From Sign of the Times ‘zine, Liverpool, 1982
From Sounds, March 8th, 1980 by Garry Bushell
HARDER THAN THE REST
The kids were Micky Geggus and his younger brother Geoff, known to the world as Stinky Turner, and I liked ’em a lot because they were spirited and funny. When they asked me to manage them I agreed without hesitation because I just sensed they had something going for them and besides I’ll try anything once.
This management lark ain’t as grand as it sounds. All it meant was I became the Rejects official phone number, I arranged a few gigs for them, and with them and Jim Pursey I went along to EMI and helped negotiate their current deal. I did it simply because I believed in them. I got no money at all for it and quite rightly got banned from writing about them in Britain’s finest pop paper (the one you’re clutching now, dummy) for the duration of my official connections.
In the end things got so hectic I had to choose between managing full time or writing full-time and it was no contest really. They needed someone who knew the business ropes and Pursey’s manager Tony Gordan seemed an obvious choice. Jimmy also volunteered to produce them, although this connection has made easy, cheap ammo for the cloth-eared silver-spoon hippy saps who seem to populate rival publications.
Now I certainly don’t think the sun goes in every time Jim pulls his trousers on but he’s certainly never deserved half the abuse he’s had. Aside from his yo-yoing musical talents he’s honest, enthusiastic, sometimes brilliant, sometimes crass, always chirpy and well-meaning.
And unlike the likes of Lydon/Strummer et al who came on like Party Political broadcasts back in ’76 and ended up breaking just as many promises, Pursey has always put his money where his mouth is, losing thousands helping small bands get started.
As the Rejects debut ‘Greatest Hits Volume I’ reviewed last week shows, he’s also developing as capable and promising producer, and incidentally he was the first to admit the Rejects are miles better than Sham were.
Pursey’s biggest drawback as a producer is that his own enthusiasm and personality are so strong that he tends to overpower the people he’s working with and push them in ways they otherwise wouldn’t have gone.
Generally people either comply with his ideas or row like buggery with him until they part company like the Purple Hearts did. Rarely Pursey works with someone like the Rejects who’ll stand up to his ideas and say ‘No, bollocks, this is what WE want’, and they’ll feed off each other and come up with something as impressive as ‘Greatest Hits’ (incidentally I predict the next Sham album will be heavily Rejects influenced and a lot better for it).
SO WHAT’S still worrying you? Bushell doing an old pals act? All I can do is cite bands that I’ve thought a lot of in the past, like Sham an-d the Clash, who I’ve never hesitated to criticise when I thought they were going off the rails.
As I said last week, the Rejects album is the best I’ve heard for two years and I reckon a lot of you will feel the same way.
The real problem hanging over the Rejects head is the stigma of violence attached to them. Like all myths, this one has some roots in reality and we’ll straighten it out with some history – All this band have been soccer hooligans in their time, West Side of course, and Micky and Stinky used to box very well. Neither of them were ever put down in the ring and Stinky boxed for the England youth team.
Micky was the slugger who’d throw everything into a fight and end up cut up and bruised but always the winner. Stinky was more of a boxer, technically perfect, methodical and efficient.
Their boxing styles tell you a lot about them as people. Micky in particular, who tends to pursue whatever interests him – painting (to ‘A’ Level), boxing, music, Honey Bane – with a single-minded dedication.
In the summer of ’77, 17-year-old Micky was inspired to take up the guitar by the raging, vehement v-sign that was the Sex Pistols monster-selling gem ‘God Save The Queen’. He recruited Stinky, then 13 into various front room / back garden punk combos from which grew the Rejects fore-runners, the Shitters, of Custom House infamy.
Until Vince Riordan joined last August the Rejects were always the Geggus brothers and A.N. Others.
Vince is 21, a tall, powerful much-tattooed man who’d spent months as a roadie/minder for Sham.
After Sham’s premature ejaculation last year Vince played guitar for a while with the ill-fated Dead Flowers. Typically impetuous, Mick walked up to him in a pub unintroduced and asked him to audition as bassist, and the partnership took off from there.
Drummers have proved more troublesome. Old Tickets man Andy Scott fitted the bill brilliantly for several months last year on some classic gigs and, uncredited, on the album.
But well, Mick McManus he ain’t and he seems a lot happier with his brother’s band, Wasted Youth. Last month he was replaced by Back To Zero’s old drummer, 19-year-old Dagenham boy Nigel Woolf, who’s more tuned in to the spirit of the band.
