Monday, October 31, 2011

The Mistrale club in Beckenham

In the 1960s and early 1970s, the Mistrale club in Beckenham was a top nightspot for South East London, hosting internationally known bands and introducing people to the sounds of young America and the Caribbean. It was located at 2-4 High Street at Beckenham Junction.

Before it became the Mistrale it was the plain old Beckenham Ballroom. Peter Frampton, who grew up in the area, played early gigs there with his teenage band, and bands like The Yardbirds performed (May 1964). Bill Wyman of The Rolling Stones later recalled: 'We would also go to dances at the Beckenham Ballroom, where drainpipe trousers were banned'.

It seems to have become the Mistrale in 1968. I have come across two flyers online for the club in that year. The grand opening on 17th April featured Manfred Mann and was followed by others including The Alan Price Set (24 April), Ike & Tina Turner (1 May), Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band (3 May) and Marmalade (8 May 1968).

In October 1968, artists perfroming included PP Arnold (11th October), and T.Rex with The Pretty Things (18th October). Ska was obviously popular with The Skatelites playing on 20 October 1968 and The Pyramids (who wrote Skinhead Moonstomp) in April, May and October. There was also a twice weekly Rock Steady Disco - according to George Austen this was put on by Little Lee and The Savoy Sound who also played at the Penthouse Club in Bromley and the Amersham Arms in New Cross ( a flyer for the latter in 1968 promises 'Ska, Soul and Tamla Motown' from Lee).

Other gigs included:

- Black Sabbath, 25 September 1968.
- Kaleidoscope, 29 Novemeber 1968 (advert below).
- Isley Brothers, 20 December 1968.
- King Crimson on 11 July 1969; guitarist Robert Fripp recorded in his diary: 'Mistrale, Beckenham. Bad, but they know how to clap: faster, baby, you’re slowing me down. £50'.
- Genesis, 2 March 1970.
- Mungo Jerry, 31 Decemeber 1970.
- Mott the Hoople, 9 April 1971.
- Fleetwood Mac, 23 July 1971.

There's some good discussion about the place at Beckhenham History Forum. Seemingly there was a Rolls Royce on the way in where people paid their entrance money. Mike Loveday was the owner. One regular recalled: ''In the days of the Mistral the club was on 2 floors. The resident DJ used to play downstairs and guests – e.g. DJs like Emperor Rosko & Johnnie Walker and acts like Jimmy Helms - used to play upstairs. After you paid your entrance fee to the lady in the Rolls Royce you walked past a games room that had a pinball machine and table football before turning right to go past the bar and into the main (downstairs) dance area. In 1973/1974 the biggest night of the week was Friday night, with lots of good Soul music played. Saturday was not as busy and was a bit more “commercial”... the upstairs part of the club always used to close before the downstairs - which meant that the final few dances were always downstairs. Closing time was 2am, and the last record played at 1:55 am every night by the resident DJ (whose name I think may have been Lee) was "Goodnight My Love" by Jesse Belvin - a classic!'

Some of the DJs who played out at the Mistrale were national big names. Don Moss is named as 'popular DJ' for the 'opening of our Discotheque' in April 1968, presumably the same Don Moss who was a BBC radio DJ and one of the presenters of 60s TV pop show Thank your lucky stars. Emperor Rosko and Johnnie Walker were both DJs in the early days of Radio One.

In around 1974 it became Tites Disco - Lee was still a resident DJ along with Rocking Richard and Dave Mitchell. The central ceiling between the ground and first floors had been removed to create a single floor warehouse-like club.

Later still - in the 80s - it became Langtrys and then its latest incarnation, The Bridge Bar.

If you liked this you might also be interested in:

- Mods in South London.
- 1960s ska and soul clubs in South London.
- 1960s jazz and r'n'b in Blackheath (Green Man).

(always interested in memories, flyers, photos of SE London nightlife from any period - contact


Anonymous said...

It was also called the Bat and Belfry. I was a regular for many years.

Unknown said...

I used to work at the mistrale club,collecting glasses and fly posting for the club.i remember one night where i was trying to keep two girls happy,one up stairs and one downstairs,i think i missed out on both in the end!
A few of us who worked there went to Spain for a few months on a working holiday,good times.
Bromley Court Hotel used to have some great bands and being i and my mates were Mods we had the odd scrap or to.I gave a mate a lift home one night from the hotel on my scooter and got knicked by (baby face) Gillespe A local copper,i was still on my L plates but took them off!
I was part of the well known group "The Earns" and we used to hang around Bromley South Station,and the Wimpy bars.
Bromley was a great place to be in the 60s.
Ian Brown

Anonymous said...

Really enlightened to read that ian !

Anonymous said...

Before it was called Langtrys it was known as Lautrec's.

richard taylor said...

