DAVE BERK of Johnny Moped
Interview by Bones, July 2012

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 the UK music scene in Captain Sensible and for a very brief period had Chrissie Hynde (later of the Pretenders) as a member.

I recently got a chance to talk to their drummer DAVE BERK about his recollections of the times, his continuing friendship with Captain Sensible, why Chrissie Hynde was deemed surplus to requirements and how he still keeps his hand in with Johnny Moped, the Damned and several other bands.

Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans

How did you first get into music?
My mum bought me a drum kit - didn't want it - put it in the garage for 2 years, then met up with Captain Sensible's brother who was forming a band and needed a drummer. A drum kit was more important than ability!

Had you been in any other bands before Johnny Moped?
No, but plenty since:
- The Unusuals (with Chrissie Hynde and Fred Berk)
- The Upset (with Archie Brown, later of Archie Brown and the Young Bucks and Rolo, later of the Woodentops). A single exists.
- The Polo Club (including Peter Fenton from Siouxsie & the Banshees' first album)
- Pink Parts (including Martin Stone from the Pink Fairies)
- Jaine Aire and the Belvederes
- King (with Captain Sensible, Henry Badowski and Kim Bradshaw from the Saints). A recording of our John Peel session exists.
- Small Hours (track on Mods Mayday album), managed by Seb Shelton from Dexys Midnight Runners.
- Kirsty Macoll (only played on demos, but Lu Edmunds of Public Image Limited and the Damned was in the band).
- Glory (won a Mirror-Marquee competition. Got signed to Billy Gaff. Spent £200,000 in 2 years and did nothing)
- Henry Badowski (solo album and 2 singles)
Others: Raw-Ho!, Swineherd, Clockhouse and Tor. The latter was a band Rat Scabies (later of the Damned) was in in 1975. I replaced him. Also in the band was Slimey Toad who replaced Captain Sensible in Johnny Moped.

Johnny Moped originally started in 1974. Who was in the original line up and how did you get together?
There was Johnny Moped, Verxes, Captain Sensible, Fred Berk, Phil and me. I sat next to Phil at school. Fred sat in front. Captain Sensible was Phil's brother. Johnny and Fred were the only ones with any talent!

The antics of singer Johnny Moped himself are legendary. Are there any particular events that stand out in your mind?
A couple. The Roundhouse gig in 1978, where Chiswick records had hired the Manor mobile to make a live recording and 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!!
Later on we took him back to Croydon, not knowing where he was staying. "Just drop me at that bush over there" he says!. He had been locked out of the house by his mother-in-law for daring to attend the gig!

And what about the exploits of the bands other eccentric member, Captain Sensible?

Streaking down Thornton Heath high street? Smashing up a guitar at a concert in my back garden with no audience?? Gawd...I don't know...he's probably long since surpassed any antics I can think of!

In 1977 the band played, what would turn out to be the legendary epicentre of the London punk scene, the Roxy club in Covent Garden. What are your recollections of that time and were you aware of the musical revolution that you were part of?

I think it's amazing how few people there were there (take a look at the footage from that time, it isn't packed), but yes a trendy place to be. I was introduced to Sid Vicious at the bar and he asked me to join a band with him "but you can't use any cymbals" he said!....I passed. The stage was downstairs, bar upstairs.
People forget the rivalry between punks and Teds. We came out one night, all piled into the Morris Traveller and a huge fight started, spanning the entire street with us in the middle! Bodies, bottles and bricks landing on the car. It wouldn't start and needed cranking with a starting handle. A job for Johnny!!

Any opinions you care to share about other bands/band members around at the time? (Rotten, Strummer, Idol etc)?

Rumour has it that Chrissie Hynde (later to front the Pretenders) was briefly in Johnny Moped. How did that come about and what was she like?

Fred Berk and I were in a band with Chrissie called The Unusuals (I have a few rough recordings from rehearsals in Fred's front room). But the Johnny Moped band started getting gigs and it didn't look like The Unusuals were going anywhere, so we merged the two bands. After the first gig (at which Chrissie refused to sing because she didn't think her vocals were good enough) lead guitarist Slimey Toad said "It's me or her!". I made my choice......

(10 second clip of Johnny Moped first ever gig at the Roxy with Chrissy Hynde in the band (00:16 - 00:34) - just surfaced after 35 years!)

What caused the ultimate demise of the band?
A singer whose attendance at gigs was random and an apathetic public. I have the same problem today: Catch 22. If I could guarantee Johnny would turn up I could ask for more dosh, which would guarantee Johnny would turn up!

You went on to be in a band called King, again with Captain Sensible, but with Henry Badowski on vocals. What happened there, as the band only seemed to be around briefly?

I think that would be down to the Damned reforming as the Doomed with Captain and Henry in it. We only did a few gigs in Paris and they were so poorly attended we lost the will to carry on. The John Peel session was good though.

I know you subsequently filled in on drums with Captain Sensible's solo tour. Was this at the time of his "Happy Talk" success or later?
Slightly later in 1985. Happy Talk was in 1982 I think (Captain got to #1, Chrissie Hynde got to #1 and Seb Shelton, the manager of The Upset, got to #1 with Dexys. All in 1982! Blimey, I felt a bit left out that year!)

I think you then semi retired from the music scene. Any particular reason?
Oooo....not quite true! 1986-87 saw a concerted effort to get a band called Raw-Ho! off the ground, but to no avail. 1987-88 saw Glory win the Mirror-Marquee competition (with me in them) and a 2 year nightmare. We were signed to Billy Gaff. Not his fault, but the singer was undoubtedly the most obnoxious person I've met in my life (although there is a close second I'm not gonna name!). That experience did my head in and I went back to the day job and the occasional gig with Moped.

How did you get back into it all again?

In 1995 my interest was rekindled with Dr. Space Toad Experience, courtesy of Captain.

You now periodically deputise for the Damned's drummer Pinch, when he is unavailable. It must be great to play in front of such large and enthusiastic crowds.
I'm truly honoured to sit in. I'm not in the same league as Pinch.

The Damned remain perennial survivors and are the only one of the original "Big 3" punk bands still going. Viewing as an insider, why do you think they alone are still with us, when the Pistols and Clash long ago disbanded?
The Pistols and Clash took it too seriously!

You must be a busy man as I believe you are in two other bands, Dr Space Toad Experience (again with Captain Sensible) and your own band the Dave Berk 5. What kind of music do both bands play and are there any plans to release recordings with either?
I am in the process of recording with both bands but progress is slow.

I know you are good mates with Captain Sensible. So what's he really like?

Finally, you must be proud that Johnny Moped's only long player "Cycledelic" was named one of the 50 best punk albums of all time by the Guiness Book of Popular Music. How do you view it all looking back?
Could've made a better job of it, but equally it might never of happened. Never liked the sound quality on that record, but it is what it is.

Cheers Dave. Is there anything else you'd like to say?
Nope. You must be bored senseless by now!


wers to questions...It's never about looking forward to it. Actually maybe I should change the
script, maybe we are looeir musicm the 3rd album?