Monday, 1 July 2019

What If Coronation Street Was Archie Street? Part 2

So, luvs, welcome to Part Two of our little series on the differences between Coronation Street and its long demolished template, Archie Street in the Ordsall district of Salford.

Well, we often noticed the lack of chimneys. In Corrie, not Archie Street. This was obvious in longer shots of the exterior sets after the first set was moved outside in 1968, then recreated in brick in 1969 (backyards were added later). Coronation Street had no chimneys. So, how did Suzie Birchall lob a brick down one in a late 1970s episode? Lord alone knows. We only saw it in close-up, and afterwards it was gone forever. Coal fires were possible in the house interiors though, so I suppose nobody noticed the lack of the necessary up-above.

"Chimneys? Nay, lass, we didn't 'ave chimeys round 'ere in them days. We never noticed the lack
either. We didn't even 'ave whole roofs. AND the cobbles ran the wrong way. We just carried on. We were built of sterner stuff. You young 'uns don't know yer born..."

This strange state of affairs lasted until 1982, when suddenly Corrie had chimneys. And the graffiti littering certain walls, and general run-down appearance of the place, suddenly disappeared. And the house exteriors suddenly got bigger, and there was a building on Rosamund Street we'd never seen before - which became a disco and wine bar. We supposed it was all due to the fact that the 1980s were an expansive and upwardly mobile decade.

Archie Street didn't get bigger. It got demolished. The first families were moved out in 1968 and demolition followed in 1971. But Coronation Street had survived. And was booming.

Even in the new scheme of things, the Corrie exterior was still too small to accommodate what was supposedly inside.

In't '80s, the Street suddenly got chimneys, fully-structured houses, and even the cobbles ran the right way!

Next, we pause at Number 13, home to our beloved Stan and Hilda Ogden. Here lies the strange tale of the straightened wall.

Now, Stan and Hilda didn't ever have much to boast about. They weren't even 'on the phone' (landline, of course - no cell phones back then). Actually, to go off on a tandem, sorry, I mean at a tangent, this made them far more natural back street denizens of that era than most other Corrie residents. It wasn't until the 1980s that 50% of UK households were on the phone, and Coronation Street always seemed a bit too populated with phone subscribers compared to real life humble back street dwellers like me. In my street of twenty houses, only one person had a phone by 1981. Yep, by not having a phone, the Ogdens were being more true to back street life, as I and my true life neighbours were living it, than Elsie Tanner!

But their house was a typically twilight zone Corrie dwelling in other respects.

However, from 1976 onwards, the Ogdens had one thing to boast about.

And I'm not talking about Stan's canteen-sized serving hatch.

Nope. I'm talking about Hilda's murals or 'muriels' (1976-1978 and 1978-1988).

And a wall which flattened itself to accommodate them.

The Oggies had a contoured or stepped wall which miraculously flattened itself when Eddie flogged them the first scenic delight. I think the 'muriel' would have been even funnier with the contoured wall, but there you go. The Oggies' house was obviously very obliging. At times.

'Ee, Stan, I'll 'ave to 'ave a polite word with that wall before Eddie puts me muriel up...'

'Naice' Wendy Nightingale - the first of two wanton Wendys in the life of Ken Barlow - was far too polite to notice the scaffolding, plank, and cold, grey sky in the Oggies' hall in 1976.

Clopping on down to the Corner Shop, we discover several mysteries.

The Corner Shop resembled its Archie Street counterpart (the Daniel Clifton off-licence branch) in exterior appearance more than any other Corrie property. Particularly when it became obvious the Corrie houses had adjoining bay windows (sometimes, early on). The adjoining bays moved the Street away from the template design.

Elsie Tanner and Ena Sharples go hell for leather outside Elsie and Christine Hardman's adjoining bay windows in 1961. By the time of  Ida Barlow's funeral later that year, the windows were having a trial separation. They'd done it before, too.

Mouse-like Florrie Lindley revealed an unexpected brave side when she had the shop frontage drastically altered in the mid-1960s. The shop door was moved from the Viaduct Street corner onto the street itself. This was fine. Logical. Once again, the shop was a little small on the outside to accommodate what was within, but it was when you looked upstairs at the shop flat that the real problems began.

The flat's interior had too many windows and sometimes had its own kitchen and sometimes didn't. Bet didn't seem to have a kitchen and slummed it with Renee and Alf when it came to meals. But the kitchen was very evident at other times - particularly when Kevin and Sally lived there. And the flat was pleasantly lighted - by several windows which didn't exist outside. Where WERE those windows on the exterior set, some of us wondered? In fact, we were surprised when a bathroom window was suddenly revealed in October 1980 to accommodate a story about Tracy Langton getting locked in the lavatory. Where had it been all our lives?

