Saturday, 28 February 2009

More About Archie Street...

Richard has written to say nice things about Back On The Street (ta very much, luv), and is particularly interested in our Archie Street article. Archie Street, of course, contained the terrace which was used as the template for the original Coronation Street exterior architecture.

Do you have a picture of Archie Street shot from the other end, featuring the pub? asks Richard.

Well, Richard, I do have a pic of Archie Street as seen from St Clement's churchyard in the 1960s, but there is no sign of a pub on the corner - furthermore the corner frontage does not appear to have been altered in any way, either.

I have seen the closing credits to several early Corrie episodes featuring the Archie Street houses, and there appears to be a large pub (representing the Rovers) and a building which doubled as Ena's vestry (which was actually on the other side of the street in the story) on the corner. But was this simply achieved by cutting up various photographs and placing them side-by-side - snipping out the extra houses (the Archie Street terrace had more than Coronation Street) - and adding pub and vestry frontages from other locations, so that when filmed close up all would appear to be one continuous terrace?

If some kind soul out there has already solved this puzzle, I'd be very grateful to hear from them.

And thanks again to Richard for getting in touch.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

The Original Coronation Street Opening Titles Cat - The Mysterious Moggy...

What is the history behind the first cat seen in the Coronation Street opening titles? Well, a little detective work indicates that the cat was actually filmed around spring 1969. The moggy was caught on camera whilst a Granada film crew was out filming scenes of back streets and high rise blocks in colour - to be used for The Street's new opening titles when the show made the transition to colour later in 1969.

But the cat scene was not selected for the new title sequence - and did not make its screen debut until 1976!

Bill Podmore, who took over as the show's producer in 1976, wrote in his book Coronation Street - The Inside Story (1990):

When I took charge of the Street its opening sequence niggled me. The quick-changing views over the slated rooftops of Salford, where the imaginary Weatherfield is supposedly set, seemed to be out of time with the slow, haunting refrains of Eric Spear's signature tune.

I asked to see all the sequence film, shot years before in the backstreets of Old Trafford and Lower Broughton. Although much of it lay on the cutting room floor, it was reassembled into a continuous film. Suddenly, on walked that wonderful cat. When it curled up in the spring sunshine I knew I had found the perfect clip. It looked exactly as though it had contentedly sat down to watch the programme, and from that day the Coronation Street cat became almost as famous as any character on the show. It provided us with an enduring mystery, too. Any number of people, impostors all, insisted they were the owners, but its true identity was never discovered.

Minnie Caldwell (Margot Bryant), with her beloved cat, Bobby. Many viewers thought the cat in the opening titles was Bobby! This lovely snap is courtesy of Flaming Nora over at the Coronation Street Blog. Ta, chuck! Over here at Back On The Street, we have more Minnie, Margot and Bobby in the pipeline.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Speak Easy

Here at Back On The Street I like to encourage a relaxed atmosphere. I welcome all e-mails on topics relevant (pertaining to the first three decades of The Street). Sometimes I receive e-mails on topics irrelevant, like the one featured below, but I still welcome them because I'm such a nice, easy-going person...

"Disgruntled Scot" writes:

I suppose the "British" Soap Awards will only feature English soaps this year, as per usual? What about the Scots soap "River City" - and I'm sure the Welsh have their own soap too. It's pure English arrogance to hi-jack Britishness for English glory! Also, Ireland is featured on the Awards logo - but that is not part of Britain. Northern Ireland is part of the UK, but not Britain, and Southern Ireland is independent.

I say:

Oooh, 'eck! Well, I don't watch modern day soaps, let alone the Soap Awards, so I suggest you write to the people behind the Awards. I don't think any sleight is intended. People often say "British" when they mean "English" and vice-versa. Since devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, this has become more of an issue. You make some interesting points, but there's not a lot I can say or do!

Kare asks:

I'd love to see some stuff about Gloria Todd, Rovers barmaid in the '80s.

And so you shall, Kare - we'll be delving into the life and times of Ms Todd soon.

Alan is on the Sandra Gough trail:

Loved her in The Street and Emmerdale. Didn't she play two roles in the latter?

Yes, she did, Alan - she was Malt Shovel barmaid Doreen in Emmerdale Farm in the mid-1980s and Nellie Dingle in Emmerdale during the 1990s.

