Tag Archives: Cockney Rejects

The Real McOi!

The Eyes of a Foot Soldier

“Little ghetto boy, playing in the ghetto street, watcha gonna do when you grow up and have to face responsibility?” Little Ghetto Boy, Donny Hathaway

The following piece is a brief journey through an appreciation of punk and Oi! music as a fledging teenager to becoming obsessed with unblemished soul music as an adult. I can place a connection between the musical genres through honesty, integrity and rawness. The genres are both real street music that comes from the heart.

‘Oi! the Album’ was released in 1980 and led the way for a musical force that had been brewing away since the breakthrough in the U.K. of punk rock in ‘77. Sounds scribe Garry Bushell had been the flagbearer of the proto Oi! bands that led to him compiling the album. In ‘79 there was no bigger active punk band in the UK than Sham 69, The Ruts had just broken through, the Upstarts credentials were rising and the Rejects had shook the punk foundations with ‘Flares and Slipper.’ The substratum for Oi! had strong roots for new bands to take inspiration from to forge their own directions. These second wave of punk bands took a more direct rawer route from the streets than many of the art infused ones of the first wave.

I never swayed too far from punk between the years of ‘79-83 but Oi! music for me in 1980 meant unity, honesty, identity and the voice of my generation. It was also to me the spirit of the Carry On films, Henry Cooper, Minder, The Harder They Come, maverick footballers, the Beano, Irn Bru, On the Buses, Lager Tops, Slade, Budgie, jumpers for goalposts, Bronco Bullfrog, Tiswas, Fish Suppers, Roy of the Rovers, The Clash, Choppers, Dick Emery, Desmond Dekker and Kes. It represented me and my life!

When ‘Oi! the album’ was released I’d just broken through into my teenage years and had been hanging on every word written by Garry since making a decision to buy Sounds over the Enemy in 1979. At that time my family had recently relocated from England to one of the five Scottish new towns called Livingston. We moved there in the summer of ‘78 from a tight knit Nottinghamshire mining community where punk was of minor significance compared to Livi, which had a thriving punk scene. I found punk to be exhilarating, inspirational and soon became an avid follower of all things punk.

Making that decision to buy Sounds early in ‘79 was easy for me because they championed punk bands, both old and new. Forty three years later I’m still searching to hear new sounds, but with a much broader musical taste than I had back then. I produced a fanzine in the summer of 1981 called Oi! Division. I was aged 13 and was influenced by a variety of fanzines of the time that included Rising Free, Ready To Ruck and No Solutions. Growing up in Livingston was hard during those years because all new towns are built on three stages; building houses, attracting a population and then job creation. We moved there between stages 1 and 2. We all had to find our own entertainment and producing a fanzine was my escapism of boredom.

I had a bit of help through Garry and Lol Pryor supplying me with bands contact details. I’d then make telephone calls to the bands to either interview them over the phone or we would agree that a questionnaire would be sent. I included interviews with the 4 Skins, Blitz, The Partisans and local band On Parole in the first issue, which struggled from a poor print. Garry included a small piece on it in Sounds, which included payment details. I then started to get a healthy amount of postal orders and hard coinage via my local postman from across the UK, Europe and the USA. My postman once asked my dad what was in the sacks of letters that he was delivering. I also sold a fair few locally, mainly to friends at school.

The first ever interview that I did out in the fields was with the lead singer of a local punk band called On Parole. I interviewed Liam in Rabs Bar, Deans, Livingston. That was also the first time that I got drunk and also led to me getting involved in the band on a managerial basis for the next two years. At that point I was 6ft and had begun to outgrow schooling. I was looking for a different education and my attendance in my final two years was sporadic. I had a lot of fun over these years, but on the whole that’s a different story.

I thought with the second issue of the fanzine that I wanted to widen the horizon a bit to cover a broader selection of punk bands, so I changed the name to ‘A Way of Life.’ I decided to use drawings rather than images that I’d acquired from Sounds, like I had done with ‘Oi! Division.’ The overall print was much better because of this. The first two fanzines were printed A4 folded and saddle stitched. I included interviews with The Business, Infa Riot, The Last Resort, GBH and Peter & the Test Tube Babies.

The second issue of ‘A Way of Life’ and third fanzine was printed as an A3 folded and saddle stitched affair. I upped the ante with this one and used a local offset printer, which meant that I could use photos with the interviews. Overall it’s probably the most professional publication out of the four fanzines I produced. I included interviews with Theatre of Hate, The Outcasts, Blitz, Discharge, Chron Gen, Vice Squad, Conflict and more.

