The band might never have escaped from Croydon had it not been for the sudden industry thaw occasioned by The Sex Pistols. Instead, they went from sparsely attended back-garden gigs to an unlikely sort of minor celebrity, with extraordinary debut single No One only marginally upstaged by the B-side Incendiary Device (“stick it in her lughole, stick it in her other parts”).
Things would get odder still with the stoned innocence of follow-up Darling, Let’s Have Another Baby and then Cycledelic – by which time the recalcitrant singer was being kidnapped from outside his workplace in order to record his vocals.”We took his trousers away as an emergency measure,” recalled drummer Dave Berk.
Although Johnny Moped left only a small mark on the pop world, the 2013 documentary Basically, Johnny Moped (directed by Captain Sensible’s son, Fred Burns) was spoiled for choice when it came to subplots: the Erik Satie pretensions, alcoholism and suicide of bassist Fred Berk; the impact Johnny Moped had on Chrissie Hynde; and the curious Romeo and Juliet story of the singer and his on-off girlfriend (and eventually wife) Brenda – 20 years his senior.
Within days of seeing the photo on the sleeve of the band’s perverse 1978 album Cycledelic, the local Hells Angels chapter sent an emissary to the house of Paul Halford (aka Johnny Moped himself), insisting that the singer cover up his unauthorised ‘Hells Angels, Croydon’ tattoo or lose his arm. Thus, he and his teenage girlfriend were compelled to spend their last £5 to get a local tattooist to crudely superimpose a dismal green parrot over the offending inkwork.
Paul Halford (Johnny Moped)