Intrepid Alf Roberts to the rescue - up a ladder to coax the door key from Tracy Langton who had discovered a toilet at the Corner Shop - and locked herself in.

"We've gotta get outta 'ere, luv," - Kevin and Sally Webster are freaked out by the sudden realisation that the Corner Shop flat has too many windows.

In the next exciting episode, we look at a few more mysteries of the terrace, the viaduct, Rosamund Street and the other side of the streets (Archie and Coronation).

Now, I'm off to't pork butcher's before they close. I like to give my family a proper cooked meal every night - none o' yer tinned rubbish. You can ask anybody. Ask Ida Clough.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

What If Coronation Street Was Archie Street? Part 1

Well, luvs, had a long break and things are all right here. Well, Ida's bought herself a new pair of neon pink fluffy mules, but apart from that. Talk about mutton dressed up as lamb...

Anyway, I was thinking about Corrie and its origins the other night and the long-gone template for the terrace, Archie Street, in the Ordsall district of Salford.

Of course, the terrace selected was just a template, and while Corrie used the actual Archie Street in its opening titles for a while, things soon began to alter.

Let's take a look (wi' a dash of humour, luvvie, cos we could all do wi' some), at how Coronation Street began and its original differences from Archie Street, then look at how things evolved...

For a start, Archie Street had no corner pub. Nope. Not a single one. So, you'll just have to go to't Flyin' Horse, won't yer? Or nip down to the corner off-licence. No Corner Shop, but an off-licence, part of the Daniel Clifton chain. Not sure if Florrie Lindley would've fancied it, but then she used to work in a pub...

The Archie Street terrace also had more houses and single bay windows - which were represented in Coronation Street for a time. The trouble was, in erecting a studio frontage, space was at a premium, so the bays became joined in Corrie Land.

With no Rovers in Archie Street, we dispensed with some mysteries, of course. Like how the Rovers toilets led into Albert Tatlock's house (even the addition of a tiny entry on the 1982 set didn't really alleviate the embarrassment) - and why there was a huge Select with a stage which would have stretched right across Rosamund Street, the same being true for the back parlour and kitchen.

Eee 'eck, Mrs Walker!

"My dear! The things I have suffered!"

The great Rovers 1940s Show in the 1970s - with Norma Ford, Bet Lynch and Betty Turpin giving it their all in the mysterious Select. Look out, girls there's a bus coming!

At Mr Tatlock's, mysteries were fewer, though we did wonder - as we did with all the houses - why they were so much bigger on the inside than the out. The hall wall beside the front door was sometimes wider than at others (as with the rest of the houses) and Albert once sprouted a door at the top of his stairs which would have led directly into Emily Bishop's (REALLY, MR TATLOCK!), but never mind.

Unlike Archie Street, the houses in Coronation Street had hallways. In Archie Street, the front door opened directly into the front room. The stairs were accessible from the back room (kitchen with range) and ran up the middle of the house. Just how you got the stairs and hallway into the Corrie frontages was a bit of a mystery. But then the place was teeming with them.

Like that dreadful time the lorry crashed into the Rovers in 1979 and Emily's house temporarily grew a new wall which blocked off her stairs. Thank goodness there was an outside lavvy as well.

As soon as you turned your back, strange things happened in the Corrie houses.

But a day or two later things were back to normal. And nobody had noticed a darned thing!

Mind you, Emily's upper floor was obviously not a very hospitable place. Some writer once said there was no place colder than an English bedroom, and Emily and Ernest's was probably the very worst. When Minnie Caldwell's house went up for sale in 1976, we were treated to a view of the Bishops' bedroom window, curtains gently fluttering, and grey sky and scaffolding behind them. BRRR!!

Talking of upstairs, Corrie houses had incredibly high ceilings back in the 1960s, '70s and '80s. So high, you never saw them - just an expanse of wall above the picture rail. Very odd as that didn't match the exteriors at all, with the bedroom windows lying low over the bay windows...

Archie Street never had a house with a collapsing frontage. But Coronation Street did. Number 7 succumbed to that fate in 1965. Looking at the ruined frontage, it's odd that it seems to have widened at this point. And the houses either side have obviously made way for its expansion. The area was made safe and a bench was placed in the space. Very odd. That's all there was space for. As one letter-writer to a national newspaper wrote in 1981, when Len Fairclough was planning to build a new house there: 'The only people that could live there would be Marti Caine and the Thin Man!'

Look how far the front door is from the bay window!

Well, ducks, I'll be off now. That's it for the first part. There's another on't way. Just to say, all this is written with great affection as I loved Corrie back in its first three decades. And for all modern day fans - well mysteries like the sudden arch near the Rovers and the fact that Rosamund Street is no longer a long road running on a straight course through Weatherfield are nowt new.