The final fanzine was printed in the first half of 1983. I’ll say that things were changing musically and I wanted to further widen the coverage with the inclusion of Twisted Sister, Big Country and Laurel & Hardy alongside The Business, The Exploited and On Parole. I used the name of ‘Streets Where We Live.’ At that point the family had been uprooted to Edinburgh, because I was getting into too much trouble. Punk and Oi! had been my survival mechanism in Livi, but in Edinburgh the street sounds had a different vibe. Things were evolving rapidly with many bands breaking up or heading into a new musical path. Blitz rocked Oi! music with the electronic vibe of ‘Second Empire Justice,’ Red Alert dipped their feet away with ‘Tranquillity’ and the Upstarts came out with ‘Still From The Heart.’ The 4 Skins with Roi folded their cards after a 3 date tour in spring of ’83, The Business split and Infa Riot jacked it in after a fabled short span as The Infas.

I spent six months living in Auld Reekie but decided in the summer of ‘83, aged sixteen that I would move back to England to live in Manchester. I spent a year living in Burnage, a long time before the Gallagher’s brought it to the attention of the world. I moved in with my eldest sister and this saw the biggest swing in my musical taste. I signed on for the year and got to see the Upstarts as many times as my giro would allow me, but my musical taste was further evolving. I remember being round a friend’s house called Doyle and reaching for his copy of ‘Bad Man,’ and he snatched it back saying that he hadn’t played that for two years.

The music of the streets in Manchester was heavily focussed on the emerging electro sounds mixed in with a strong soulful vibe. It was a slow evolution, but I started appreciating Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, Whodini, Afrika Bambaataa, Newcleus, Shannon and D Train. I also saw the Redskins for the first time and they blew my mind with their soulful sounds. They were the gateway for me to start appreciating The Four Tops, The Temptations, Jackie Wilson and soul music. I eventually dug deeper with soul music, whilst favouring the little label singers that never got a break they craved for.

My argument is that I can place a connection between Oi! music and soul music. Singers like Roi Pearce, Mickey Fitz and Roddy Moreno sang every note like they meant it with great gusto and passion. Obviously tonally and the melodies are very much poleaxes apart from singers such as Otis

Clay, James Carr and Lee Moses, but the bond is tight with the working class roots. I’ll take any independent singer who gives their all over any major label puppet that has little or no substance. It’s always been the same for me right back to when I first got into music. I’d rather champion the underdog rising through adversity than a heavily backed major label dud! The rare soul scenes of northern and modern soul are comparable with the working class roots of Oi! music with both music and also fashion.

I never walked away from Oi! music, because I’ve kept my eyes on how the scene developed. The widening of the arena globally is something that Garry and Lol should be proud of. The fact that bands like Rancid, Agnostic Front and the Dropkick Murphys salute Oi! music, whilst touring globally to large audiences is a good thing. The fact that The Business, The Last Resort and Cock Sparrer are appreciated across the world is an amazing achievement through some difficult times. That’s not forgetting the newer bands that provide a different magic to the original punk and Oi! sound with Hard Wax, Lion’s Law, Crown Court, Slalom D, Himnos, All Out Attack, Bishops Green and many more because the list is endless. I’m finding myself listening to more punk and Oi! band’s these days because of the last couple of years events. The working class really need a voice after a systematic attack of suppression. There’s life in the old dog yet!

“In unity there’s each other and your friend becomes your brother and in the tyrant’s heart will be a lesson learned” Solidarity – Angelic Upstarts

Jolly

Mods Mods

It’s forgotten these days how mod East Londons original Oi bands and fans were, several of them are mentioned in this gig review from Sounds, 11 August, 1979. many Glory Boys went from following Secret Affair to the Cockney Rejects.

