COCKNEY REJECTS

THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD

Jeff ‘Stinky’ Turner was only 15 when, along with his brother Mick, he crashed onto the nation’s TV screens with his band THE COCKNEY REJECTS and lit a worldwide street punk revolution. After releasing the awesome but modestly titled album ‘Greatest Hits Vol. 1’, followed by a second and third, as well as a run of chart hits, they took a new hard rock direction and it all went a bit pear-shaped, with the band splitting a mere five years later. But it seems you can’t keep a ‘Reject down and next month sees the band out on the road headlining the Concrete Jungle Festival and releasing the rather tasty, brand new album ‘Unforgiven’. Big Cheese caught up with Jeff and Mick at an Irish boozer on Holloway Road to get their story, in their words…

THE (POWER & THE) GLORY DAYS
Jeff: “Me and Mick first formed the band, we blagged the bass player who was going out with me sister. We didn’t have a drummer and we hadn’t even played a gig when Mick went up to see Gary Bushell and told him we were this new band and he liked the name. The next thing Jimmy Pursey (Sham 69 vocalist) was on the phone. We started off big time doing twenty four tracks at Polydor studios after only ever having sung into a little tape recorder. After that we got signed to Small Wonder Records to make our first EP, ‘Flares And Slippers’, which sold fabulously well. We started the band in March ’79, by the end of October ’79 we’d recorded ‘I’m Not A Fool’ (second EP) one Sunday afternoon and in the next two days we had five record companies fighting for our signatures – Warner Bros., Polydor, Decca… I think we was gonna go with Polydor but then EMI stepped in with a big offer. That was it, we was away, signed and we’d only ever played four gigs. I appeared on ‘Top Of The Pops’ at fifteen years old.”

Mick: “The emphasis was on the songwriting and if we wouldn’t have thought it was worth a carrot, we wouldn’t have ever gone for it. We liked what we was hearing obviously, especially the first time we walked into a big mainframe studio like Polydor and listening to what we was capable of. We’d earned this contract and we’re worth our weight, you know?”

Jeff: “There was a lot of bands coming through but we was more influenced by the older, first punk bands like The Ramones, The Clash and all that – still the great ones for me. Even though our sound moved on, Mick’s guitar sound had a sound all of its own. They was good, poppy songs, even though there was shouted lyrics, because we didn’t know anything else, and big choruses. But it all seemed to gel and before we knew it, ‘Volume 1’ (1980) had been made, bang, and we’re into the Top 50, then the Top 30 and we stayed there for weeks and weeks.”

 

OI OI OI!
Jeff: “In a newspaper there was a review of one our gigs in Leeds and it said ‘the only words I could muster between songs were ‘Oi! Oi! Oi!’ and we thought that was really funny. So we thought we’d write a song called ‘Oi, Oi, Oi’. All of a sudden it was this big fucking movement! It’s still going and I still am.”

WAR ON THE TERRACES
Mick: “In a way the football stuff did kill the band because things were a lot more fractionalised then. Everybody had their little firm and obviously West Ham’s was possibly the naughtiest. It weren’t something we designed it just happened. With the likes of Iron Maiden going out there, the original plastic hammers, they’d play Leeds and say ‘We’re West Ham, you’re Leeds, let’s party’, and like a bunch of fuckin’ doughnuts we’d go up there and say ‘We’re West Ham, who fuckin’ wants some?’ (laughs)”

Jeff: We was very caught up with the firm and the football thing. We enjoyed the football/fighting thing at the time but it was more tongue-in-cheek than it is today. I’ve gotta say that ‘cos I’m covering my tracks and not saying ‘I was a little football hooligan’. I was one but that’s the way it was. We was all kids at the time and when we’d done the song we knew Maiden was gonna get shot down and we didn’t give a shit. Really it was a statement that we’d done that. It was about how in the future this is what you’re going to find, it’ll be more and more ‘when you look out on the terraces, smile breaks your face, and the younger generation will be here to take your place’. That was our statement that it happens. We’ve withdrawn from it but it will go on forever and ever.”

Mick: “It was so fractionalised and violent in them days but now you play a gig and you see all of the old top faces from Chelsea, Millwall and Arsenal and everyone has a drink together. (laughs)”

EAST END KIDS
Jeff: “It’s a very passionate part of London. Obviously it’s changed now with the redevelopment and a lot of people have moved out to Essex and Kent and that but it was a good place to grow up in. It was like any inner city area but we chose to write a lot of songs about where we come from. There’s a lot of history, with the docks being bombed in the war, the Kray twins, Jack the Ripper and stuff like that.”

Mick: “Part of the heart has been torn out of it but that’s progress and that’s the way it goes. You can’t do anything about it. I remember when I was a kid and we used to watch the old black and white telly and seeing the news and it seemed that our neck of the woods was always on it. What is it about the east end? Why is it always on the news, for the worst reasons obviously? I still live there. It has helped our comeback, because you get a lot of your Green Days and Blink-182s who have been citing us as an influence. Then young kids will come and check the old boys out to see what they’re all about and they seem to like it.”