And, finally for this batch, Lyndsey asks:

I seem to recall Corrie episodes when Ena had a head injury and was featured unconscious in hospital scenes - but with her hairnet still on! Did I dream this - because it seems ridiculous!

No, you didn't dream it, Lyndsey - the scenes were from 1977, when Ena fell over one of little Tracy Langton's toys and ended up in a coma. The hairnet stayed on throughout her hospital stay. It was a bit daft - but the net was such an Ena trademark that I suppose the production team decided it must remain - and hang realism! It reminds me of Kenneth Cope, Jed Stone, who insisted on keeping his character's flat cap on for a scene featuring Jed in bed in the 1960s (nothing saucy, I can assure you!).

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Suddenly... It's 1985!

Eee, chuck, do you remember 1985? Curly Watts, Terry Duckworth and Kevin Webster spent loads of time yacking and moaning in the Rovers, Audrey Potter got her man - local grocer and councillor Alfred Roberts, and somebody sat on Percy Sugden's Christmas pudding (remember who?).

What a year!

When Was Coronation Street Shortened To Corrie?

Coronation Street - "The Street" in the 1970s, "Corrie" in the 1980s.

I've had a couple of e-mails asking when and why the Coronation Street title began to be shortened to "Corrie". Some folks, it seems, remember a time before it was so.

As it happens, so do I. It's one of those things that you can get a million different explanations for if you look around the Web, but I prefer to rely on popular TV programmes, radio programmes, magazines and newspapers of the past - plus my trivia-loving memory banks!

It was in the 1980s that Coronation Street became widely shortened to Corrie. In the 1960s and 1970s, the title was sometimes shortened to "The Street", but back in those days it was not openly respectable for youngsters and teenagers to watch soaps. Particularly boys. Soaps were considered "fogey" and "for women". Most open watchers, being of mature and steady temperaments, were quite happy to trundle out the entire mouthful when they discussed the show.

In November 1982, Brookside burst upon our TV screens. Soap-loving kiddies at last came out of the closet, and peer group converts swelled their ranks, as this subversive cul de sac, with its heavy left wing bias, suddenly made soap respectable for the young to watch. And the Brookside ripples spread out to the other UK soaps. It was followed by the strife-ridden saga EastEnders (1985), and the not-as-subversive-but-high-youth-content Australian imports Neighbours (first UK screening 1986) and Home And Away (first UK screening 1989). Before the decade ended all soaps were happily courting youthful audiences.

Back in 1982/'83/'84, one of the most noticeable effects of Brookside was the nationwide explosion of what I call "Scouse speak" - slang popular in Liverpool. Suddenly Christmas was "Chrimbo", police officers were "bizzies" and electricity was "'leccy". The name shortening became a huge trend - and, as part of it, Brookside became "Brookie" and Coronation Street became "Corrie".

Pop magazines like Smash Hits took up the trendy, zappy, youthful Corrie chorus, and that was that. Coronation Street became widely known as "Corrie" - and it has been ever since.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Dustin Gee And Les Dennis - Vera and Mavis

TV Times, July 1985.

Rick, "Mavis Riley's Number One Fan", has been in touch again to ask for further information about Dustin Gee and Les Dennis, and how they came to double-up for Mavis Riley and Vera Duckworth in the famous "Well, I don't really know!" sketches of the 1980s.

It all began on Russ Abbot's Madhouse, a popular comedy sketch show which began in 1980. Mr Abbot, his zany characters and line-up of supporting stars, created one of the most popular shows on telly, and it was on this show that Les Dennis and Dustin Gee first "did" Mavis and Vera.

An early '80s sketch featured Russ selling sketches from a barrow.

"We had to pop up from behind the barrow doing particular impressions, but we got the sequence a bit wrong," explained Dustin Gee. "Russ had already got Mavis Riley beside him and he said: 'And what am I bid for a Bet Lynch?' I said, 'You can't have a Bet Lynch, but here's a Vera Duckworth,' because I was halfway dressed as Vera. I appeared and began talking to 'Mavis' in character. After that, we began to appear more regularly, eventually on Live From Her Majesty's as well as The Royal Variety Show."