Wonder what the residents of Archie Street would have said if their environs had been subject to the same Twilight Zone madness as Corrie's?

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Worst Story-Lines - The 1960s: The Collapse of No 7...

The fall of No 7's frontage on the studio built exterior set of 1965. The front door's shifted quite a long way from the front window, hasn't it? I suppose the other houses must have shuffled along to make room.

Well, we've done the 1980s (Rita's amnesia) and the 1970s (the lorry crash) so now we turn to the 1960s. What was our worst and daftest story-line of that illustrious first decade of Coronation Street? Well, as with the '70s and '80s, there were several contenders, but we had to plump for the collapse of the frontage of No 7 in 1965.

Why on earth did this happen? Oh sure, it made for a bit of short-term drama, especially because Lucille Hewitt was thought to have been in there at the time (she wasn't), but afterwards it left the Street with one house less, and a gap in the terrace which exposed the ridiculously scaled-down size of the other houses.

A single bench filled the entire space.

When Len Fairclough bought the site in 1981 and set about building a new No 7, a witty reader wrote to a national newspaper:

The only people who could live in there would be Marti Caine and the Thin Man!

But other things troubled us. Why didn't the collapse destabilise the adjacent houses at all? And if we'd been Val Barlow, we'd certainly not have been happy continuing to live next door at No 9 with the baby twins, Peter and Susan. No amount of calm reassurance and technical twaddle about 'faulty main beams' from surveyors would have convinced us of the safety of the houses in that street after the fall of the No 7 frontage.

The collapse was very convenient too. After all, Harry and Concepta had left for Ireland with baby Christopher the year before. The house hadn't been empty long enough for it to collapse through neglect but, it was the only unoccupied house in the Street. How convenient to ditch it. Chuck in concern about Lucille possibly being in there for a bit of drama and Bob's your uncle!


Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Coronation Street - My Favourite Characters Of The 1960s, 1970s and 1980s... Number 20: Mr Swindley

'Oh, Mr Swindley! Is it going to go off?'

Here we go, chuck, I'm now going to bore you all rigid with my own personal countdown of the characters I think made Corrie shine especially bright in its first three decades. Together with a few glances at missed opportunities - minor characters I thought could have been built up into major ones!

This will be my own personal Top Twenty of my fave Street folk from way back then (one or two who are still around!) and I hope you enjoy it. I do me best here to make things entertaining. You can ask anybody. Ask Ida Clough.

Here we go then, Number 20 is... Leonard Swindley - played by Arthur Lowe in the early-to-mid 1960s.

Mr Swindley ran his Rosamund Street 'emporium' - a small haberdashery shop - with the devoted Miss Emily Nugent - who merged her baby linen business with his.

Mr Swindley was a lay preacher and held great sway at the Glad Tidings Mission Hall in Coronation Street, but not with its resident caretaker, Mrs Ena Sharples, who once described him as 'a puffed up little fish in a dirty little pond'!

She were lovely, our Mrs Sharples.

But, to be honest, Mr Swindley was, basically, a pompous windbag who meant well.

When his business was taken over by a chain called Gamma Garments, Mr S was immediately in awe of his new boss - Mr Papagopolous. This terrifying vision of 1960s capitalism was always kept off-screen (rather like Arthur Daley's 'Er Indoors' years later), but his telephone calls and threatened visits to his Rosamund Street branch were enough to send Mr Swindley - and, indeed, Miss Nugent - into a severe attack of the screaming 'abdabs.

Apart from Miss Nugent, Mr Swindley found his staff - namely Miss Doreen Lostock, of the Corner Shop flat in Coronation Street, a great disappointment. On one occasion, when Mr S called 'Forward one' to summon a member of his staff to assist with a customer, Miss Lostock actually asked: 'What number am I, then?'

Well, I ask you!

Poor old Leonard - jilted by his beloved Miss Nugent, terrorised by the sinisterly-unseen Mr Papagopolous, spun out of the Street and into a couple of spin-offs - and actor Arthur Lowe into even greater fame in Dad's Army.

Fab indeed.

'Whatever does that mean, Miss Nugent?'

'I've really no idea, Mr Swindley…'

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Tom Mennard - The Secret Life Of Sam Tindall...

Phyllis (Jill Summers) and Sam (Tom Mennard). The great Percy Sugden Formation Dancers debacle of 1987.

