Summer of Love in Forest Gate: Upper Cut, Summer 67

Monday 11 August 2014

1967 has been labelled the Summer of Love, in the annals of pop music. Hippies, flower power, San Francisco nights, and the widespread emergence of hallucinogenic drugs within pop culture have characterised the era. In this, the last of our monthly round-ups of Upper Cut gigs from 47 years ago, we have a brief look at how that summer played out in Forest Gate. For a full list and links to previous posts Upper Cut-related posts, see footnote.

Stratford Express reports on
Upper Cut's summer difficulties
June and July were difficult times for the club. It faced an enquiry into renewing its licence, following complaints of late night rowdiness by patrons and anti-social parking.  The months were relatively slack times at the Upper Cut, before it closed for a summer break.

Stratford Express -
2 June, with The Turtles
There was only one act of any significance in the first four weeks of June: The Turtles, who played the venue on the third. They were a short lived American rock band, who managed to move swiftly from folk, through folk rock to psychedelic within about five years. They first came to prominence in 1965 with a cover of Dylan's It Ain't Me, Babe, but had their biggest hit, just as they were appearing at the Upper Cut, with Happy Together. The Turtles folded in 1970, with a couple of their members leaving to join Frank Zappa in the eclectic Mothers of Invention.

Turtles - not Happy Together for long

Stratford Express,
23 June, advertising
The Chiffons and The Toys
There was then a three week gap in Woodgrange Road's gig schedule, before a double header of two Black, all girl American groups: The Chiffons and The Toys, on 24 June. The Chiffons came from New York's Bronx and had been formed in 1960.  They helped define the girl group sound of the time, and in many ways foreshadowed the later Motown greats. By the time they appeared at the Upper Cut, they had already had chart hits and a gold disc with He's So Fine, and Sweet Talkin' Guy, a few months before the Forest Gate outing.  The core of the Chiffons broke up in the late 1960s, although off shoots continue to tour until today.

Sweet Talkin' girls - The Chiffons
The Toys also hailed from New York,  were a short lived group.  They disbanded the year after the Woodgrange Road outing, by which time they had already had their biggest hit A Lover's Concerto.

The Toys
A week later, there was the return of Chris Farlowe at the end of the month( 30th). He had appeared only two months previously at the club a return doubtless encouraged by the popularity of this Islington soul/blues shouter.
Then July. Only two gigs of note - but two of the most influential bands of the era - on successive Saturdays!

Summer of Love at
the Upper Cut, with
Cream and Chris Farlowe

Return visit from Chris Farlowe
First up, Cream (or The Cream, as they were advertised) on 1 July. Surely one of the greatest rock/blues bands of all time, and perhaps one of those bands who were to characterise the famed Summer of Love.  They had a short life (about two years) but left an indelible mark on British, and indeed international, popular music.  They sold over 15 million albums in their three years of existence, including the Wheels on Fire, the first ever platinum double album. 
Cream of the crop

The three piece band consisted of the mercurial Eric Clapton , who had already outgrown his stints with the Yardbirds and John Mayall's Blues Brakers, and Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce, who had emerged from the Graham Bond Organisation, which played the Upper Cut in May. Cream had just released Disraeli Gears by the time they appeared in Forest Gate, so doubtless Strange Brew and Sunshine of Your love got a good airing on the night.

Small Faces revisit home club
 And, the curtain closure before the summer break was the return of local boys, The Small Faces, who had played the club earlier in January 1967. They were just about to release Itchycoo Park. Whether it got its first public airing at this gig isn't clear; but it would have been highly appropriate, had it done so. The inspiration behind the song is much disputed, but Wikipedia, at least, is happy to accord it very local origins. The website says:

