Basically, Johnny Moped


Heavenly Films and Dartmouth Films have announced details of the release of Basically, Johnny Moped, a documentary by director Fred Burns charting the story of one of punk’s most idiosyncratic talents.

The film receives its premier at London’s Koko on Thursday 19th September 2013, where the band will also be playing live, before going on general release in Playhouse cinemas across the U.K. from early October.

Tickets for the premier are priced at £17 and are available via

One of U.K. music's great-lost treasures, fans and former band members tell the story in this funny and often moving account. A trailer for the film can be viewed here:

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.

‘When I first met Johnny,’ Captain Sensible - the band’s original guitarist - says, ‘I just thought, this guy is a bundle of frenetic energy; he’s a megastar waiting to happen.’

By 1978, after an intense year of activity, the band were completing their first record with Chiswick Records and things were looking promising. But whilst adding the final touches to the record, Johnny - 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 bands drummer.

Despite being able to count both Chrissie Hynde and Captain Sensible as past members, success was not to come their way and Johnny Moped are now largely forgotten - punk rock’s great lost band!


Johnny Moped – Current Lead Singer: Describing himself as being 82% mentally disabled, Johnny (AKA Paul Halford) was front man and namesake of the band Johnny Moped. Having been recently sacked from his job as a shelf stacker in Asda - for allegedly stealing a block of cheese - Johnny (60) is now the full time carer of his wife Brenda (20 years his senior).

Chrissie Hynde - Ex Guitarist: The legendary lead singer and founder of The Pretenders actually began her musical career as guitarist with the 'Mopeds', and was even sacked from the band twice!

Captain Sensible - Ex Guitarist: The iconic Damned guitarist was another original member of the band and was always a force promoting them, giving them their first shows supporting his next band The Damned and even helped secure their first record deal. When I first met Johnny,’ Captain says, ‘I just thought, this guy is a bundle of frenetic energy; he’s a megastar waiting to happen.’

Shane MacGowan – Fan: The notorious Pogues frontman, Shane MacGowan was and still is a big fan of Johnny Moped and supported them on numerous occasions with his punk band The Nips. Shane says about them ‘all the gigs were amazing, they were the most exciting band since the Pistols, The Damned and The Clash’.

Slimy Toad – Current Guitarist: Captain Sensible's replacement, Toad is known for wearing a sieve or police helmet on his head. He ended up writing their best loved, and most controversial song 'Incendiary Device'.

Dave Berk – Current Drummer: A member of the band from the very beginning in 1970 to the current day, Dave is still the driving force of the band, not only organising gigs and rehearsals but also the keeper of the band's archive.

Other interviewees include:

Billy Childish (Artist / Musician), 
Don Letts (DJ / filmmaker), Xerxes aka John (Original Member - Saxophone), Roger Armstrong (Label Boss / Producer), Tony Robinson (Tour Manager),
Andy Cz (Club Owner - The Roxy), Brenda (Johnny's Current Wife), Shanne Bradley (The Nips), Kay Byatt (Johnny’s Ex Girlfriend).


Fred Burns ( – Director / Producer / Camera / Editor

Fred is drawn to subjects that arise in cultural phenomena and the personal stories behind them. His main area of curiosity is in home movies and photography, why we feel the need to document our lives and the impact doing so has on us. He collects other peoples' home movies, which always brings up the question, ‘who are these people and how the hell did these films end up here?’. He is trying not to buy any more until he has a bigger place to live.

His graduation film Forget Cassettes?, is a homage to the audio-cassette. Through peoples' personal anecdotes, the film tells the story of a format that had become redundant but which has re-emerged as a nostalgic icon. It premiered at the 2008 London Short Film Festival.

Through the lives of several dedicated collectors and the personal missions they’ve given themselves, his second film, The Collectors, explores why 50% of us collect objects. It premiered at Open City Documentary Festival 2011.

Paul Kelly – Associate Producer / Assistant Editor

Paul has been a regular collaborator with the band Saint Etienne, co-directing (with Kieran Evans) the feature length documentary Finisterre in 2003. He has since made several other films with the band including What Have You Done Today, Mervyn Day? (2005) and This Is Tomorrow (2007) His most recent documentary about former Felt and Denim front man entitled Lawrence Of Belgravia premiered at the 2011 London Film Festival.

Martin Kelly (Heavenly Films) – Executive Producer

As MD of Heavenly Records and manager of Saint Etienne, Martin was involved in the production of the band's three feature length documentaries. In autumn 2010 he set up Heavenly Films with the intention of producing a series of new music related documentary films, including Lawrence Of Belgravia (2011) and LDN (in production).

Christopher Hird (Dartmouth Films - – Executive Producer

Christopher Hird is the founder of Dartmouth Films, one of UK's leading producers of independent documentaries and pioneers of new funding and distribution models. His recent credits include the BAFTA nominated McCullin (2012), the Sundance selected Fire in the Blood (2012), which premiered at Sheffield last year, The Flaw (2011) and The End of the Line (2009). 


‘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’ deathhead 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 unraveled 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.”

“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.”


Back to blog