Tom Mennard stepped into Coronation Street as Sam Tindall in 1985 - preparing for a local bowling tournament. He quickly became a suitor for that Weatherfield femme fatale Phyllis Pearce - but, sadly, she didn't really reckon 'im. He lacked the drive and persona of a certain Mr Sugden. Of course, our Phyllis weren't above using Sam to try and arouse a bit of jealousy in old Percy. Bowls? Formation dancing? She was that desperate she'd have tried anything. But it was all to no avail.

Never mind. Sam did try to sell his dog Dougal's services to Terry Duckworth and Curly Watts as a ratter in 1985, and in the same year he was happy to win Percy Sugden's Christmas pudding in a raffle - until Alf Roberts sat on it.

Phyllis's heart belonged to Percy - although he didn't want it.

Sam was a 'permanent occasional' character in Coronation Street from September 1985 to May 1989. He arrived unheralded as a customer at Jim's Café, and left the same way.

The triangle - Percy, Sam and Phyllis. Well, to be truthful, it wasn't that much of a triangle because old Perce couldn't stick Phyllis. But she lived in hope. Phyllis's hair looks particularly nice in this pic, we think. She was living proof that Punks didn't come up with the coloured hair theme. Pensioners had been doing it for donkey's years.

Sam was quite fun, and - sometimes carrying his dog Dougal in a bag - was a distinctive sight around the Street, although, like Phyllis, he never actually lived there.

I enjoyed Sam. Not the most fascinating of characters, but quite a gentle one, well played by the actor. Characters like that were an asset to the Street back then.

But I was already a huge fan of Tom Mennard before his Street debut and felt that his talents were rather underused on the show.

Picture it... the early 1980s... a scruffy young ratbag in a dreadful 'lad's cave' bedroom is twiddling his radio knob in despair. In those days, Radio 1 with John Peel in the evenings played 'music' that sounded like a tin bath falling down a flight of concrete steps. The scruffy young ratbag usually listened to Radio Luxemburg instead, but the reception was lousy and on this particular night he was desperately seeking something half decent he could actually hear when he happened upon the dulcet tones of Tom Mennard, talking about his mates at a pub called the Goat and Compasses and the dreadful affect fresh air could have on a body when it left a pub. You see, it wasn't alcohol at all...

I (AKA the scruffy young ratbag) listened - at first bemused and then amused.

I later discovered I  was listening to a series called Tom Mennard Tells Local Tales on BBC Radio 2. Radio 2?! Yuck, wouldn't usually give it house room, but I was going through a touch of the love life traumas at the time (don't get me started) and was in the mood to be soothed by a bit of comforting older generation daftness.

I liked what I heard.

Local Tales began in March 1981, and ran for a few years - ending sometime in the mid-to-late decade. Each tale only lasted about twelve minutes, but, although I preferred the blossoming alternative comedy scene, there was no denying Tom's ability to spin a good yarn and I was captivated.

The Radio Times synopsis for 12 March 1981 read:

Tom Mennard

Tells Local Tales

Welcome to Tom's world. The scene is the ' Goat and Compasses ', the cast - Tom, Harry , Charlie and Fred. The stories, well, they're just Local Tales. Order yourself a pint, sit down and listen. Written by TOM MENNARD Producer MIKE CRAIG BBC Manchester

The set-up was Tom doing a spot of stand-up, weaving tales of himself and his pals. There was nothing trendy or ground-breaking about it. Radio 2 was a station for fogies (it plays 1980s music these days and I listen to it regularly, so it obviously isn't for fogies anymore), but I'd always been partial to old fogey tales. Tom wrote it all himself and I think he was a bit of a genius.

Whether white-washing the local sewers or watching a male stripper on a coach outing to Blackpool, Tom, sounding like a rather more animated Sam Tindall, made me smile. Lots.

It was all beautifully droll and charmingly naïve. When hearing that the wife of a bloke in the local pub was having an affair, Tom assumed that the reason for the bloke's distress was because she'd got expensive caterers in.

Well, you would, wouldn't you?

Tom, born in Beeston, Leeds, had once been a bus driver in Brighton. He began writing scripts for local amateur village hall-style shows and in the mid-1950s began a career as an entertainer in music hall, radio and television. Through this, he first met Jill Summers and Bill Waddington - later, of course, his Street co-stars.

Tom became a seasoned stand-up comedian, appearing at venues such as the Windmill Theatre and on such telly shows as The Good Old Days with patter akin to the Local Tales. The idea of expanding the patter into a whole series of radio shows was inspired.

While The Good Old Days was shamelessly nostalgia-based, the Local Tales landed Tom and his pals squarely in the 1980s, with mentions of the Unions, unemployment and government cutbacks.

