A chat with Mods and Rockers Johnny Warman

Published on:
Wednesday 9th May 2018

Johnny has written, performed and recorded with Ringo Starr, Peter Gabriel, Asia, House of Lords, XTC, Starship, Cheap Trick and many more! 

A chat with Johnny Warman – Mods and Rocks Show

Johnny Warman’s Magic Bus

Growing up in the East End of London in the Sixties was so exciting as my first introduction to music was so extraordinary. I was walking back home with my mum's words ringing in my ears "Come straight home and do not stray". As I was walking past another school I heard a sound that pulled me like a lemming… I cannot describe the feeling but I ended up standing in front of a Red Dansette Record Player on a table with an EP Cover. I stood there transfixed, I had never heard anything like it before. The song playing was "Love me do" by The Beatles. Strangely, I don’t remember how I got home. It was such a strange experience that I have never forgotten. 

At school I was in the Choir, I really loved to sing. One-day people came to listen to us, next thing we were rehearsing for two Operas at The Royal Opera House Covent Garden alongside the greatest Diva the World at that time had ever Known "Maria Callas" and "Tito Gobbi". I remember standing on stage looking out at the Royal Box which was covered in Red Roses for a Command Performance and thinking to myself "I love this; I think I would like to do this one day".

My family were really poor but it was never hard as we were always happy together. One day the next door neighbour asked my mum if I would like to go and see The Beatles at The Finsbury Park Astoria as they had a spare ticket, and on that bill, I remember Cilla Black The Foremost Barron Knights and Rolf Harris. It was just amazingly exciting, I had never witnessed anything like it. The atmosphere was sheer craziness with girls screaming and jumping over seats, the noise was overwhelming but I distinctly remember seeing The Beatles through little cracks in the body shapes and I saw all 4 of them. I think I was in shock when I got home but that day changed my life. I started to learn the guitar 2 or 3 years later and by the time I was 19 I joined my one and only band "Bearded Lady". We started gigging everywhere and within 3 years we started to play at The Marquee in Wardour Street.

My uncle introduced me to Laurie O'Leary the manager of The Speakeasy and in 1973 I spent 3 hours in the company of David Bowie. We laughed and talked about music and we danced together, he was so helpful. Whilst David Bowie and I were chatting, the DJ played Jean Jeanie. I turned and said to Bowie "What are you going to do now Dave, get up on the table?" and he turned and said "No this is where I take my leave John". We smiled and he was gone.

Now Bearded Lady were making a name for ourselves, Mickey Most came and watched us on 3 occasions and tried to sign us. Sadly, we had real fools who were looking after us and they held us back from that opportunity.

We followed The Beatles into Germany playing in Frankfurt and Munich, but times were changing and Punk was beckoning. The guys in my band could not see that they had a 5-year jump on this movement so they all turned it in. 

Now a Solo artist I touted my music around and eventually, my music was presented to Ringo Starr, he loved it and I was signed to Ring 'O Records in 1977. I made my first album where John Lennon recorded Imagine at Tittenhurst Park. When I arrived at The Studio I walked down the wibbly wobbly way and found myself at the Front door. On the left-hand side there were the original busts that are on the Sergeant Peppers Album Cover and a crushed Bentley that belonged to John Lennon. Above the door was a glass with "This is not here" engraved on the glass which was one of Yoko Ono's original works, I was consumed by the whole experience. About a month after I got signed, myself and Ringo had a jam together which saw Ringo on drums and myself on the very guitar that Marc Bolan had given Ringo, and it was great!  A young 13-year-old Zak Starkey would sit in and listen to some of the sessions, we are still great friends. In 1992 I wrote 4 songs with Ringo in the South of France and they would appear on Ringos Time Takes Time CD and I would open 2 Shows for him at The Liverpool Empire and The Hammersmith Odeon.

I later went on to sign to Elton Johns Rocket Records and make my first album for them called "Walking into Mirrors" and one of the songs ‘Screaming Jets’ featuring Peter Gabriel would get to number 9 in the Australian Top Ten.

Johnny Warman x

Book to see Johnny Warman’s Mods and Rockers Show, coming to Weymouth Pavilion Saturday 26 May https://goo.gl/H6jNiD- 01305 783 225