The band members grew up in a part of London's East End known as West Ham, a gritty area on the River Thames that once was the center of Britain's shipping industry. West Ham was all but completely devastated by German bombs during World War II and the families who rebuilt the place were known for their toughness.
The shipping industry, which didn't peter out completely until the 1970s, brought with it a rogue's gallery of thugs, criminals and assorted don't-mess-with-me types. For teenagers in the 70's then, like the members of The Cockney Rejects, West Ham was a place to escape from and music offered a rare chance to get away from the violence.
The film begins with band members revisiting their old neighborhood, reminiscing about what happened at this place or that, and about 20-minutes into East End Babylon the subject turns to music.
Inspired by The Sex Pistols, would-be guitarist Mick Geggus and would-be singer Jeff Turner decide they're going to form a band, even though they really can't sing or play. Some fast talking leads to a recording session even though the band has not yet played a gig and they don't have a drummer, saying upon arrival at the studio that their drummer was unable to play because he had been injured in a car crash.
A combination of budding talent, strong desire and a little luck (and the fact that this was the anything-goes punk era) puts the band on the fast track and the rest of the film chronicles the intertwining of personal lives with the making of hit singles and extensive touring of the U.K., including an ill-fated and extremely violent show in Birmingham that nearly caused the band to call it a day.
Neo-Nazis in London were also causing problems for The Cockney Rejects and other punk bands; they would attend shows not for the music but for an opportunity to start fights and create mayhem. During the '80s the band changed format from punk to hard rock but still experienced only limited success.
The years of struggle finally saw some reward when Levi's used a Cockney Rejects song in one of their TV ads, leading to a resurgence of interest in the band. The story, through interview snippets, is colorfully narrated primarily by Turner and edited with lots of fast cuts to illustrate his points. Performance snippets are here too but it is really the spoken words and the graphic visuals that make this film so riveting.
East End Babylon: The Story of the Cockney Rejects
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