A mixed bunch at the Upper Cut in April

Friday 9 May 2014

This posting is one of our regular, monthly updates on those appearing at Woodgrange Road's Upper Cut Club, 47 years ago - in April 1967.

The final days of the Upper Cut, as a warehouse,
before demolition, to make way for a
Channel Tunnel rail ventilation shaft

It would be harsh to describe it as a bit "after the Lord Mayor's show", coming on the heels of March's fabulous Stax tour, but it must have seemed like a bit of an anti-climax to local attendees.

In retrospect, however, with appearances by both Jeff Beck and Prince Buster, the promoters could rightly claim to have introduced Forest Gate to two of the most influential artistes of the last half century - as the story below will attempt to illustrate

Sat 1 Apr - Dave Berry - gents 8/6d, ladies 7/6d
Sat 8 Apr - Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds - gents 8/6d, ladies 7/6d
Sat 15 Apr - Alan Price Set - gents 9/6d, ladies 8/6d
Fri 28 Apr - ("Singing his latest hit, Hi, Ho, Silver Lining") Jeff Beck - gents and ladies 6/-
Sat 29 Apr - Prince Buster - gents 9/6d, ladies 8/6d

A Stratford Express advert
for Upper Cut gigs
Sheffield born Dave Berry has been on the road since 1963, but had probably had his most successful days by the time he appeared at the Upper Cut. He was much influenced by Elvis and Gene Vincent and his act was, in many ways, a prototype for Alvin Stardust.

He appeared with the Cruisers, who after many personnel changes, are also still on the road. His best-remembered hits are Memphis Tennessee (a cover of the Chuck (no-relation) Berry hit), The Crying Game (both 1964),  and 1965's Little Things, a cover of a Bobby Goldsboro number.

He has gained a bit of recent prominence for the way in which two of his hits have been reissued.  The Crying Game was used as the theme tune for the eponymous film  and, perhaps less artistically - although probably more financially - satisfying, his Little Things has recently been adopted to promote Andrex toilet paper.

Chris Farlowe - or John Henry Deighton as he was named - similarly, is still on the circuit as an enjoyable blues and soul singer who can still knock out an old classic, with some style.  He has been backed by the Thunderbirds (who were with him at the Upper Cut) and later Coliseum.  His best known hits were covers of Rolling Stones records - mainly before the Upper Cut gig - most notably Out of Time and the Mike D'Abo penned Handbags and Gladrags  (published after the Forest Gate outing), which was later covered by the Stereophonics and used as the backing for Ricky Gervais'  The Office.

Chris Farlowe - never one of pop's glam figures,
but he's always been able to belt out a good song
Farlowe is a collector of war memorabilia and some while ago received bad publicity for trading in Nazi materials. He has run an antiques shop, trading, somewhat opportunistically, under the name Out of Time.

Less than a week later competition loomed on the horizon for the very successful Upper Cut, from just across the road, over what would have been a Burtons' outfitters and is now the 99p stores.  Above the shop, in a former snooker hall, was the Lotus Club.  We hope to bring a fuller history of that club after our monthly round ups of the Upper Cut have dried up.

Serious competition for the Upper Cut

April 14 saw an appearance from "the queen of Motown", Mary Wells.  She had a career plagued by ill-health and died in 1992 of cancer.  She appeared in Forest Gate a little after her marriage to Cecil Womack, of that famous family, and two years after her greatest hit, My Guy.

As she was, the fabulous Mary Wells

Alan Price headed the bill in the middle of April 1967 on Woodgrange Road.  Having started his successful musical career, and playing a significant part in their early hits, with the Animals, he left his fellow Geordie band in 1965 to set up the more jazz-influenced Alan Price Set.

Alan Price Set on
a forthcoming bill
By the time of his Upper Cut appearance he had had big UK hits with I've Put a Spell on You and Hi Lili, Hi Lo and was on the point of releasing Simon Smith and His Amazing Dancing Bear, which may well have had an airing at the Upper Cut.

Alan Price Set in action,
about the time of the Upper Cut gig
The Alan Price Set, in a variety of different formats, has continued to tour, until this day - often appearing on bills with such contemporaries as Georgie Fame (another Upper Cut performer), Maggie Bell and The Manfreds.

April was concluded by two very different acts. The last Friday of the month saw Jeff Beck (as the promotional literature said "singing his latest hit Hi, Ho Silver Lining"). Jeff was a Croydon boy, who replaced Eric Clapton, for a short while,  in the Yardbirds, on Jimmy Page's recommendation. The band was probably at its most successful in his twenty month tenure there.

Jeff Beck, in earlier times,
voted fifth best guitarist - ever!
Beck has gone on to play with the Who's Who of almost every significant popular musician of the last half century and was voted number 5 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the world's top 100 guitarists.

Beck was followed the next night, in considerable contrast, by Prince Buster. His Wikipedia entry sums up his impact, well:
"He is regarded as one of the most important figures in the history of ska and rocksteady music. The records he released in the 1960s influenced and shaped the course of Jamaican contemporary music and created a legacy of work that later reggae and ska artists would draw upon."

Prince Buster, a seminal figure
in the development of Reggae
Six months before his Upper Cut appearance he had appeared with Millie in a show based around her seminal My Boy Lollipop. His biggest hit, Al Capone, had been released just two months before the Upper Cut gig, and was soaring in the charts at the time he played Woodgrange Road.

Back catalogue

This site has published a number of articles on the history of the Upper Cut club: the first detailing the time when Otis visited it, in March 1967. This post was followed by two, recording the first six months and the final six months of the club's existence.

These posts were followed by almost monthy updates on who played at the club, that month, 47 years previously. The final blog is a record of a recent meeting with former boxer, Billy Walker, the name under whom the club exisited, on his memories of it and Forest Gate almost half a century ago.

Below is a list of those blogs: the hyper links are the titles of the articles, and when hit upon should give access to them. The dates (in italics) are the time covered by the blog and the date in bold are the months the blogs were posted.

Although the content, and some of the comments on the individual posts, is pretty definitive, we'd love to hear any memories readers may have of the gigs, or corrections they could make to the copy. Just post in the Comments box, below.
When Otis played Forest Gate (March 1967) May 2013Upper Cut (1) - a summary of the emergence of the first six months of the club (December 1966 - July 1967) July 2013Upper Cut (2) - a brief survey of the second, and final half year of the club's existence (August 1967 - December 1967) July 2013Georgie Fame, The Tremeloes and Unit 4 + 2 - (September 1967 at the Upper Cut) October 2013When Stevie Wonder played Forest Gate - (October 1967) November 2013Mouthwatering musical fayre on Woodgrange Road - (November 1967) December 2013Club bills for the Upper Cut's two Decembers - (Decembers 1966 and 1967) January 2014The Upper Cut beds down - (January 1967) February 2014Essex comes to Forest Gate - (February 1967) March 2014Stax comes to town - (March 1967) April 2014A mixed bunch at the Upper Cut in April (April 1967) May 2014Upper Cut - May 1967 (June 1967) June 2014Summer of Love in Forest Gate (Summer 1967) August 2014

Golden Boy, Billy Walker's Forest Gate memories September 2014

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