East End Babylon:The Story of the Cockney Rejects : DVD

Feb 02, 2015

The Cockney Rejects held a strong fascination for me when I was a young punker in the early 1980s. Part of the reason, I reckon, is because I could find so little information about ‘em back then—they weren’t covered in U.S. papers all that much, if at all, and my steady supply of fanzines was initially limited to Flipside, and black-rhino rare issues of Generations(or at least that’s the name I remember of a short-lived tabloid-sized rag put out by the BYO folks), Zig Zag, No Mag, and MRR that happened to make its way into Montebello’s Roadhouse Records—and part of it was because what they were singing about struck a deep chord.

Sure, they hailed from London’s East End, but take away the football references and the Cockney accents and they could’ve been from the same part of East L.A. I was from, judging from all the straight talk about asshole cops, fighting, and street-level snapshots of poverty condition lives peppered across their first two albums. This film is essentially tailor-made for that kid I was, and the history-obsessed adult I’ve become.

The core story recounted here is that of the band—a cabal of street rats mostly too young to even vote in the U.S. who put out a remarkable slew of hard-edged and humorous tunes over a scant few years before joining the lamentable slog of punk bands flexing their inner metal musings—but director Richard England prudently weaves their tale into both nearly a hundred years of the East End itself and the family history of main protagonists (and brothers) Jeff “Stinky” Turner and Mick Geggus.

The film follows the full arc of both band and brothers—early success, their disillusion with punk, the metal years, the band’s dissolution, Stinky’s turn as a boxer, and the band’s rebirth and resurgent popularity—along with bits about the football fanaticism to which the band was tied; the early oi movement woefully disserviced by Britain’s creepy, caustic tabloids; and the greater world in which the band was distilled.

The editing is tight, and the visuals are peppered with lots of historical footage and photos of both the band and the East End itself and limits the number of “talking heads” seen throughout; never a bad thing. This is a veritable cornucopia of awesomeness for the fan, but, more importantly, it is a film that has been executed in such a way that the most casual viewer who’s never heard of the Rejects would likely find something of interest to glom onto if they happened on it while flipping through the channels some late evening. –Jimmy Alvarado (Cadiz Music, cadizmusic.co.uk)