Who remembers the Iron Curtain club in St.Mary Cray? I think it was 1966 when I heard boys from my year talking about this new and slightly scary sounding music venue. While we had Chislehurst Caves and the Bickley Arms to hear blues and jazz as well as the usual local church hall dances, the Iron Curtain sounded very different by the descriptions given by Rob Brown and Pete Welch.
My father, a former St.Mary Cray police officer, had heard about this new club and warned me off but intrigued I went along and what a place! Bricked up windows, dark corridors and stairways, sweat pouring down the walls and fantastic music, ska, bluebeat and Tamla all played at a volume that I’d never heard before. Fridays nights had live bands for ten bob and a lot of emerging groups played there including the Yardbirds and Geno Washington. Can anyone remember the other bands?
It was a great venue, so different from anything else around and for a time very popular but after a lot of attention from the authorities the Curtain closed.
Andy Trotter – 05 January 2018
The picture above is a Georgian house in St Mary Cray similar to the one used as ‘The Iron Curtain’. I remember the club being more set back from the road and slightly raised above street level. Does anyone have a photo of the actual building? What exists there today? Any further information you may have about the club or your experiences of visiting it will be published in the main body of this post. I am expecting some interesting stories!
Richard Beer (07 Jan 18)
This is a shot of the building that housed The Iron Curtain, taken this morning on a drive around ‘memory lanes’.
This is one and the same house as the 1934 photo attached to Andy Trotter’s article. The front garden is now a small car park and the house is divided into private apartments. A plaque on the front names it as ‘Latimer Court’ but there is no visible sign of its dark history. Perhaps we should petition for a ‘black plaque’ to describe the property’s heritage in our lifetime?
I’d pretty much forgotten how many live music venues we had ‘back in the day’ within a few miles of the old school.
I remember The Iron Curtain, Chislehurst Caves, Bromley Court Hotel, the Royal Bell in Bromley well and, once mobile with my own Mini, Downe Folk Club and the Black Prince in Bexley. The name of the other venue in Hurst Road, Sidcup eludes me.
It still surprises me sometimes when records come on the radio to think that I saw so many artists and groups that went on to acquire huge international careers within a small patch of suburbia.
Reading the mention of Chislehurst Caves took me back to the late 1950s when a group of us attended the Saturday night raves each week without fail. The only singer I can recall seeing there was Screaming Lord Sutch who came on stage with a toilet pan around his neck and sang “I’m A Bog For You Baby” – really! There was always a trad jazz band plus several pop groups to entertain us and we would move from one group to another. I wore a navy blue straw granny hat with small bells at the end of my trousers and would dance around for ages – they were loony days. The caves are famous for being haunted and one of our lads decided he wanted to stay in the caves overnight and I decided to accompany him. We never saw or heard any ghostly happenings but when we left in the morning we could not believe how many courting couples were leaving. It was so sad when these Saturday events eventually closed down.
I remember it well since Grace my girlfriend, later my wife lived five doors down. The Beatles were just becoming famous and demanded £5000 for a fifteen-minute slot at the opening so they had The Stones for £3000 if I remember correctly and they did a longer set. Coming back with Grace one night we met two scantily clad girls waiting for the club to open, sheltering behind Grace’s hedge and up her pathway. It was the days of mini dresses with 3-6 inch peepholes. Grace was cross since we got into a conversation. I was the class oracle on popular music at the time annotating Record Mirror and passing it around the class. I still have a ten year complete run in the loft and can easily waste a day reminiscing about those golden years of music starting in 1965 and culminating with Forever Changes by Love. My son and I saw them play at the Jazz Cafe as recently as the Summer of 2016. I even sat at the bar with dear old Arthur Lee in Cleo Lane and Johnnie Dankworth’s place, The Stables, in Milton Keynes in the early Noughties.
I lived in St Mary Cray (Chelsfield Lane) and this venue passed me by completely – unless dementia is kicking in! I just looked it up and The Troggs played there on May 20th 1966, the Yardbirds on Feb 25th same year. I did the caves mainly when doing local things. Didn’t Geno Washington do the Orpington venues as well?
I used to go there every weekend with schoolmates, Tony Fleet and John Burke. we saw Lee Dorsey and the Move there. The Who played there once and apparently they got 1,000 people in there, so I’m told.
If I hear “You don’t know like I know” by Sam & Dave, I’m transported straight back in there. I can even smell the damp. Spooky!
The Iron Curtain was one of my favourite haunts, next time I’m in St Mary Cray I’ll take a photo – have a feeling the building is still there. We saw Dione Warwick (“War-wick”) there but cannot recall the date, probably 1965. Other venues for blues and jazz were Bromley Court Hotel – Long John Baldry introduced a very young Rod Stewart there along with Spencer Davies, Stevie Winwood, Sonny Boy Williamson, et al. Who remembers The Austral in Sidcup? It was a 1930’s cinema converted to a nightclub/disco it became the local home of Ska in the late ’60s.