After Vince joined the whole thing seemed to become a lot more serious. They’d had a good following before, mostly coppers and debt collectors, but now they began to attract disillusioned Sham and Menace fans (like roadies H and Binnsie and well-known East End characters like Wellsy and Hoxton Tom).
A lot of the East End Glory Boys seem to have switched allegiance to the Rejects too of late – for the first time they’ve got a band who are exactly the same as them, dockers’ sons, real East Enders, who enjoy a good beer and a soccer match and a riot of their own.
With due respect to the original Rejects crew, the celebrated Rubber Glove Firm, the current Rejects following make them look like Enid Blighton characters. They’re hard but they’re not idiots trying to prove something all the time like the little boys running round wrecking gigs or making gang attacks on individuals.
And contrary to rumours and group jokes about being a ‘ruck and roll’ band (“we ruck and you roll”) Rejects gigs are peaceful events, spirited but peaceful.
Of all the ones I’ve seen there was only trouble at one, when they supported the Upstarts at the Ballroom. During the Upstarts set a big mob of skins started on some small punks. The Rejects thought this was out of order and intervened and, well, suffice it to say the trouble ended with the dozen Reject chaps surrounded by about 40 prostrate bullies.
Like Micky says: “When you go to a gig it’s like going to the pictures, it’s for enjoyment. You don’t go to ruck and if anyone starts trouble at our gigs we’ll kick ’em out. But I don’t want the band to be known as fighters, we wanna be known as musicians. Songs like ‘Fighting In The Streets’ are just statements, observations, they’re not incitements.”
Outside of gigs they still act stupid sometimes, get in fights periodically and get nicked from time to time. Sometimes it worries me but then the other day I was reading this book about a band who were working class kids and grew up hardnuts, jeering at people, getting in fights and getting banned from pubs. That band grew up to be the Beatles.
No, that ain’t a prediction. Though as I said last week, bands like this ,either destroy themselves or end up massive. For the moment, like the Pistols before them, the exaggerated violence myths that surround the band are making gigs hard to come by. The current tour with the Kidz Next Door for example was meant to be 18 dates but has ended up a meagre ten, with promoters cancelling without explanation.
Along with the mysterious recent chart drop (now reversed) of ‘Bad Man’
(despite the fact that it had sold twice as many as the week before and more that week than some Top Fifty entries) this had created a
bit of despondency amongst the band, especially Stinky, but the gigs have changed all that.
I caught the second gig of the tour last Monday night in Nuneaton, a little-known graveyard with buildings somewhere in the Midlands, as yet unreached by missionaries.
Vince and driver Binney came to pick us up from our Leicester Hotel bubbling about the first gig at Bradford Royal Standard the night before, an excessively enjoyable experience all round by all accounts, with even the promoter pogoing like a good ‘un. (The only bad moment came when someone gobbed at Stinky. He leapt into the crowd and offered the kid out, but thankfully no one was ready to ruck.)
Tonight’s gig is equally ecstatic. It’s in the town’s accurately named 77 Club with hardcore punters making like demented Roxy crowds to both the Rejects and the excellent pogo-classics disco supplied by local DJ Ratty.
First up were the Kidz Next Door, fronted by Pursey’s kid sibling Robbie and all-round celebrity Grunt Flobbing. Despite the leading Mod’s key role as axeman the music was a sort of punkoid/Wombles mix which didn’t exactly set the place alight but which with a bit of spit, polish and packaging could see them in Jackie and Pink pages for a life time.
The rejects have drawn a crowd twice as big as the Upstarts drew here in January and no one goes home disappointed, least of all me. Live, the band hit like a herd of stampeding cattle, like demented punk furies unleashing multiple slices of East End musical aggro on an enthusiastic crowd. It’s aggressive, supercharged and wonderfully alive.
Stinky Turner is great. He really gets into the songs, screwing up his boatrace into veritable orgies of ugliness. Lets face it, he ain’t ever gonna star in any Colgate commercial and when he flashes those well-bashed Hampsteads he makes Attila The Hun look like Mister Pastry.
His voice matches his visage as well, being a right evil shout, and there’s no question that he means it, every hollered word. In a way he’s pretty subdued tonight, not insulting anyone, but then that’s because the crowd don’t give him any lip: they either pogo like loonies down the front or stand in attentive circles watching every move further back.
