Originally released in 1982, this Cockney Rejects album was the first foray for the creators of Oi! and street-punk into classic Rock. ‘The Wild Ones’ came along at a low point for the band. The more melodic tones of the previous album ‘The Power and The Glory’ had not been received well by their hard core supporters.
Raised on hard rock in London’s East End, Mick Geggus (guitar) and his brother Jefferson (vocals) decided to follow their instincts and record a proper rock platter. As if to underline the authenticity of the venture, drinking buddy and legendary UFO bassist Pete Way was drafted in the twiddle the knobs.
The resulting album was impressive. Indeed I remember buying the album back in the day, curious as much about Way’s production credentials as about the West Ham Utd rabble-rousers’ change in direction.
The tone is set from the word go with Mick Geggus’ no-frills, dirty, echo-laden riff launching ‘The Way of the Rocker’. His brother snarls out vocals that are sometimes reedy, sometimes guttural, but always characterful. The sound is spliced together by Keith Warrington’s thumping, stripped down drum sound. This was before rock ‘n’ roll developed its 80’s penchant for over-produced tinny snares and piercing cymbals. ‘Victim of the Cheap Wine’ is another cut in the same vein: a solid, frill-free rumble.
But there’s plenty of variety here. ‘City of Light’ is much more radio friendly, with some sweeping vocal hooks, backing choruses and melodic guitar fills. Likewise, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Dream’ has a poppy refrain and tender middle section that contrasts with the pre-grunge riff and angry vocal delivery on either side. The band always had an ear for a catchy line.
‘Satellite City’ is a stand out track, creeping around on an unassuming acoustic meander, before kicking the door in with a meaty, swaggering riff. Micky Geggus is in fine form on the solos and outro.
The album was received well by critics. Why not? There’s lots to love here. But as Geggus makes clear in the searingly honest liner notes, the album didn’t shift that many units. It predictably fell between two stools: rockers wondering what these noisy oiks were doing on their patch; and punks lamenting the passing of the old raucous vibe.
Mick’s notes also describe the production process that watered down the sound from something much more dense and heavy, which he describes as “The UFO disease”! I would love to hear those original tapes, particularly of ‘Til The End of the Day’, the Kinks track which is one of the few weaker tracks on show here.
Much more enjoyable are full-throttle rockers: ‘Some Play Dirty’, laced with distorted harmonica and ‘Heat of the Night’ another with a fine chorus and some burning fret work.
The band clearly hold this album in high regard and this is a long overdue and worthy re-issue. The Rejects remain a powerful live outfit and ‘The Wild Ones’ has been played in its entirety on the road. They are gearing up for their 40th anniversary tour next year. Whilst this album may not feature heavily in those setlists, it marks an important and diverse period in the band’s history. ****
Review by Dave Atkinson
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