Tom had quite a lot to do with BBC radio in the 1980s. In 1980 and 1981 he starred in a Radio 4 series called Wrinkles - set in an old folks' home and written by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor - who gave us the sublime Red Dwarf on TV in 1988. I didn't hear Wrinkles at the time, but I have heard several episodes since. It's fab - probably a bit ahead of its time - with distinctly surreal touches. Tom starred as the caretaker at the home. It's highly recommended. Superlative in fact (you'll get the reference if you have a listen).

Tom also had acting roles in other TV shows apart from the Street - including Dad's Army, All Creatures Great and Small and Open All Hours.

Jim's Café, 1985. Sam and Phyllis talk hotpot.

Bowls were a serious business in 1980s Weatherfield.

Tom's own rare Lhasa Apso miniature dog, Dougal, played the Dougal of bag fame in the show. Tom also kept hamsters, tropical fish and caged birds, including zebra finches, a cockatiel, canaries and a wydah bird.

Dougal even had his own bank account and fan club. Lucky lad. I wonder if he had Mr Dog for dinner?

The character of Sam Tindall was simply designed as a component of the Phyllis/Percy scenario. He was a pawn in lovelorn Phyllis's game really - her desire to win Percy's affections was so great she'd stop at nothing. The occasional Street appearances suited Tom, who was then living in Dorset. But I think he could have brought a lot of fun to a larger role, particularly if the production team had revealed the Goat and Compasses to be Sam's usual local when not pursuing Phyllis - thus revealing a hidden and hilarious life for Sam. With a bit of tweaking, Tom's tales would have fitted beautifully into the Street setting.

Tom died in November 1989. Back On The Street remembers him fondly.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

The Mark Brittain Warehouse Fire Of October 1975 - An Anniversary Celebration?

The end of the Mark Brittain Warehouse. The fire engines dwarfed the miniature terrace back then and the production team tried their best to disguise the fact. Edna Gee, wife of Fred-Face, worked at the Warehouse with Ivy Tilsley - whose husband was then called Jack.

Rebecca has written to us!

I've been surprised to read on the Coronation Street Wiki that the fire at the Mark Brittain warehouse in 1975, in which Edna Gee died, was intended as a celebration of the show's 15th anniversary. I didn't hear that at the time and soaps didn't usually celebrate with disasters back then. Is it true? And if so, why was it in early October, two months before the anniversary?

It wasn't true, Rebecca. We remember the Street's fifteenth anniversary very well and it was not linked to that. Indeed, as you say, it was two months in the past by then. After all, roasting somebody alive would not have pleased viewers as an anniversary celebration in those days. In fact, I think it would have seemed bizarre and grotesque. Nowadays, folks would adore it. The story seems to have to come from ex-archivist Daran Little, who was a little lad back then. He probably just made a throw-away comment and you know how today's netty types run with these things.

After all, if it was so - and disasters were really 'in' for anniversaries back then, think of the disasters they could have had for their 20th and 25th and 30th anniversaries.

You will find no literature from 1975 verifying the claim, and the two month gap makes the claim an absurdity. We didn't 'celebrate' with disasters back then

Having said that, we've a lot of time for Daran Little. Even if he does make the odd cock-up. His East Street thingie with Gail making her mark on the EastEnders café is a true delight. For that reason alone, we'd walk over hot coals for the lad. Probably.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Albert Tatlock - The Unsung Hero...

We were having a cuppa in our Albert Tatlock mugs the other day, when we suddenly realised that Albert must rate as one of the most under appreciated Coronation Street characters of all time! Of course, Coronation Street has always been a matriarchal society, often dominated by grumpy old women (from the days of fiercesome Ena and vinegary Martha right up to acid Blanche) but the Street has also had a few grumpy gents in its time - remember the awfully officious Percy Sugden, bombastic scourge of the neighbourhood in the 1980s and 1990s? And then, of course, there's noxious Norris.

But the original grumpy old gent was dear old Albert Tatlock, of Number 1, Coronation Street.

Male characters in the Street do tend to be under appreciated. As we say, it's a matriarchal society, but nowadays it's also a misandrist society - both the Street and the real world. But the Street would have shrivelled and died without the likes of gentle Jack Walker, lovable louse Stan Ogden, loud and proud to be male Len Fairclough, jittery Jerry Booth and so on.

And not forgetting Ken Barlow - the Street's very own intellectual.

And so to Albert.

Jack Howarth was a fabulous actor. Albert could irritate, amuse, and bring us to tears. And Mr H seemed to bring about these emotions in his audience effortlessly.

How we laughed at Albert's attempts to get free chocolate back in the late 1970s. Some will remember him drunkenly singing "If I Ruled The World" while sliding down a lamp post to the pavement back in the 1960s. And his "comforting" visit to Mavis Riley while she was in her sick bed in the early 1980s - where he assured her she was looking "gaunt" - is a treasured memory.

