JOHNNY MOPED were one of the pioneering punk bands that played in the first few months of the burgeoning new music scene of the late 70's. Although they never went on to any great critical acclaim, they shared the stage with many of the bands that were to change the face of the British music scene forever. They also produced one of the great eccentrics of UK music in Captain Sensible and for a very brief period had Chrissie Hynde (later of the Pretenders) as a member.

By 1978 however, after an intense year of activity and with the band completing their first debut record, lead singer Johnny Moped - who had recently married - started to become evasive, as his mother-in-law exerted pressure on him to leave the group. “In the end we had to basically kidnap him every time we had a gig or needed to record!’ said Dave Berk, the band's drummer.

Hopefully the band will finally receive some well deserved recognition as, on September 19, Koko's in London plays host to a premier of the film "Basically, Johnny Moped". Described as a funny and often moving, it is the story of JOHNNY MOPED, punk rock's great lost band!

To coincide with the event those fine people at Damaged Goods Records have reissued JOHNNY MOPED BOOTLEG TAPES (Volumes 1 and 2). A 26 track CD (or limited edition double vinyl album) it contains all the tracks from the original Johnny Moped Bootleg cassette that the band used to sell at their gigs in 1976/77. Additionally you get songs from the 7” single that originally came free with their debut album, supplemented by early bedroom recordings, studio out-takes and live numbers. What it sounds like is another thing all together, as to call it eclectic doesn't do it justice!

Including the intro, there are several spoken word tracks ranging from Johnny given instructions how to start a moped (literally), a Captain Sensible phone call from Santa Monica, an interview on Radio Leeds and the Captain interrogating Johnny in a pub over the whereabouts of his underpants!

That aside there is plenty of music for the uninitiated, with several rough demo cuts of tracks - Groovy Ruby, Wee-Wee and Little Queenie - that would later turn up on their debut album. They also do a trio of covers in Johnny's own unique way with Something Else, Ruby Don't Take Your Love to Town and the Damned's New Rose, the latter being a live version from a Moped gig after Sensible had left the band.

Whilst predominantly a rock/punk sounding album (Hard Lovin' Man, Hellrazor, I Wanna Die, I Believed Her Lies, Save The Baby Seals and Incendiary Device) the band are prepared to throw in a few curve balls. The Wolf and Dracula, These Students and You Out There all sounding not unlike the soundtrack to a late 60's psychedelic acid trip. Hi Tomcats is a forerunner for the sound of Ian Dury & the Blockheads, whilst I am Zombie recalls the Clash in dub mode (although I doubt Joe Strummer would have used the spoken intro about traffic bollards and skunks!). Equally bizarrely, Cut Across Shorty is an out and out Country and Western song. Listeners with tinnitus however should take note that several tracks are sung by Moped in a ear shattering falsetto voice.

So a veritable aural smorgasbord of an album with different styles and sound, some rank amateurish whilst other are consummately professional. And perhaps there's the rub. Punk is now defined by a specific type of music and finds itself in a musical straightjacket, largely of its own making. Johnny Moped were from a time when punk had no boundaries and virtually anything was acceptable. Whilst I'm sure this CD may not be to everyone's taste, it stands as testament to the punk bands of the 70's that did not find fame and fortune.

I leave the last word to drummer Dave Berk when talking about their eccentric lead singer. Perhaps this more than anything gives the real reason why Johnny Moped remained unheralded, but still retained the true punk ethic:

At the Roundhouse gig in 1978, where Chiswick records had hired the Manor mobile to make a live recording, Johnny was a "no show". Fifteen minutes before we are due on stage we get a call from the front door security saying there was someone trying to get in, but had no money, claiming to be Johnny Moped. Yep, it was him!!