THE BEGINNING OF THE END
Jeff: “Basically it was a long, drawn out affair, how it really ended. We were sacked from EMI in 1981 for an incident when I had to go to the Old Bailey for a trial, but nowadays I would have been a hero for it. The thing is with people like this Doherty geezer, he’s a scumbag for one. We never injected heroin or stuff like that. But what anthem did he ever write? Not one. Then obviously the Southall thing happened with the Oi! riots which was nothing to do with us but we got tarnished with it. We got sacked from EMI and just got involved with the wrong people but I think we had a great heavy rock album with ‘The Wild Ones’ (1982), which was maybe too radical a departure at the time. We should have gone one stage at a time but we went from there to there because we had a lot of people round us like UFO and Black Sabbath saying, ‘This is the way you should go. It’s like rock ‘n’ roll heaven out there. Get to LA, shag loads of birds and play stadiums’. We were still young and we got in with a manager who was the absolute sumbag. We was smoking a lot of dope, getting depressed and we was skint. Five years after that we pulled ourselves out of our houses to go to America and do this tour that was a disaster. We were shot. It was like a prizefighter on his last legs. It never worked out.”

TIME FOR A COMEBACK
Mick : “It all started when I was sitting up late one night and I recognised these chords coming out of this Levis advert and I thought ‘Fucking hell, I know that song’. (laughs) I was pissed at the time and I rang Jeff up and said ‘Fuckin’ hell, The Clash got a hundred grand for doing ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go?’. We’re on a fuckin’ roll here, let’s see where this goes from here’. Never mind we only got about £1500 for that but then someone approached us to do a record so we recruited our good friend Tony Van Frater from Sunderland’s Red Alert on bass. We got Andrew Laing, the drummer, also from there, and we went out and we played one gig in northern Spain. We went out there and it was absolutely packed to the rafters, they went crazy and we fuckin’ loved it! We thought ‘Come on, how bad can it be? Let’s go for it’ and, touch wood, it’s gone from strength to strength. It’s still a great buzz.”

UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Mick: “Green Day say we influenced them. Lars (Rancid) came over last year and we recorded some stuff for him. It’s an honour for him to say that because I think Rancid are a really good band. We’ve got them on the new ‘The Kings Of Street Punk’ compilation album, out in July, and we hope to do something in the future, maybe in the States.”

UNFORGIVEN
Jeff: “This is a rock-pop album but it has very Cockney tones, with songs like ‘Alright Bruv’, ‘Come See Me’ and ‘Big Time Charlie’. We obviously wanted to make a mix between the rock and the Cockney punk thing. I think this is the album we should have made after ‘The Power And The Glory’ (1981). It’s very well produced. We tried to make every song have a big, fuck off strong chorus. Obviously when I was fifteen, writing about being in a police car and them saying they were gonna put me away, you can’t do that stuff again.”

Mick: “We’ve always based what we’ve done around sing-alongs and I think, in many ways, this is a back to roots album for us. It’s still got the big choruses, the big chants, the guitar solos going on and all the rest of it. We spent a lot of time trying to get this right and we had in mind that we could not put out another metal album. We didn’t want to so we took the pedal off and we’ve actually had fun making this album. If you listen to ‘The Power And The Glory’, then this is the natural follow on to that. It’s almost like Steve Jones’ guitar sound. The thing with the Rejects is we was never a fast punk band, we had one or two tracks that were fast, but most of the stuff was mid-paced, like The Pistols or The Clash stuff. With every record, even since ‘Volume 1’, we’ve always paid a lot of attention production-wise. We never left it to anyone else which was the best bit ‘cos then we’d be in the and out of the studio in three days.”

Jeff: “‘Never Mind The Bollocks’ is the ultimate punk album because everything breathes. It’s proper rock music to me.”

ON THE STREETS AGAIN
Mick: “Obviously with our new label to run, we’re going to take some new bands along. Not necessarily punk, we’ll be looking at rock as well.”

Jeff: “There’s one band called The Usual Suspects and I think they’re gonna be big. They are like a cross between The Kinks and The Streets, they have a lot to ‘em. We was lucky enough to sign them up.”

Mick: “Our label’s called GNR Records and we have several releases coming out. We have The Usual Suspects’ EP coming out, ‘The Kings Of Street Punk’ compilation with the likes of Rancid, The 4 Skins, Bad Manners, and it’s all new stuff as well. Loads of different stuff.”

COCKNEY REJECT: THE BOOK
Mick: “There’s a screenplay being written at the moment of the book and that’s looking good at the moment. It’s a good story.”

Jeff: “There’s been a couple of drafts of the screenplay so far and obviously it’s gotta go back because it’s not 100% right yet and we won’t get let anything come out unless it’s right.”

Mick: “We don’t want to be misrepresented. Thing is, you’ve got bands these days that grate on us because they have this gangster stance. We all know people we just don’t talk about it. That’s the way to do it. If you talk about it it means they’re not really the real deal.”

US OF A
Mick: “We’ve got some good friends over there. Joey that drums for Queens Of The Stone Age is a good friend of ours. Joey’s going to do it through their people and hopefully we’ll do it right because there’s no point going over there half-cocked and playing two or three sporadic gigs and ending up with nothing to show for it because of poor promotion. We want to get over there and get it absolutely spot-on with a twenty or thirty date tour or something.”

The ‘Rejects wear their hearts on their sleeves and are proud of their music, their neighbourhood and their beloved West Ham United. In the cynical world of the music industry their honesty is a rarity. Bless ‘em!

The Cockney Rejects single ‘Fists Of Fury’ is out now on iTunes.

‘Unforgiven’ is out now on GNR Records.


Eugene Big Cheese

 

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