Albert could be so funny.

Like all great soap characters, he was totally unaware of his own foibles. When he stated that Annie Walker never did have a sense of humour, he meant it.

But his moaning and groaning could be a real drag - after all, he fought a war for us lot, etc. Come to that, he did, and perhaps we were a let down. But I'll come to that later. And he was so mean, he would have skinned a flea.

But underneath it all, Albert was lovely. The character had great depth.

Remember his distress when faced with losing Ken from No 1 in 1981, when Ken was set to marry Deirdre, and the way he offered Ken his house if only he'd stay? All Albert wanted was to end his days in his own home, his own neighbourhood, and continue to be with a man he'd come to regard as his closest family. Remember his sadness and confusion as Ken and Deirdre's marriage hit its famous first rocky patch in the Baldwin Barlow triangle of 1983? We wept buckets.

There was such truth in Jack Howarth's acting.

Torn from his familiar surroundings and tipped into the hell of the First World War trenches as a young man, Albert won a Military Medal. Although he was fond of banging on about the war, he didn't discuss the bravery that won him his medal.

Elsie Tanner once told Albert that he was being unselfish, probably for the first time in his life, when he expressed concern about Ken's son Peter. Elsie, of course, could let her gob run away with her, that's one of the reasons we loved her, but Albert, who could probably have told her a great deal about unselfishness amd true comradeship, said nothing.

Albert's wife Bessie had died in 1959. His daughter Beattie and her husband Norman were not the most caring of souls, and so Albert lived alone with rare (and usually faintly grudging) visits from his nearest flesh and blood relative.

Albert was fond of his niece, Valerie, and had a bond with Ken Barlow which was already evident in episode 1. So, when Val and Ken married, Albert was delighted.

And he doted on Peter and Susan, his great nephew and niece who were born in 1965.

Albert and Ena Sharples had a deep bond of friendship, going back many years. Sometimes they were rivals, and if they spent too much time together they drove each other barmy, but the bond was definitely there and was not portrayed through a veil of sugary sentiment. When Ena was in hospital in a coma induced by a head injury in 1977, it was Albert who kept a vigil by her bedside, talking to her about the old days. As she said, when she finally gained consciousness: "I wish you'd make less noise."

The modern world let Albert down. The "Peace And Love" era of the 1960s - or perhaps in reality drug abuse, daft youthful idealism and increasing promiscuity posing as Peace and Love - were beyond him. As what former Street producer HV Kershaw described as the "Swinging 60s" turned into the "Savage 70s", Albert was so depressed, he locked himself in his house.

And the uncaring '70s found Albert, a poor old pensioner living alone, having his electricity supply cut off because he was unable to pay the bill. Fortunately, Ken came to the rescue, proving that blood is not always thicker than water as Beattie was noticeably absent from the scene and unaware of the crisis.

Albert was insecure. He felt fearful even of losing his beloved allotment.

Life was now about instant gratification. The rules that Albert had grown up with were rapidly eroded in the post Second World War world, and he didn't understand. How could Ken live out of wedlock with married Wendy Nightingale? When a poorly Albert was roughed up by a yob in his own back parlour in early 1979, many of us were also thoughtful about the current state of things.

In the vapid 21st Century, where looking up "facts" seems largely to revolve around unreliable sources such as Wikipedia, it is easy to dismiss Albert Tatlock as simply a grumpy old man. Indeed, at the time of his tenure in the show, he was often described as "a grumpy old git", etc. And of course Albert was merely a soap opera character - his grumpiness and canny way with pence were accentuated to give him colour, to make him interesting viewing. But back in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s he had many real life counterparts - those that had fought in the First World War for a better world, a "land fit for heroes", and found the reality sadly wanting.

Albert Tatlock was a piece of history, a character of depth who requires much more understanding than your average 21st Century web skimmer can give.

And Jack Howarth was one of the finest performers that Coronation Street has ever had.

Monday, 24 October 2016

1976: Stan Ogden And The Haggertys - When Coronation Street Went Bionic...

We can rebuild them... EEEKKK!!!

Back in 1976, England had bionic fever. We were all gripped by the American exploits of one Steve Austin, a man who had been rebuilt using all sorts of fake bits to give him super human strength. Steve could do all sorts - jump great heights, run in slow motion, all sorts.

And we were thrilled.

Of course, it was all fiction, we're talking about the TV series The Six Million Dollar Man, but never mind. 1976 was a bleak, blisteringly hot year, and we needed summat to take our minds off reality.