Six More Prophets/Barney And His Rubbles
Wellington
Postmen
Canning Town

Every week the music press subjects us to this or that pretentious fart spouting some tedious, unintelligible guff about ‘challenging rock ‘n’ roll practices’ and ‘redefining the limits’. Generally all these achieve are huge black print marks on the pinkies of those follish enough to dig out a dictionary and wade through ’em.
What these people are oblivious to to is that the real ‘redefining’ goes on in places they’d never dream of going to. Like the Wellington last week, where Barney Rubble led a makeshift group recruited on the spot on to the stage: a right rowdy mob clutching drum sticks and recorders. It certainly seemed like a real racket was painfully imminenet.
But they’d managed to blag some gear and, with Hoxton Tom on bass, John on guitar, Rory on drums, Kev on harmonica, Shaun on recorder and Tone on tambourine, a semblance of otder was introduced into the chaos.
In fact, it sounded pretty good when the band – looking like the Fred Perry Five – struck up the likes of ‘Al Capone’ and various reggae/souly backing tracks for some indecipherable taoasting from Mr Rubble on the alleged superiority of West Ham United FC; like ‘Look out listen can you hear it/Panic in the CBL/Look out listen can you hear it/Millwall up against the wall…’
The Postmen are similar. They work by word of mouth. An audience is assembled in minutes. Teenage gangs ‘doing their own thing’. They choose a stage, empty houses, back gardens, parks and with makeshift instruments run a gauntlet of strangely unmusical songs held together by raucous singing and enthusiasm.
They’ve got no frameworks as such, they do it for a laugh and it is a real crack too. Democracy run wild. Pogo and screw the pre-defined concepts of how groups work!
Back in the Wellington, Barney has led his mob off-stage and five minutes later Six More Prophets are on. An Oxford six-piece making a rare London appearance. And, well it has to be said, the earth did not catch fire.
For the first few numbers I was particularly disappointed as the sound, though nicely driving and poppy, all seemed a bit gutless and identikit. There was something missing. In truth, the most interesting thing about the visual presentation was trying to figure out the point of having three guitarists. The band explained it as “None of us are powerful guitarists – we don’t use power chords for example – but together the effect is powerful”. True, but all the visual/musical mismatch lead to is another Daily Mirror overmanning scandal in the near future.
Until, that is, the fourth and fifth numbers, ‘Not That Young’ and ‘crime’ when suddenly a rather ordinary band were transformed into a forceful punchy pop outfit with some fine guitar interplay. Now if all their set was like this…
sadly it ain’t. Their version of ‘Ain’t Too Proud To Beg’ was appaling while the slower ‘Now I Know’ was positively drippy. They didn’t get an encore.

Garry Bushell

Herberts

Oi, Harringtons, lager… ‘erberts, after several weeks of letters, on the Sounds letters page 27 March, 1982.

Herberts: The Final Word
Q. What is a herbert?
A. A herbert is not, as he is commonly made out to be, a smoothie or a straight football fan.
Herberts are, generally, working class, self-styled dossers with punk and skinhead inclinations. In other words, normal working-class kids onto Oi, booze and having a laugh but not necessarily into football and definitely not politics.
The general look for a herbert is scruffy. Clothes are of the wearer’s own style but, usually, consist of: 10-hole DM’s, donkey jacket, jeans (often bleached), baseball boots, Harringtons, leather jackets etc. Hairstyle varies but is, usually, in no-man’s land between skin and punk and is scruffy.
Unlike skins and punk, the herbert is a more independent cult – breaking down musical barriers more easily. Typical herbert bands include: Blitz, Infa Riot, Rose Tattoo, the Business, Cockney Rejects, the Exploited, Partisans and mega-herberts, the legendary Gonads. The majority of true herberts are strongly anti-violence and will give no trouble unless hassled. Most herberts are local legends and are usually bitter or lager handed depending on preference.
Show me a herbert in cords, Farahs, Fila tracksuit tops, training shoes etc. and I’ll show you somebody who don’t know the difference between a smoothie an’ ‘erbert.
As we are in the third month of the Year Of The Herbert already, to avoid confusion between true herberts and other cults please make this letter last in the long running What Is A Herbert? saga.

Blitz fan, Burton On Trent.

Greatest Hits

Paul Morley sucked the fun out of punk long before he became ‘the cultural commentator Paul Morley’ sucking the fun out of nostalgia TV. He reviewed Killing Joke’s first album along with the Cockney Rejects second in the NME, 25 October, 1980.

