Johnny Moped celebrates his 70th with a sensational London gig

The Mopeds put on a tremendous show for their leader's Birthday, with superb guests!

London had several Punktastic shows to choose from on Saturday 18th November – The Rezillos with The Professionals were in town, as were The Members supported by Eddie Roxy & the Adjacent Kings; but there was no way I could miss Johnny Moped supported by Charlie Harper (UK Subs), Monty Oxymoron (The Damned), and WitchDoktors, to celebrate Johnny’s 70 years on the planet!

Johnny Moped have been playing since 1974. They formed in Croydon, South London and once had Captain Sensible (later of The Damned) and Chrissie Hynde (later of The Pretenders) as members. The present band are fronted by original singer Johnny Moped (real name Paul Halford), with long term guitarist Slimy Toad (aka Simon Fitzgerald) and bassist Jacko Pistorious, plus Rob Brook (guitar) and Martin Parrott (drums), originally from CASE.

The evening began in the nearby pub, where fans and Moped musicians convened for a pre-gig drink or two. The band members are cheerful, friendly down-to-earth chaps, happy to engage with all comers. The spirit of Punk personified! Heading to the 229 Venue at 7.30pm we discovered a large queue outside the door (supposedly to have opened at 7pm) which annoyed those of us who wanted to see the WitchDoktors set. Fortunately we were eventually allowed to enter slowly.. and I only missed their first song..

WitchDoktors - photo by Ruth Rae

The musical force that is WitchDoktors have been busy writing new material, so they’ve been a bit quieter on the gigging front this year. That didn’t stop them from working their magic to open the evening in glorious style! Singer / guitartist Andy Last was his usual powerful self, despite a head cold, (they don’t call him ‘Planet Andy’ for nothing!), Tony Major (lead guitar) and Lee Page (bass) shredding out the riffs either side of him, with Joe Colfar (Drums) keeping it lively at the back.

Their music has to be heard to be fully described – there’s a bit of everything in there, from the Rock ‘n’ Roll ‘New Set of Wheels‘ to the Rockbilly ‘Voodoo Eye‘ to the Punk ‘No Pain No Gain‘, with a bit of Reggae in their forthcoming new single ‘Spanner in the Works‘.  This will be a double A side with another song we were treated to tonight ‘Before the War‘. Look out for a Punktuation review of WitchDoktors new album, coming out next year!

Andy - WitchDoktors
Andy - WitchDoktors © Ruth Rae
Tony - WitchDoktors
Tony - WitchDoktors © Ruth Rae

After a short interval, the UK Subs legendary frontman Charlie Harper took his seat on the stage, acoustic guitar in hand with a harmonica braced around his neck. Having seen Charlie play acousic sets at Rebellion Festival I knew what to expect; some of the crowd around me hadn’t, and were muttering that it seemed more like Bob Dylan..

Charlie is a consumate entertainer, and soon won the audience over with his acoustic renditions of classic Subs material. The loud cheers and applause, and “We love you, Charlie”s a testament to how much this man is appreciated in the punk community. Participation was encouraged to ‘Warhead‘, most of the 500 strong crowd heartily joined in! Afterwards Charlie told me he wasn’t happy with his sound – the man is such a perfectionist – but I told him it sounded great out in the hall and how much everyone was cheering!

Charlie Harper - photo by Andy Rotherham
Huge crowd at Johnny Moped 70th Birthday
Huge crowd at Johnny Moped's 70th Birthday - photo by Ruth Rae

Another short break, then Monty Oxymoron (real name Laurence Burrow) bounded onto the stage for his set. I wasn’t sure what we were going to hear – knowing Monty it could have been a 30 minute Prog solo! Admittedly there was a bit of that, yet the complexity and breadth of musical styles running through his head and fingers into the keys was both unique and impressive. His interpretive version of The Damned’s ‘Melody Lee‘ was certainly interesting!

Monty explained that each piece of tonight’s musical performance was very much a one-off. Not being one for timekeeping, in the end the sound desk cut the power to his keyboard to tell him it was time to finish.. We love your spirit Monty!

Monty Oxymoron - Johnny Moped 70th Birthday
Monty Oxymoron - photo by Ruth Rae

Finally it was time for the Birthday Boy and his band to take to the stage. Johnny had told me he’d be wearing something different from his customary black leather jacket, and he appeared in a fabulous, brilliantly coloured custom made jacket! Launching straight into ‘Catatonic‘, the Mopeds loyal followers pressed forward, and so began a set filled with favourites old and new.

Guitarist Rob asked Johnny if he had a mace backstage “To make people dance“, but it wasn’t needed, the Mopeds’ music is danceable, moshable, jump around to old skool Punk! If you’re wondering why Paul became Johnny Moped, he expained to us mid-set “Captain Sensible started calling me that, but he got it back when Larry Wallis from The Pink Faries started calling him Captain Sensible later!

Johnny Moped - full band - 70th Birthday
Johnny Moped - photo by Ruth Rae

The atmosphere inside the 229 was one of the best I’ve experienced – yes it was a large crowd, yes there was a mosh pit, but everyone was in a buoyant and celebratory mood. Many of us were enjoying seeing a lot of our friends together in one place, and the friendly air suffused the crowd. On stage, it was clear that the band were enjoying themselves as much as we were, with frequent grins passing between them and out towards us!

New single ‘Lockdown Boy‘ went down very well indeed with the audience – and a limited edition red vinyl 7″ was available for us to purchase exculsively on the night. There is also a limited release on blue vinyl, available from HERE

Hundreds of voices lifted the roof when ‘Darling, Let’s Have Another Baby‘ and ‘Ain’t No Rock ‘n’ Roll Rookie‘ were played. Calls from the band for Monty to return to the stage went unheeded, but a search party tracked him down, and he joined the Mopeds for their last few numbers.

Having added live keyboards on  the riotous Rock ‘n’ Roll song ‘Little Queenie‘ was a treat! Shanne Bradley (The Nipple Erectors / The Men They Couldn’t Hang) brought a can of beer with a lit sparkler inside it to present to Johnny, then we all sang him ‘Happy Birthday’, before Shanne joined in for their final song.

I can’t think of a better way to have celebrated Johnny’s 70th Birthday!

Johnny Moped © Andy Rotherham
Back of Johnny's custom made Birthday jacket © Ruth Rae
Set List - Johnny Moped 70th Birthday gig
Johnny Moped set list - courtesy of Martin Parrott

Main Photo – guitarist Rob shares a joke with Johnny Moped – Credit: RUTH RAE

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