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 transpontine@btinternet.com)

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

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

Ian Brown 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 !