I WAS THE RESIDENT DJ AT TITES, LAUTREC'S AND LANGTRY's CLUB. At Tites I worked alongside DJ Dave Mitchell and we became very good mates and had many a fun night. I can probably tell you just about everything you could possibly want to know. For example, Ouni was the Norweigian blond that collected the cash in the car and was married to Mike Loveday the owner. They did not move to Australia. If you want to ask me anything, get in touch here or on my e-mail address:

Anonymous said...

I used to be the resident DJ at Tites, Lautrec's and Langtry's. I managed to work with plenty of well known DJ's and bands, such as Rosko, Noel Edmonds, Stuart Henry, Tony Blackburn, The Chairman of The Board and The Detroit Emeralds, to name but a handful. I have played all types of music throughout the years, from soul to rave, which is not an easy task. The upstairs was made into various disguises but never The Bat. It was however called The Belfy for ages. I would be happy to answer any questions you have regarding this place.

lynx said...

I was at the King Krimson gig in '69 where they performed the whole of 'In the Court of the Krimson KIng' great gig ..we were abiout a dozen in the audience that night!

Chris Goodchild said...

I'm pretty sure Beckenham Ballrooms was one of Victor Sylvesters places where he taught ballroom dancing, the first Disco night in the '60s there was on a Wednesday when they called it Dolly's Disco.
A couple of the other good places were The Bromley Court Hotel and Daylight Inn Petts Wood both run by the same promoter. Bromley Court used to feature Geno Washington quite often, I also saw Eric Burdon and the Animals there. The Penthouse Club next to Bromley South Station was also called the Peyton Place, Count Lee a Jamaican was the DJ there and played the best Ska anywhere,Lee also Played at the Iron Curtain Club by the old Morphy Richards place in St Mary's Cray and I am fairly sure he played at the Ram Jam Club in Brixton.
At the Penthouse Club in the early '60s it cost 2/6 on a friday night and was an extra 3/- to go all night IIRC.
Richard Taylor, I remember you, did you also play at the Bickley arms?

richard taylor said...

Chris I remember you and yes I did play the Bickley Arms Dive Bar and then went onto The Golden Arrow, which was excellent.

Anonymous said...

Hello everyone. I will be in London on "a pilgrimage Tour" in the places where Bowie was. I have read that Bowie played with his group the Konrads in 1962 in the Beckenham Ballroom which adress was 2 High Street.
Is there a chance that it could be the Mistrale Club ?
Thank you for your help.

Unknown said...

I grew up in beckenham in the 80/90s. in my late teens I frequented Langtrys (Langgers). It was the defult place to go when the pubs shut. The music was normally terrible. Though when the speed/uk garage thing took off in '96 the dj would play that stuff - with a good reaction from the crowd. I think i had a flyer for Fabio & Grooverider playing there in maybe 93/4 I was too young to go then, but I loved that flyer!

Anonymous said...

@ Richard Taylor, With reference to your offer to "to answer any questions you have regarding this place" above, do you know the full name of and what happened to the black house DJ who I think was called Lee?

Kenny Gee

Graham Rosher said...

I remember seeing Spooky Tooth @ Mistrale Club in about 1968/69 one of the first bands I saw there live
used to be a great venue to see bands anyone remember seeing Spooky tooth there if so can you put a more
precise day?

Pete Fisk said...

Our group, The Unattached, played what I have always believed to have been The Mistrale Club, but somewhat earlier than the original post suggests - in either 1966 or 1967.
I could be mistaken of course as it was an awfully long time ago - and I have often questioned my memory regarding the name, but to my knowledge it was no longer called Beckenham Ballrooms.
So, if the Mistrale Club name did, in fact, not come into existence until 1968, what was it called between the Beckenham Ballrooms and The Mistrale?

Anonymous said...

According to my gig diary, I was the drummer for a six-piece band called The Blades when they played at the Beckenham Ballroom on 11th March 1966.
I remember us playing a set upstairs and while we were taking a break downstairs another band's drummer 'borrowed' my kit for their set. On returning to play our second set, I discovered the spring tension on my bass drum pedal had been slackened off, making it almost unplayable for me! That's drummers for you - never miss a chance to 'nobble' a rival.

Unknown said...

Re Pete Fisksk. I saw the unattached at the drum youth club in Penge in about 1967. They supported the Herd with Peter Frampton. Magic days never to be repeated

Unknown said...

Re Charles Bruce - The Unattached.
Yes Charles, that was us... great that you remember!
I can actually give you the exact date of the gig... it was 16th September 1966 at The Drum, Parish Lane, Penge... I still have the original poster!
Good days, as you said... never to be repeated.
Thanks for the response!
Pete :-)

Carole Atkins said...

My dad, Jimmy Atkins, was one of the partners at the Mistrail Club. I remember going there during the day as a young child and listening to some of the bands rehearse. I also remember the car inside, but in my memory it was the dj booth