Killing Joke
Killing Joke (Malicious Damage/EG Records)
Cockney Rejects
Greatest Hits Vol II (EMI)

Here are some young boys sneezing, wheezing, excreting. Where have they been? Where do they come from? The Cockney Rejects tap the baddest taste of their punk mentors (Sham, the Friggin’ Sex Pistols) and exhaust it with breathtaking short-sightedness. Killing Joke are trapped inside a diseased John Lydon/Hugh Cornwell nightmare, doing their cross-eyed best to affect malevolence and translate the bane and dread of PiL into something scrumptiously decomposed and very much their own.
Neither group engages my sympathy. Early-morning emptiness makes me see a point or two in Killing Joke’s conventionally barren music-scape. Nothing lets me in to the secret of how to teeter into the bog with Cockney Rejects.
Two ways of seeing ‘punk’; as dogma or a sense of adventure, Rejects are strangled by dogma: Killing Joke baffled by the possibilities of experiment. The two LPs give credence to the theory that ‘punk’ was just a moderate bump in the history of American rock music, a soft jab in the music industry’s face.
For the Rejects, punk is a licence to scatologically bare their priceless backsides on their glossy album cover, take soiled chants from the terraces into the expensive recording studios, let loose defective egos on the ‘world’. Killing Joke have sluggishly exploited the opportunities post-punk endeavour has offered them to fiddle about with sound and form, to wallow in horror pools of corruption and degeneration.
Like the next person, I have a certain taste for stupidity, but neither of these records stimulate that in the way I want it stimulated. Cockney Rejects are sprightly loony-teen pop prats, Killing Joke are fusty champions of the new underground – well in with the moderns, this lot, but not me chum – and both go through the motions: they’re well-mannered for all their cover of revolt or subversion.
We live in sick times: Cockney Rejects and Killing Joke seem to be part of the problem rather than sceptics or cynics.
Killing Joke’s peaky, broken-winded, meandering songs would actually form a better Ballardian soundtrack than Numan of Foxx, but ultimately the songs lack fierce introverted intensity or harrowing lust just as much as the synth-kids. They ladenly, sub-statically dribble along sounding more blank than terror-filled, forming a sullen, spasmodically wildish soundtrack for impending catastrophe that lacks a necessary sense of calm or disorientating inner tension.
Killing Joke are parasites sucking all the goodness out of important musics. Graceless. A poor joke.
Killing Joke song titles: ‘Requiem’, ‘War Dance’, ‘Tomorrow’s World’, ‘Complication’ (Foreigner playing Stranglers) ‘Primitive’. To another blotchy mix of comedy and tragedy. Cockney Rejects song titles: ‘War On The Terraces’, ‘Hate Of The City’, ‘Urban Guerilla’, ‘The Greatest Cockney Rip Off’, even ‘The Rocker’.
They even do Sweet’s ‘Blockbuster’ – this group don’t try as hard as Killing Joke not to be nostalgic. In fact they don’t try at all to be anything but vacantly, even cheekily, wild.
They come on like scolded Just Williams and sound like scalded dogs. Fourteen songs are spewed out that will abuse the souls and desires of their listeners with as much hypocritical crudeness and puritanical, jingoistic zeal as the Daily Star abuses its readers. If the Daily Star broke through its ludicrous cover of righteousness and owned up to the exploitative forces that drive it on, it would adopt Cockney Rejects as its pets and use them in its TV adverts along side Arthur Mullard.
These LPs emphasise that rock languages are repressive; they do nothing to indicate that music can also open up.

Paul Morley

Knuckles

From Sounds, 10 November, 1979.

Two new grass roots rock films are being made by a bunch of Paddington teenagers who claim to be very appealing – very appealing for money that is, or they won’t be able to finish the project.
The first is a 25 minute documentary called Knuckles which is about gig violence and bouncers, including film of Stiff Little Fingers‘ riotous Brixton carnival appearance and interviews with Jake Burns, the UK Subs and the Cockney Rejects.
But even more ambitious is a 90 minute film on “alternative music and commercialism”, which they describe as a collage of interviews, live performances and “general messing about”. This one features more of the Stiffs, the Subs, Rejects and Purple Hearts, Barracudas, Johnny G, Baby Patrol, Charles Shaar-Murray (boo!) and Garry Bushell (ray!) – at least.
Forum Youth Films, as they call themselves, won’t get it done though without an infusion of ackers to the tune of £1,300 (they’ll hum it, you pick it up). These ten people have so far put in £700 out of money they’ve earned in their day jobs as shop assistants, waitresses, part-time actors and school students.
You might calculate that the record companies whose bands will be featured would have to ante up about £200 each to supply all Forum’s needs, which might not break the bank of such as Chrysalis, EMI and Beggars Banquet even in these dire times.
If you’d like further details contact Dom Shaw, 12 All Souls Avenue, NW10 (965 9368) or ‘Tubby’ Hasan Shah, 153 Burnham Towers, Adelaide Road, NW3 (722 2419).