything you ever hoped it would be. So damn good that they played it twice. Captain Sensible joined in, musically, halfway through the show. Whilst this didn’t make much difference aurally, his enthusiasm for the occasion was fantastic. His ‘Les Dawson Does Dylan Does “Darling Let’s Have Another Baby” routine was more than entertaining – I’m sure it’ll be on youtube eventually.
To finish the evening, a snifter was required at a different drinking dump. ‘Hey,were you at the Johnny Moped show” resonated around. “Fuck, it was great”