A number of sources claim the song's name is derived from the nickname of Little Ilford Park, on Church Road, in the London suburb of Manor Park, where Small Faces singer and song writer Steve Marriott grew up. The "Itchycoo" nickname is in turn attributed to the stinging nettles which grew there. Other sources cite nearby Wanstead Flats (Manor Park end) and Gardeners'  Corner, Aldgate, as the inspiration for the song.
Stratford Express,
7 July, with
The Small Faces
The club then took a six week break, over the summer months, not surprisingly, perhaps. But, the Stratford Express of 14 July offered an alternative explanation for the closure, when it announced:
Forest Gate police swooped on youngsters leaving Billy Walker's Upper Cut club and the Lotus dance hall on Saturday (the night of the Faces gig), in a bid to beat hooliganism.
Local shopkeepers had complained of vandalism and residents of noise and parking disruption caused by the club's patrons.
 There was also chaos inside the club, as the Stratford Express continued:
After appearing at the Upper Cut on Saturday ... the Small Faces apologised to fans ... 'It was chaos on stage. We couldn't concentrate', said leader Steve Marriott. Tough bouncers either side of the stage rushed across the front of the Faces to drag away screaming girls to safety. In their rush, Plonk Lane's guitar was put out of tune and Steve Marriott's mike went dead. Dozens of hysterical girls were treated by St John Ambulance men and one was taken to hospital after being trampled in the crush. 'We're very sorry for the kids who got hurt but it was so hot up the front that they fainted and had to be dragged to the stage to safety' said Plonk. 

 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 2013

Upper Cut (1) - a summary of the emergence of the first six months of the club (December 1966 - July 1967) July 2013

Upper Cut (2) - a brief survey of the second, and final half year of the club's existence (August 1967 - December 1967) July 2013
Georgie Fame, The Tremeloes and Unit 4 + 2 - (September 1967 at the Upper Cut) October 2013

When Stevie Wonder played Forest Gate - (October 1967) November 2013

Mouthwatering musical fayre on Woodgrange Road - (November 1967) December 2013

Club bills for the Upper Cut's two Decembers - (Decembers 1966 and 1967) January 2014

The Upper Cut beds down - (January 1967) February 2014

Essex comes to Forest Gate - (February 1967) March 2014
Stax comes to town - (March 1967) April 2014

A mixed bunch at the Upper Cut in April (April 1967) May 2014

Upper Cut - May 1967 (June 1967) June 2014

Summer of Love in Forest Gate (Summer 1967) August 2014

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

Post script

In November 2014 we added the following post script to this story:

As visitors to this site may feel, we have an almost unhealthy obsession with this club, which ran for a single year in 1966/7 on Woodgrange Road.

We have recently come across a couple of gems that can be added to our regular coverage. Paul Osborn, who has an interest in the former pirate radio stations, of the 1960's, contacted us with a fascinating MP3 recording, attached, below.

The Club used to host regular sessions of the Giggle, Goggle, Guggle Club - essentially a disco held on Sunday afternoons, hosted by DJs from the pirate radio stations. Tony Blackburn and Ed Stewart, among others appeared.

The You Tube clip, below, is from an advert broadcast on Radio London ("Big L") on 12 August 1967. It was promoting an appearance at the Upper Cut Club, by DJ Mike Quinn, who could be seen for "Half a crown"!

Pete Drummond on Radio London reading
an advert during the morning show for the
Giggle, Goggle Guggle Show, at the
Upper Cut Club, on Saturday 12 August 1967.

Click link: to hear. Thanks to Paul Osborn for the link
We have placed this as a postscript to the article on The Summer of Love, we published in August this year. It can be viewed here.

Prominent Rock music journalist, Peter Guralnick produced a book, published by Penguin, Sweet Soul Music in 1986. It includes photos of both Sam and Dave and Otis Redding, appearing at the Upper Cut on 18 March 1967. Close inspection of the photos shows posters on the wall of the club, adverting the event.

Sam and Dave at the Upper Cut
Club, 18 March 1967
Guralnick credits Fred Lewis for the use of these photos. We have been unable to track Mr Lewis down, but would like to thank him, for our ability to use them. Any other, similar photos, would be very gratefully received! We have placed these photos on our article on the Stax Tour, of April this year, which can be accessed here.

Otis Redding performing at the
Upper Cut Club, 18 March 1967

1 comment:

  1. Fred Lewis' photos of Sam and Dave, along with Otis with the MGs, were actually shot at the Speakeasy Club.


We welcome comments to all the items featured on this site. However, we reserve the right to omit offensive comments, and edit the length of comments, for reasons of space.