They’re all posers except for Nigel who just gets on with the job in hand. Big Vince is a trifle Brahms and doodah tonight so he leaps around for the pictures and grins a lot (doesn’t seem possible that he’s the same geezer who made his stage debut at the Bridge House last August in a much needed pair of brown strides) .
Micky Geggus is, of course, the cornerstone of the band’s sound. Tonight he’s sporting a ridiculous headband and a Union Jack with West Ham allover it round his jacksie, and in his hands is that all-important Gibson. Now a lot of deaf people have tried to dismiss this band as Son Of Sham etcetera but you just need to compare Mick’s guitar playing with Dave Parsons to realise the error of this observation.
Parsons was powerful but stylistically he was like a carthorse, slow and solid and simple. Micky plays more like a prize racer, faster and more exciting, unleashing breaks like torpedoes. Not exactly calculated to bring tears to John Williams, eyes but immensely moving stuff.
Micky likens their sound to the Ramones on beer. Me, I think its more a punk/metal thing only they’re always singalong songs, none of ya gormless riffery. In fact the only way they’re like Sham is that they are everything Sham were supposed to be, the ultimate street band, real punks burning with an aggression and self-pride that makes their music so goddamn exciting.
When Binnsie, another ex-Sham roadie, walked past me I hollered: “They’re better than Sham ever were” in his ear.
“They fucking mean it, that’s why” he said. And he was right.
The van post-gig was packed out with fans like Big Joe from Folkestone and East London faithfuls, Kenny, the Dannys Meakin and Harrion, Wellsey, Binnsie and H, otherwise known as the Lion Of Mile End for his spirited toasting on ‘Where The Hell Is Babylon?’.
Believe it or not this motley rabble greeted your reporter with outrageous chants of ‘We Hate Charlton’, ‘Sideboard Sid’ and inexplicably ‘Chin, Chin, Chin’ etc, while Kosher Horses refugee, the universally despised Gross Halfwit got an even better reception along Duke Of Kent/Iron Hoof/Ginger Beer lines.
Dropping the dawn chorus off at the hotel along with a Vincent suffering from galloping intoxication I endeavoured to get a bit of sense out of the survivors along history/plans lines.
I expect ‘Bad Man’ will go down this week simply because it’s had its momentum screwed up. Meanwhile ‘Greatest Hits Volume I’ should do around 20,000 copies if it does badly. Personally I reckon it’ll do double that.
In the meantime the band finish this tour and go straight into the studios to record a follow-up single, the hugely tongue-in-cheek ‘Greatest Cockney Rip-Off’ with its Slade-like riff, readily repeated chant and corny ‘Maybe Its Becos I’m A Londoner’ middle eight. This I predict will be their first Top Thirty single and see them on Top Of The Pops.
Stinky’s ambitions squarely revolve round getting a hit. He’s still at school, getting ready to fail CSE’s this June, and still into fighting other schools, winding up teachers and so on.
Micky’s more articulate about what he wants to achieve.
“I wanna play Hammersmith, yes I do. I wanna turn round to all me mates who are still wearing boxing shorts and say I Look at us, look what we’ve achieved.’
“I’ll tell you what its all about – FUN. Sounds understands that it’s all about kids having a good time, the other papers don’t and that’s why they’re just a bunch of wankers. We’re gonna prove that you don’t need to have a zillion ‘A’ levels and come from a posh background to make a go of it. At the moment we’re all on £25 a week. I get that and payout 16 quid as soon as I get it but I’m having the time of me life.”
It’s A great thing with the Rejects. Everyone around them gets treated like equals and potential ego-trips are stamped out at birth. If ever any of them even begin to hint of coming on like a ‘star’ or posing or thinking he’s better than any of the others then the others will put them down and take the piss viciously, especially H and Binnsie, which helps keep them all down to earth. Not that I could ever imagine them sitting pretty with the liggers and stuck-up bastards who pervade the music industry in sickening droves.
“That’s what I like about a band like UFO,” says Micky. “With a lot of new wave stars they think they’re unapproachable and better than you. UFO are more like us than half these so-called street bands.”
Mentions of said large-nosed bozos brings up the subject of all the name-checks the Rejects having been getting from HM artists of late. Was the affection mutual I wondered?
“I love the atmosphere at Heavy Metal gigs. I think it’s diamond. Everyone goes just to enjoy themselves. I don’t like a lot of heavy metal, though. Motorhead are still good, and Iron Maiden, but I think most of them are past their best. UFO will never make another I Doctor Doctor’.”
