One Saturday Evening In 1963
Memories Of The Iron Door At 17
by Pam Beesley

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Iron Door 1963 - Photo courtesy Pam Beesley

"Do any of you remember the Iron Door Club?"

Do any of you remember the Iron Door Club? It proved to be a major influence in my life in the 1960's. Basically it was a dive and a terrible fire trap but at 17 none of this occurred to my friend Joy and I, we were there to enjoy ourselves and loved every minute.

We purchased a weekly paper called 'Merseybeat' to see where our favourite band were appearing and the venue for 'The Undertakers' that coming weekend early in 1963 was The Iron Door Club In Temple Street off Dale Street in Liverpool city centre.

You may remember the club, but if not then I'd like to describe it to you. Situated in a road off the main business thoroughfare The Iron Door Club was housed in the cellar of a warehouse, of which, as a major port, Liverpool had many. Temple Street was narrow with tall warehouses on both sides, and poorly lit at night. The club was about a third of the way down on the left and easily identified by its studded iron door. There were steps up to the doorway which led first to the coffee bar and cloakroom and then a further flight of slatted wooden stairs down to the club itself which was no more than a low ceilinged, large room with two pillars supporting the roof. The stage was along the far wall and was barely higher than the floor which meant that the performers were literally face to face with their audience. On the walls were paintings of African tribal masks, shields and spears relating back, no doubt, to the jazz origins of the club. Opposite the stage, against the wall and beneath the stairs was bench style seating.

So one Saturday evening early in 1963 Joy and I ventured with trepidation down pitch black Temple Street to the dim light outside the Iron Door. The beat of the music could be heard from outside. We paid our entrance fee and ventured down the slatted stairs. It was very hot and dark and smoky and all that could be seen were the glowing tips of cigarettes, there must have been close on 200 people crammed close together there. But the music (oh! so different) and the beat (so loud) and the atmosphere (so suffocating!) The moment I set foot on that staircase I was captivated, it made such a big impression on me that nearly 40 years on I can still experience that shiver of excitement and see the crush of people.

Our band were playing, clothed in undertakers garb, long frock coats and top hat's. I remember that the singer was very good looking but I liked the sax player, not for his looks but because of the sound of the saxophone and the way his cheeks puffed out like balloons when he played!

The music played by the bands we liked wasn't the popular 'Merseybeat' type, but the earthy black rhythm and blues stuff like "You really got a hold on me" and "Anna" and "Wondrous Place" (which summed up the Iron Door Club for me). Joy and I soon became regulars there. One night, having no money we walked into town just to stand outside our club and listen even if we couldn't participate. But then the bouncer took pity on us and to our delight, let us in for nothing. We saw many bands there but our personal favourites were 'The Four Clefs' who played the music of Buddy Holly, we followed them around to different venues but then that's another story.

After a while the owners of the Iron Door decided in their wisdom to extend the club because Liverpool had become the most desirable venue for a night out thanks to the Beatles. It just wasn't big enough. Extending the club meant opening up the next door cellar which was a whole floor lower than the original and meant more stairs down into what was a vast space with a high ceiling, proper raised stage and no atmosphere whatsoever! The original cellar ended up as a landing between staircases. We were devastated! So along with the other regulars, we voted with our feet and decamped to the Cavern Club in Matthew Street, leaving the Iron Door Club for ever.

Some years ago my husband Tommy and I had an appointment in Dale Street. We parked in North John Street and as we were early I begged him to walk down Temple Street with me to see our old dive. I could have cried, and in fact did! The old warehouse had gone and no doubt the cellars filled in to make way for - yes you've guessed it - A CAR PARK.

PAM BEESLEY - 24th October 2001

October 16, 2004 - Revised October 17, 2004
2001-2008 Peter McCormack. All rights reserved.

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