Coronation Street addressed our fascination with big strong Steve by having Bet Lynch claim she had bionic powers in a fun Rovers scene. And when one of the tearaway Haggerty kids claimed the same, this led to a nightmare for Stanley Ogden of Number 13. After some confusion over Hilda's washing, Stan had ended up taking  the Haggerty's raggedy garments from their line. Tit for tat, he (mistakenly) thought. But at the time, he believed the lads' dad, Big Jim Haggerty, was safely tucked away in the Nick. But he wasn't. Terrified Stan, not bionic himself, in fact possessed of rather a weak backbone, lapsed into a troubled doze in his armchair, dreaming of the Haggerty lads running in slow motion towards him, just like awesome Steve...

And this was used for the show's closing sequence.


Coronation Street, with Bill Podmore newly installed as producer, was going great.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Anne Kirkbride

Anne Kirkbride as Deirdre and William Roache as Ken - a 1988 photograph used for the 1989 Coronation Street calendar.

We're not feeling too well at Back On The Street, but were startled by some news last night, e-mailed to us from a friend of this blog. Anne Kirkbride - Deirdre Hunt/Langton/Barlow - a regular in the Street for many years has died at the young age of sixty.

We're so sorry to hear this. Deirdre had her ups and downs in The Street, but the character is greatly loved, and Miss Kirkbride invested her with a lovely, down-to-earth warmth and "every dayness" that turned her into a Corrie great.

We loved her fiery engagement to Billy Walker and equally fiery marriage to Ray Langton. We thought her pairing with Ken Barlow was a little out of character and a bit of a desperate attempt by the production team to create interest in two regulars without bringing in new characters for them to romance. But there's no doubt that the Dierdre/Ken union yielded pure gold in 1983 when Mike Baldwin tried to entice Deirdre away from her "boring" (or so some of the Press said) hubby.

And then there was Deirdre's turn as a Weatherfield borough councillor in the late 1980s, the "mole" at the town hall, who turned out to be Wendy Crozier, and her spiky relationship with her "mummy dearest", Blanche, in later years.

As well as the high dramas, we remember Deirdre fondly for just being around and for being warm and likeable. Her tenure as assistant at Alf Roberts's Corner Shop from 1980 to 1987, chatting with the customers, getting involved in local intrigues, dealing with change and the bacon slicer, is an outstanding time for the character in our memories.

Her trademark was her big glasses - which lost some of their roundness in the 1980s and became even bigger and rather squarer in shape. They were like mini-tv screens! As with Ena and her hairnet and Albert and his flat cap, Deirdre was difficult to imagine without her trademark apparel.

But, beyond our fondness for the character, there is, of course, something much sadder here. Anne Kirkbride was a real, live human being, not soap opera fiction. Thanks to her for all the viewing pleasure she has brought us over the last four decades, and our heartfelt sympathy to her husband, family and friends.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Mavis And Rita: Dealing With Birthdays...

Just got another flamin' birthday out of the way, and amongst a few very "witty" cards was the little belter above, featuring two of my all-time Coronation Street favourites, Mavis Riley and Rita Fairclough.

Brilliant! Brought a smile to the old gob and I love it.

And let's count our blessings - time flies, let's just be thankful cows don't, as me dear old grannie used to say.

Monday, 15 September 2014

1986: "Our Hilda" - An English Rose!

Hilda Ogden - an English rose?! Yep, she became one in 1986, when Bee's, the Chester firm of seedsmen, launched a new rose named in honour of our Coronation Street heroine!

The raspberry pink rose appeared at the Chelsea Flower Show that year, and actress Jean Alexander was invited down for the preview.

In her 1989 autobiography The Other Side Of The Street, Jean wrote:

I had never been to the show before and I was entranced by the variety and beauty of the exhibits, but for me 'Our Hilda' shone the brightest.

And, of course, Jean posed for a photograph of the rose in Hilda's living room, complete with flying ducks and a photograph of the late Bernard Youens, in character as Stan Ogden.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

1981: Mark Eden - On The Street At Last!

18/2/1981 - A new man for Elsie?

Actor Mark Eden was very pleased in 1981. He'd landed a role in Coronation Street!

But not the role he is now remembered for!

Mark was Wally Randle, a customer at Jim's Cafe in Rosamund Street, where a certain Mrs Elsie Tanner worked. And she liked him!

Mark said at the time:

"I've wanted to be in Coronation Street for a long time. I'm glad I have made it at last!"

Little did he know - for the Wally Randle character was only around for a short time. He went to lodge with Elsie, regarding her only as a friend. But Elsie read more into the situation - and ended up shattered and alone.

Mr Eden left... and then, in 1986, returned as an entirely different character.

A character called Alan Bradley...

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

1985: Daran Little - Coronation Street's Quiz Kid

Found this article in the newspaper archive today, dated April 7, 1985, about (the then) eighteen-year-old Daran Little.