I think what’s great with us,” says Stinky, “is we all like different things. Nigel’s into jazz, Vince loves Heavy Metal, Micky likes good guitar and I just love punk. We all come together and make rock and spew.”
After hours of harassment from the idiot Halfin the band slipped in Doctor Doctor’ as one of tonight’s encores. It went down like a lead balloon.
“We’ll never do that again,” says Stinky. “We done it for a laugh, but we’re a PUNK band, that’s what its all about, I wanna help keep it going. Fuck politics and all that shit.
“Any of us in this van know as much as Thatcher, but that ain’t what we stand for. We stand for punk as boot boy music. Harringtons, boots and straights, that’s what we’re all about. And no matter how big we get we’ll still come back and play placed like Nuneaton 77 Club…”
“Okay, we’ll change,” says Mickey, “But we’ll never get like superstars, and we’ll never record crap like ‘Jimmy Jazz’. The Clash are just a bunch of hippies now. What we wanna do is stay fresh Without repeating ourselves. the new stuff will be variants on the fast and hard theme.”
Later that night I got to thinking about the gig and my review last week. At the gig Ratty had come up and said: “It’s great, it’s like ’77 all over again.” And in a sense he was right, except the last thing this band need is some contrived ‘Punk Renewal’. The very idea makes me cringe.
If all these misguided safety-pin spikeys with their Sid badge are punk then I’m a minister in the Thatcher government. The Cockney Rejects ARE punk, in every sense I ever understood it, but in no way are they the tail end of the garbage punk became.
They’re strong enough to cut it on their own as the first real street band, the first classic rock band of this decade, and if a momentum builds up around them it’ll be natural and nothing hyped or phoney.
Personally I think they have it in them to be as important as the Sex Pistols, although I reckon they’d be happy if they became another Ramones. In the meantime they’re the proud creators of one of the finest albums ever to come out of punk rock and for the moment that’ll do nicely.
Bovver Boot ‘zine’s Paul McGinn with a skinhead poem from issue 1 of Tirane Thrash, 1983
On 25th June 2015 Hannah Lowe, Kayo Chingonyi, and Tim Wells read commissioned poems in tribute of Michael Smith.
The 1982 Arena documentary Upon Westminster Bridge was also screened, Anthony Wall introduced his film.
Red Tam Hat
for Mikey Smith
Haven’t thought of you in years 1981 is history, but near enough to touch
Mikey, in your green tam hat Brixton looks like Brixton, just. You breeze
I danced to your music in in from Kingston in a red tam hat – posing in
my shabby college bedroom the shadows of a railway bridge, singing for
lights down low, the bass the TV camera, up Electric Ave – yam, cassava
soft-bouncing & your voice like a thunder-scent of a petrol bomb perhaps
clap. Didn’t know music could hurt like that police car sliding like a snake
rise up like that. My old boyfriend loved you on Poets’ Corner. You saunter
held your album like a crown like a prophet, cursing cockroach-landlords
or a halo, pushed it down onto politician rats, unfazed, boom-voiced over
the turntable the rain stick or maracas. Those school kids feign coolness
held back swinging on their chairs but love you Sailor. At night you sway
his breath; spun to the flugelhorn or saxophone in the hallowed lights of
the vinyl the studio stage. You might be famous Mikey, sometime soon
My girl Jessie is from a family of dockers.
If you’re wondering if she swears like one,
she does. It was from her foghorn mouth
that I first heard Michael Smith,
and you know how it is with teenage lads,
if a girl is passionate you want to know all about it.
She played me ‘Trainer’, from the tail end of an NME cassette.
‘for it was de firs time in me life
a really feel fi seh something
an a couldn bring out nuttin
so a jus walk’
That hard yard voice rumbled from the deck,
so unlike ours, but it spoke to us all the same.
It’s no accident reggae boomed from our teenage bedrooms;
Jamaica was only as far as next door.
When people wake up, they find their own speech.
We were shook awake: no jobs, no money, no future.
Hackney, Detroit, Johannesburg, or Kingston JA.
Both dub slates and police batons have a beat all their own.
As the punks sang
‘tell you the truth I can’t afford to run away, from the UK’
Mikey’s words were fingers balling to a fist,
an incendiary device, the static on the filth’s radio,
braziers on the picket line, piss stains on brutalist concrete,
the look passed from eye to eye at the dole queue.
Not no Shelley ‘Sew seeds but let no tyrants reap’
but he and we knew – forward ever, backward never.