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The story of London's toughest and poorest part as told through the eyes of its most iconic band. From the bombs that flew in World War II and from the greatest industrial docks the world ever saw, to the formation of the original and best Terrace Band of them all, the battles, living outside the law, the wilderness years of both the band and the area that spawned them, and eventually to the rebirth and transformation of the band into a worldwide cult, this is the rockumentary to beat them all. Feel the mighty heart that beats to the rhythm of rivet hammers upon a background of claret and blue. This is East End Babylon! Written by
The Cockney Rejects from the East End of London burst onto the scene during the second wave of British Punk. Their angry vocals and spitfire lyrics the perfect bedfellows for a disenchanted 1980s working class Britain. If they are worthy of a 90 minute plus feature length documentary is debatable, given that so many other movers and shakers of the time achieved much more and have equally squalid stories to tell.
East End Babylon sadly has many flaws. To pad the doc out to its running time the first half hour is given to a sort of getting to know how rough and tough the East End of London was, a sort of precursor as to why the Rejects were what they were. This is very interesting, but given the lack of Rejects footage from their heyday in the early 1980s that follows for the next hour of film, it comes off as over extended filler. Clearly director and co-writer Richard England has watched Julien Temple's superb The Filth and the Fury and taken notes. Corner cutting is a problem here. Those who know The Rejects story will be well aware of how their song The Greatest Cockney Rip Off was a sarcastic attack on Jimmy Pursey of Sham 69. This isn't mentioned, in fact the boys and Gary Bushell (journo/manager/tv guy) give Pursey some good publicity, and rightly so. But if the Rejects clan are now feeling sheepish about this then lets have it! These Punk docs are meant to be stripped down and revealing the truth.
Then there's the infamous Battle of Birmingham that forms a good portion of the piece. I swear every time I see or read anything about that night at The Cedar Club, the story has new strands. The Rejects boys were blighted by the fact they were tough and fearless, which meant that much like their peers from Sham 69, they had unsavoury elements attached to them. Thus live gigs were a problem, especially outside of The Smoke, The Cedar Club night has been turned into a story of Rorke's Drift proportions. The Rejects boys did indeed battle hard and stand as it were, they had to, they had nowhere else to go, but truth is is that if the dibble hadn't arrived then the headlines in the press the next day could well have been about deaths, as sad and bizarre as that may seem.
Musically it would have been nice for one of the boys to fess up to lifting Sex Pistol's axe-man Steve Jones' riff from Pretty Vacant for their awesome single, I'm Not a Fool. There's no shame in that, Jones himself lifted Paul Weller's riff from In the City for Holiday's in the Sun. Jonesy really couldn't give a flying fig, you just feel that much of the doc is straining to tell us how street hard the boys were/are, a bit more focus on the music - some reveals - would have been most welcome. Especially since Stinky and Micky have that splendid cockney wit in delivery. All things considered though, it's great that The Cockney Rejects have made a mark, an awesome Punk band who didn't take any crap from racists, plebeian politicians or otherwise. That there is still a market for them, that their standing in parts of Europe and the West Coast of America, is very high, is testament to their contribution to the essence of Punk Rock.
This doc channels much of its energy in the wrong areas, and skirts over key points in favour of machismo over music. A shame, but if this film gets more people to seek out their music then that can only be a good thing. These lairy cockney boys rock. Defo. 7/10
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