Daran, of course, would go on to succeed Eric Rosser as the Street's archivist, but in 1985, then an art student, he was hailed as "The Street's Quiz Kid". He was also a huge fan of the BBC's then fledgling soap EastEnders and wanted to become that show's paid historian!

Daran said of Corrie:

"My friends are amazed at the time and effort I put into watching Coronation Street. But I think it's a lot saner than hobbies like fishing.

"I feel as if I know the characters as people. Some you hate, some you love. It's the same as in real life.

"My favourite was Elsie Tanner. I feel close to her because I know all about her life. For instance, the twenty-three affairs she has had."

So, there you are! If you fancy being a future Corrie historian, start studying the show and who knows!

The newspaper set Daran twenty questions to test his knowledge. And he passed 100%. Daran then set twenty questions for readers. Here's a selection...

1985 Questions Set For Daran Little...

How many times has Elsie Tanner married, when, and who were her husbands?

In which year did Bet Lynch first appear?

When did Annie Walker's husband Jack die?

What happened to David Barlow and Irma Ogden?

Fred Gee has had two affairs, with Vera Duckworth and Alma Walsh. But who did he marry in 1981?

Name Mavis Riley's two suitors of last year [1984]?

1985 Questions Set By Daran Little...

Who played Mrs Gilda Montefiore in the 1962 Christmas play?

Who gave Lucille Hewitt a black eye when she tried to fiddle the factory bonus scheme and in which year?

How many people have had their names above the Corner Shop (to 1985)?

Name the original occupant of No 5?

What degree did Ken Barlow obtain?

Why did Len Fairclough sack Dennis Tanner in 1966?

Who kidnapped Christopher Hewitt in 1962, and who found him?

Who did Dickie Fleming catch his wife Audrey kissing in 1971?

Thinking caps on and remember, you couldn't Google in 1985! Answers coming soon!

1982 - The Very First Coronation Street Video Release...

In late 1982, when I saw the Magic Of Coronation Street in my local WH Smith's, I didn't have a VCR. Few people did (only 5% of the population in 1980) so that didn't worry me, but, by late 1982, I was thinking that one day I MIGHT have one, so I bought the video. It turns out it was 1987 before I actually got a VCR, but it was worth the wait because The Magic Of Coronation Street is a great watch - classic episodes from the show's early days, linked by Annie Walker, Elsie Tanner and Len Fairclough in the Rovers Return in 1982, reminiscing.

Broadcast Magazine, December 1982: Video releases. Annie Walker, of course, represents the Street's debut on video. But then, when one is licensee of one of the borough's foremost hostelries and a former Lady Mayoress to boot, one expects these little chores...

This was the very first Coronation Street video release (brilliantly parodied by Victoria Wood a few years later as something you could "keep and keep again") and it still makes lovely viewing. The episodes it contains, including the very first, are smashing, but the interlinking stuff from 1982 is also brilliant. It all finishes at Closing Time at the Rovers, with Annie bidding Elsie and Len goodnight, and treating Len to one of her specialities - a gorgeously sugary bitchy remark. Having observed him spending the evening with his old love, she can't resist a parting shot: "My love to Rita!"

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Worst Story-Lines... The 1970s... Lorry Crash...

A while ago we published a post about our worst story-line of the 1980s - Rita's amnesia of 1989 won the prize. For our next decade, the 1970s, there were several highly stinky contenders, but we decided that we'd pluck the lorry crash out of early 1979. It was a blockbuster that didn't work in our opinion, and looks laughable in retrospect.


Well, consider...

Firstly, Tracy is kidnapped. Conveniently, a young girl Deirdre was in maternity hospital with turns up not long before the crash... and moments before the crash, kidnaps Tracy from outside the Rovers. Would any sensible mother had left her little child outside a pub (or anywhere come to that?) anyway? No... it was incredible. TOO incredible!

Deirdre, it wasn't even safe to leave Christopher Hewitt outside Gamma Garments in 1962. What the 'eck do yer think yer playin' at, luv?!

And then there was all the drama of Deirdre threatening to jump in the canal and Alf Roberts's coma and mental health problems - so badly done. So soon forgotten.

And on top of all that, there were the victims of the crash with minor cuts and bruises - Len and Betty spring to mind - whose injuries seemed to disappear in an absurdly short amount of time.

We can forgive things like a fireman casting a shadow over the factory as he tried to get into the Rovers through a devastated window after the crash - we all know how the show was produced in those days, and actors casting shadows on "scenery" was accepted.

But as a piece of drama, the lorry crash simply does not stand the test of time. And it wasn't particularly great even in the 1970s.