out of Five
Running time: 105
This vigorous and rowdy ‘rockumentary’ with an inspiring story at its heart, takes enlightening journeys both musically and culturally, but East End Babylon misses tricks in the editing department and some viewers might find it hard to understand its coarse cockney narrative.
What’s it all about?
Directed by Richard England, East End Babylon is the story of The Cockney Rejects, the British punk rock band that went from gigging in their back garden to global stardom. Travelling right back to the early 1970s, when their East End penury surroundings, love of football and future uncertainty spurred the unbowed group of teenagers to break out from the docks and form a rock band, East End Babylon follows The Cockney Rejects on a cultural journey as they discuss everything from their infamous appearance on Top Of The Pops to the ‘battle of Birmingham’, a brutal football brawl that signalled the band’s temporary demise.
Years after The Cockney Rejects returned to their normal day jobs, a song of theirs was used in a Levi’s advert and bands like Green Day and Rancid hailed them as major influences on their music, leading The Cockney Rejects to discover that a whole new audience in Europe and the USA were waiting for them.
East End Babylon is a pleasing and well-paced documentary, offering an amiable blend of archival footage of live performances and insightful discussions with band members and those associated with them. The early 1970s footage showing the antics that took place in the three-bedroom council house that housed nine people, including bandmates and brothers Jeff and Micky, and the personal chats with Jen, Jeff and Micky’s mother, are intimate and serve as insightful notes on why the dead-end kids chose to break free from the confinements of their economy and society.
As a filmic focal point, the turbulent journey of The Cockney Rejects is also incredibly inspiring and occasionally poignant and even today, the unassuming band members are still refreshingly humble and surprised by their success. Speaking as talking heads from the local pub, they’re also incredibly forward in discussing their career anecdotes and personal mistakes, ensuring that we never miss a beat.
Lead singer Jeff ‘Stinky’ Turner is understandably excited and impatient to tell his story and in the midst of doing so, he often forgets to pause for breath, developing an incoherent cockney accent that turns nastily aggressive when discussing the false Nazi accusations made against him. Finally, there are a few lazy slips in the editing department, as we’re forced to watch a camera-gawping track-suited man in the background of the pub and waiters come over with menus in the restaurant, which distract from the crucial interviews with band members.
A rowdy and vigorous documentary, East End Babylon is definitely worth a watch and will serve as a stellar reminder of life’s uncertainties. Recommended.