"East End Babylon" is the story of the Cockney Rejects and the area that spawned them beginning at the turn of the century with the industrial revolution in full swing, the heaving poverty surrounding the largest docks the world had ever seen, and the unconquerable spirit of it's people - proud, unbowed, and, as world war two was later to prove, unbeaten.
"From the bombs that flew through world war two, from the Albert docks to Bow, we could never show our fear, the world could never know" sang the Rejects many years later, and they knew what they were talking about. Sons of dockers whose parents had survived such horrific times, they were born into the upheaval and austerity of the post war East-End, where, amongst the debris and dock strikes and social upheaval they found solace and meaning in three things - football, boxing, and rock'n'roll!
Football to generations of East Enders could mean only one thing…West Ham United. Probably the most financially fragile of all the big London clubs, it has always had the most fanatical grassroots support, born of a total sense of community that only poverty and a sense of belonging could instill.
'East End Babylon' takes us through these times, as Eighteen year-old seamstress Jean Geggus and her docker husband Fred bring up seven children in a bomb damaged council house, two of which, Mick and Jeff Geggus, take to the mean streets, eventually embracing the other sporting fixation of the East end - Boxing, at which they both excel.
But amid the dock strikes and social upheaval of the mid seventies, this new generation found themselves drawn to a third medium - Rock'n'roll. Fascinated by the antics of Sweet and Slade on Thursday nights' Top Of The Pops, the boys fostered dreams of forming a band. After hearing the guttural rasp of Johnny Rotten in 1977, they decided to do so.
Despite having no songs or equipment but armed with buckets of cheek and blag, the boys "conned" their way into journalist Garry Bushell and punk icon Jimmy Pursey, resulting in a record deal with EMI records.
Having recruited fellow West Ham nut Vinny Riordan on bass, the boys then proceeded to play regularly at their local venue, Canning Town's infamous 'Bridge House', where they developed the blueprint that would be imitated, but never equaled by a thousand bands.
Whereas the first wave of punk bands had been mainly middle class art students faking working class credentials, the Rejects were as tough and cynical as the streets that gave them birth. The socio-political ramblings of their punk forefathers were not for them, instead they sung about the things that they lived with, every day - street fights, police harassment - and football. Never before had a band welded the terrace singalong to driving rock rhythms, and the result was devastating : the perfect blend of rock'n'roll and football.
It was also at the Bridge House that they cultivated the Rejects "firm"- their loyal band of followers, many of whom would later go on to form the hardcore of the ICF, West Ham's notorious hooligan gang. Despite having signed a disastrous management deal that would later leave them penniless, the band started having success, as the singles, then the albums, began to chart. Never able to suffer fools, they also burned bridges within the music industry, with several journalists and industry movers and shakers being told in no uncertain terms where to get off. It was also at this time, at the height of gig violence sweeping Britain, that they enforced their "no security" rule - if people were getting hurt by bully boys in the crowd, or if the band themselves were threatened, they would jump offstage mid-show and batter the troublemakers out of the venue.
By that time, they were pretty much despised by many in the music industry (strangely enough the same music industry that would later wet themselves over gangsta rappers) but being who they were, they stayed true to their upbringing and told it like it was.
Around that time, gigs in London were being targeted by the ultra right-wing British Movement, who had wrecked several bands careers including that of 'Sham 69'. Having always despised bullies, the Rejects met them head on, culminating in a bloody battle at Barking station in which the "master race" were handed a severe beating after which they never showed their faces at a single Rejects' gig.
Soon, they realised their childhood dreams and appeared on "Top Of The Pops", but on their second appearance, promoting their version of West Ham's anthem "Bubbles" (West Ham had reached the F.A cup final in 1980) their high spirits got them banned from the show forever.
That was only the start of their problems - by aligning themselves so vehemently with West Ham, they had alienated themselves from other testosterone fueled football supporters up and down the country, which culminated in the "battle of Birmingham", in which the Rejects and their crew defeated 250 Midlands football hooligans in a vicious hand to hand combat, which has since been described as the worst gig violence in history.
With court cases hanging over the band like ominous dark clouds, they were dropped by EMI and were virtually finished as a touring band. They briefly turned their considerable musical skills to their first love, hard rock, and despite making a great record ("Wild Ones" produced by Pete Way), their fans never let them forget their past. Their management having drained them of every penny they made, they reluctantly called it a day, ironically around the same time as their symbolic twins, the London docks, closed forever.
As the years passed, and the band went their separate ways, in the USA and Europe, something was stirring. A new generation of fans were discovering the Rejects, and bands such as 'Rancid' and 'Green Day' were describing them as major influences on their music. In Europe, they were being embraced by thousands of football supporters who had taken them and their ethic to heart, openly pledging their allegiance to West Ham United and the Rejects. The same was happening in Japan, Australia and South America - all across the world, in fact.
Mick Geggus only got an inkling of this one night in 1999 as he watched a Levi?s ad on TV, which featured the Rejects song "I'm Not A Fool". Suddenly, the phone calls started. Having never played outside of the UK, they were stunned to find that they were in demand across the globe. With bass player Vinny long gone, Mick and Jeff recruited old friend Tony Van Frater on bass and Andy Laing on drums, and went out on tour again. In the UK, they found that the old animosities had disappeared, and that fans accepted the Rejects link with West Ham and were prepared to party with the band. But, the biggest surprise was when they toured outside the UK for the first time - thousands of kids from all over the globe flocked to see them, a sea of West Ham shirts from all nationalities knowing the words from every song. In Croatia, they were gobsmacked as sworn enemies Serbs and Croats danced and sang together at the top of their voices. Politicians can't do that, observed Mick, we can!'. On the home front, stars like Morrissey, Stone Roses' Ian Brown, and Primal Scream all went on record as saying they loved the Cockney Rejects. And on it goes.
Redemption is a hard thing to come by. But as the band once sang, "the kids they come from everywhere, the East End's all around", that lyric would turn out to be prophetic, because it is. And the Cockney Rejects are still going, playing white hot live sets to kids across the globe.
From the humblest of beginnings they came, from the streets and terraces and smoky boxing clubs and piss stained boozers, most of which are now long gone. But they have been and still are an inspiration to a generation and this is their story.
This is East End Babylon.