“Freedom? There ain’t no fucking freedom!” . . .
With that simple statement, the Cockney Rejects assault on the eardrums of the world was launched with Police Car from their debut Flares ‘n’ Slippers EP released by the independent Small Wonder label in June 1979.
Formed by London East End brothers Jeff (vocals) and Mickey Geggus (guitar), the lineup for the debut EP also included their brother-in-law Chris Murrel (bass) and drummer Paul Harvey, although both left after the single’s release to be replaced by former Sham 69 roadie Vince Riordan (bass) and Andy Scott (drums). Jeff, meanwhile, took the pseudonym ‘Stinky Turner’.
Gaining a manager in the shape of Sounds journalist Gary Bushell, the band signed to EMI in late 1979 and released the single I’m Not A Fool, which managed to hit the dizzying heights of #65 in the UK charts.
The band followed this with Bad Man (ironically, another #65) and a debut LP, cheekily titled Greatest Hits Vol 1 (which reached #22 in March 1980), sounding for all the world like The Sweet after a nasty spell in borstal . . .
By this time, the Rejects had built a loyal following attracted by the band’s football terrace-style songs with their chants and sing-along choruses.
Indeed the band’s allegiance to their beloved West Ham United often led to violence at their gigs but didn’t stop their records selling by the bucket load, as the single The Greatest Cockney Rip-off proved by reaching #21 in the national charts.
They appeared on the show again when I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles (the anthem of West Ham supporters) got to #35 in the charts.
The follow-up single, We Can Do Anything, earned the band their third #65 hit, though their second LP, Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (featuring new drummer Nigel Woolf, ex-Back To Zero) shot to #23 in the UK charts in October 1980.
At the beginning of 1981, the band replaced Woolf with ex-Angelic Upstarts drummer, Keith ‘Sticks’ Warrington.
The band were also involved at this time in a conflict with their new manager Tony Gordon, and uncertainty about the future of the band led EMI to rush-release the live Greatest Hits Vol. 3 LP and the single Easy Life. The releases flopped.
With legal and managerial problems resolved, the Rejects recorded their fourth LP, Power & The Glory, which showcased their determination to pursue a more traditional rock-based direction (with flanged guitars and proper melodies) as the single On The Streets Again demonstrated.
With neither record charting though, EMI dumped the band.
The band continued to follow their heavy rock leanings, releasing three albums (The Wild Ones, Quiet Storm and Lethal), though none of the records achieved anywhere near the success of their previous releases.
Nevertheless, the Cockney Rejects’ six hit singles and three hit albums well-and-truly earned them their place in the punk hall of fame.
Remember them this way: young, dumb and full of “c’mon you Irons”.
Jeff ‘Stinky Turner’ Geggus
Keith ‘Sticks’ Warrington