BY JEZ ROBERTS
In 1980, Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister, The Empire Strikes Back was the number one grossing film in the UK and Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in The Wall (Part II) began the year at No.1; but in May that year, The Cockney Rejects aggressively reached No. 35 in the charts with their punk take on West Ham’s terrace anthem I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles. This meant that on May 22nd, The Cockney Rejects appeared on Top of the Tops, decked out in West Ham shirts surrounded by pretty bubbles in the air, no less.
This wasn’t their only appearance on the show but one that fused football and music together. Before that appearance on TOTP in 1980, Second Division West Ham reached the FA Cup final. Frank Lampard Snr’s winning header in the semi-final replay against Everton – his first goal for over a year – spawned another Upton Park terrace classic to the tune of White Christmas: “I’m dreaming of a Frank Lampard/Just like the one at Elland Road/When the ball came over and Frank fell over and scored the f*cking winning goal!”Embed from Getty Images
They would face a seemingly superior Arsenal in the final; a team boasting the considerable talents of Pat Jennings, Liam Brady and Frank Stapleton.
The Cockney Rejects were arguably the architects of the genre of ‘Oi!’ In an article by The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis, he asserts that it was the Cockney Rejects’ manager coined the term “Oi!” to describe a third generation of punk-inspired working-class bands playing “harder music on every level, guitar driven, terrace choruses”. On the surface it is Punk, but in the eyes of true ‘Oi!’ fans it is the genuine sound of the British streets in the late 1970s. The B-side to I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles shows a less savoury side to football culture at the time. ’West Side Boys’, was not really a traditional singalong terrace anthem:
We meet in the Boleyn every Saturday
Talk about the team that
we’re gonna do today
Steel cap Dr. Martens and iron bars
Smash their coaches or do’em
in their cars
This verse alone shows the darker side of The Cockney Rejects. It displays what a certain but significant element of fans during the period felt about their Saturday afternoons and that the football itself was often a secondary consideration.Embed from Getty Images
The FA Cup final in 1980 was won by a single goal, scored by a stooping Trevor Brooking. It was their third FA Cup success and came in a relative halcyon period in West Ham’s history; in the 1980/81 season they were promoted to the First Division and were also runners up in the League Cup to the great Liverpool side of the day.
The Cockney Rejects appearance on Top of the Pops was a great crossover of football culture and music. The manner of the performance exemplifies where a section of West Ham – and other clubs – fans were at that particular time. If you wanted a little insight into the ‘fuck you’ attitude and scene in 1980, The Cockney Rejects’ performance is the first thing you should go visit. The passion that is showed for West Ham is impressive. They show aggression in an almost comical performance. Due to the ‘backing track’ mime-a-long nature of Top of the Pops in those days, they overtly mock this, like many other bands did through the show’s history; perhaps the most occasion being Oasis’ performance of ‘Roll With It’, when Liam and Noel Gallagher openly mocked the make-up of the show by swapping roles within the band.
The Cockney Rejects’ Oi anthem will never stand the test of time, it bottled an essence that was very much of the moment in British football and social culture. But I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles will last forever.
I’m forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air,
They fly so high,
Nearly reach the sky,
Then like my dreams,
They fade and die.
Fortune’s always hiding,
I’ve looked everywhere,
I’m forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air.