Album Review: Cockney Rejects – Greatest Hits Vol 1 & Vol 2

Cockney rejects - Greatest Hits Vol 1 & Vol 2

Album Review: Cockney Rejects - Greatest Hits Vol 1 & Vol 2
Reviewed by Dan Barnes

Captain Oi! be turning the clocks back to 1980 with their newest Punk reissue, being the debut and sophomore releases from the East End’s favourite sons, the Cockney Rejects, ambitiously titled Greatest Hits, volumes I and II.

Formed in 1978 by brothers Jeff and Micky Geggus, the Rejects would attract notoriety, as well as something of a rambunctious following, with their tales of street fights and football hooliganism. Undeterred by the band’s reputation – or emboldened by it – they signed to EMI in September 1979 and had the first album out within six months.

Whether as an act of pure foresight, or merely a happy coincidence, naming the debut Greatest Hits, volume I was pure genius. Of the original fourteen tunes on offer here, many still feature regularly in the band’s live sets to this day. The likes of Bad Man, Police Car, I’m Not a Fool are stone cold Rejects classics, brimming with angsty energy as much in 2024 as they did forty-four years ago. Even the album’s deeper cuts, Shitter, Here They Come Again and They’re Going to Put Me Away seethe with a youthful aggression, rooted in the exploding Punk movement but also the more grounded, working class Oi! – or street punk – sound of fellow West Ham followers like Cock Sparrer and The Business.

Songs like Fighting in the Street, East End and Are You Ready to Ruck? have their defiance writ-large from their titles down; though the collegial Join the Rejects finds Micky’s guitar in a sombre mood for the opening moments, while the presence of Sham 69 producer, Peter Wilson, and 69’s main man, Jimmy Pursey, behind the console can be gleaned as the tune reaches its second half. Add to that the reggae-infused opening section of Where the Hell is Babylon? and it starts becomes obvious that even at this stage, the Cockney Rejects were no one-trick ponies.

There’s just the three additional tunes added to Volume I: the single version of Police Car, which runs a good half-minute shorter than the already brief sub-two-minute original, I Wanna Be A Star and original demo, Flares and Slippers. Upon release, Volume I reached number 22 in the UK album charts; singles I’m Not a Fool and Bad Man doing respectable business considering the One out of Ten awarded to the album by Smash Hits magazine and the One and a Half from Five stars from the Record Mirror. Still, Sounds gave it a full-Five-star rating and it paved the way for a second album in the September of the same year.

Album Review: Cockney Rejects - Greatest Hits Vol 1 & Vol 2

Brief though the interval was, the Rejects still found themselves with a personnel change, as Andy Scott vacating the drum-stool in favour of Nigel Wolfe. Otherwise, Volume II is very much the natural successor to its predecessor, with a number of these tunes also still making their way into the band’s live shows. War on the Terraces, With the Boys (on Tour) and Subculture pick up Volume I’s themes while the unpolished production and youthfully obnoxious delivery reinforces the familial connection.

The genre-affirming Oi! Oi! Oi! has become not only a Rejects anthem, but one for the whole movement to get behind. Urban Guerilla is not a Hawkwind cover, though their version of I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles is pretty faithful to their beloved West Ham and managed to crash the Top 40 at one point.

Both We Are the Firm and We Can Do Anything found themselves as promo singles, though neither did any real business; yet the same cannot be said for The Greatest Cockney Rip Off which, according to the 2012 documentary, East End Babylon, was little more than a joke. It found traction and took the band to number 21 in the singles chart, even had them appearing on Top of the Pops.

Volume II’s additional material includes both I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles and We Are the Firm, as well as a single version of Hate of the City, whereas West Side Boys is another of the Rejects terrace anthems.

Volume II compared favourably with Volume I, just failing to match the number 22 chart placing by a single digit. Between 1981 and 1984, Cockney Rejects would issue a further three albums, moving away from the distinctly Oi! sound of these first two records, and incorporating more traditional rock elements into their music; it’s fair to say that Volume II’s The Rocker foreshadowed that direction.

In the forty-years since 84’s Quiet Storm, the band would only issue a further five albums, including 2022 fantastic Power Grab in 2022

Never stingy with their offerings, Captain Oi! are releasing these thirty-eight tracks in a dual CD digipack with a full-colour booklet containing liner notes, lyrics and photos. Always a great live band, the foresight in naming these debut albums is chilling in retrospect.

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