‘Basically, Johnny Moped’ – new film biopic that recall’s a punk pioneer…

‘Basically, Johnny Moped’ – new film biopic that recall’s a punk pioneer…

Film maker Fred Burns recently completed a new film biopic ‘Basically, Johnny Moped’; the film gained its international premiere at the Sheffield Doc/Fest, Burns is now seeking a wider film release and is looking for support from the public – to help raise funds for a national release a range of exclusive Johnny Moped merchandise has been produced; Signed CDs, T-shirts, DVDs, original Barney Bubbles artwork and more can be purchased via this Basically Johnny Moped online shop that went live today – The DVDs and Barney Bubbles t-shirts are flying off the shelves, so get in there quick!

Burns had this to say about the project;

‘Basically, Johnny Moped’ has been quite autobiographical for me. My dad is Captain Sensible, who started his musical career in the Johnny Moped band, and, although I didn’t realise this until recently, he has championed them since leaving the band for The Damned.

I started to get a sense of this when my dad took my brother and me to watch Crystal Palace, the football team he supports, in 2009. This usually involved meeting his old chums in the pub before and after the game, and this time Johnny Moped showed up. I couldn’t remember ever meeting or even hearing about him before and I became intrigued by the amount of anecdotes they had about his legendary past.

One story stood out for me at the time. It was about the tattoo he got on his left arm in 1974 of the Hells Angels’ death-head logo with ‘Hells Angels Croydon’ written above it. Having never actually owned a motorbike or been a member of the notorious biker gang, he was still happy for people to see it and had the tattoo visible at gigs and on the band’s album sleeve. By 1978 Hells Angels had started coming to gigs and threatening to cut it off. Eventually, to avoid, as he puts it, ‘having [his] arm carved up like a Sunday joint’, he got his then current girlfriend to take him to a tattoo parlour to get it covered over. They only had a fiver between them so the tattooist said he’d see what he could do. Johnny ended up with what he calls a ‘bald headed eagle with shooting stars’ but what his ex describes as a ‘Parakeet’.

I started making this film with the intention of capturing a couple of the stories and making a short film out of them. As their history unravelled I found out that the band’s biography reached much further than I had imagined and that there exists amazing archive to go with that.

I couldn’t believe that this band who had been written out of history and seemed like a joke from the anecdotes I’d heard had actually been at the heart of one of the most important cultural movements the UK has ever experienced with famous fans and former members and an album that at the time received 5 star reviews by the UK’s mainstream music press.

‘Basically, Johnny Moped’ – new film biopic that recall’s a punk pioneer…

Everyone I’ve met making this film have a lot of affection for Johnny and the band. Shane MacGowan absolutely loved the band and is still a huge fan of theirs. When interviewed he sang their songs remembering all the lyrics, and still moaned about why they should have made it. I also met Chrissie Hynde who, before finding stardom with The Pretenders, was a member of the Mopeds. Even though they fired her twice, she was lovely, and revealed that it was a very important period in her development as a songwriter.

Researching the history of the band has been more like delving into my own family history and it seems like I’ve picked up the mantel that my dad has left me. He has been trying to make Johnny a star since he first met him in 1970 and my hope is that this film puts Johnny back at the forefront of punk history, in the rightful place he deserves as the most genuinely eccentric punk rock legend who ever existed.


The film is a funny and often moving account of one of UK music’s great lost treasures. Johnny Moped were custom made for the punk movement. Formed in 1970, it took a decade for the rest to catch up. Fans and former band members including Captain Sensible and Chrissie Hynde tell the story. Formed in 1974 by a group of school friends from Croydon, Johnny Moped were the band fronted by, and named after the enigmatic Paul Halford (aka Johnny Moped). By 1977 the group found themselves at the heart of the burgeoning punk scene in London and for a brief moment even looked like contenders.

Interviewee’s include Don Letts, Johnny Moped (who describes himself as being “82% mentally disabled”, Shane MacGowan, Billy Childish, Roger Armstong and Andy Cz.

The official first public screening of the film will be at Koko, London (Thursday September 19th) followed by a live performance by the Johnny Moped band and Captain Sensible.

To buy tickets go to: www.basicallyjohnnymoped.com or www.koko.uk.com

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Phil Newall is 47, from The Wirral - he earns his living not writing about music nor playing music...though sorely wishes he could. He was fortunate enough to see many of the first generation punk bands when they played the U18's matinee shows at Eric's, Liverpool. As an attendee at Eric's he was exposed to punk rock, dub reggae, art rock, and all manner of weirdness; as a customer at Probe Records he was variously served and scowled at by Pete Wylie and Pete Burns - he has written for Record Collector, Whisperin & Hollerin, and Spiral Scratch and wanted to write a book detailing the Liverpool punk scene; however with 'Head-On' Julian Cope beat him to it...and frankly did a much better job.



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