Although I have hundreds of Corrie episodes, I don't have a single one in which the real Mavis actually says "I don't really know!" But, thanks to Dustin and Les, this phrase is still widely associated with her!

Tarty, worldly Vera and twittering, innocent Mavis were an excellent combination for some good, saucy fun. "You know what you need... cock," said Dustin's Vera to her unlikely pal. The slight pause turned Vera's familiar habit of calling everybody "cock" into something rather naughtier!

Sadly, whilst the Gee/Dennis partnership was at its height in 1986, Dustin Gee died of a heart attack, at the age of 43.

But the memories - and the laughter - remain.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Mavis Riley 1987 Screen Caps - Shoulder Pads?

Rick, apparently "Mavis Riley's Number One Fan", has written to ask if I have any screen caps of Mavis left over from the 1987 "Bridlington" post. Yes, Rick - I do - and I've uploaded them for you. Rick also asks if...

... I think Mavis is wearing shoulder pads under her coat in these scenes...

... well, Rick, I think so...

... but I don't really know!

1979: The ITV Strike - ARRGGGHHH!!!

The Daily Star, August 28, 1979 - "Shake Down To 1979" - yeah, right! The ultimate year of that grim decade brought us the murder of Earl Mountbatten of Burma and a host of other grisly events.

You couldn't even watch your favourite soap to escape the grim realities from August to October as ITV was knocked off the air by a technicians' strike.

And in those days we only had three TV channels and, as BBC2 was decidedly "minority interest", that left the vast majority of us with BBC1. Videos? Sadly not. Only 5% of UK households had a VCR in 1980, they were expensive beasts, so in 1979 we were really stuck. Should we read? Should we talk? How could we spend our time without ITV? I fidgeted. And moped.

How I missed The Street! I ached for it! Deirdre had just received a letter from husband Ray in Holland that had reduced her to tears. What was going on?

Well, it seems life in The Street was continuing in our enforced absence...

From the Daily Star:

Coronation Street's best kept secret is out... Brian and Gail have got married.

And the Daily Star has beaten the ITV blackout to bring millions of Street addicts exclusive pictures of the happy event.

They were snapped by housewife Mary Watson, of Rutbleglen, Glasgow, who spotted the "wedding" party while visiting her sister in Salford.

"I couldn't believe my luck," said Street fan Mary.

"I was wondering what had happened to Brian and Gail - then suddenly there they were in front of me."

The stars came out in force to watch Gail - actress Helen Worth - and Brian, played by Christopher Quinten, tie the knot.

Gail wore white, and Brian's mum and dad, Bert and Ivy (Peter Dudley and Lynne Perrie) looked suitably impressed.

Cheryl Murray, who plays Gail's sexy pal, Suzie Birchall, made a radiant bridesmaid.

Said Mary: "I couldn't resist taking the pictures. The blackout may go on for ever, and some people would never know what had happened to the couple."

A spokesman for Granada TV said last night that they had been "swamped" with inquiries about Brian and Gail since the technicians' strike forced the show off the air two weeks ago.

Now you can stop biting your nails, folks, thanks to Mary's candid camera.

Say "Cheese!"

The wedding pic! Left to right: Audrey Potter (Sue Nicholls), Suzie Birchall (Cheryl Murray) Gail (Helen Worth) and Brian Tilsley (Christopher Quinten), and Ivy (Lynne Perrie) and Bert Tilsley (Peter Dudley).

Here's Bet Lynch (Julie Goodyear) and Len Fairclough (Peter Adamson) welcoming us back to The Street after the Strike had ended in October 1979. This was a special "reminder" scene, screened just before the first post-Strike episode was shown.

Len was alone at first: "Welcome back! We've missed yer! Now, I suppose I'd better remind you what was going on in our little street when you were here last. Well, there's always a bit of excitement about a wedding - can't imagine why! Gail and Brian are about to get hitched..."

As Len ran through current events, Bet, apparently on her way into work at The Rovers, joined him and asked if he'd heard about the letter Deirdre had received "from that rat Langton in Holland".

"What letter?" asked Len.

"Mind yer own business, it's nowt to do wi' you!" Bet teased. "I suppose I'll be seeing your ugly mug in there later?" - indicating The Rovers, and after a quick farewell, she went inside.

"See what I mean? It never changes, does it? There's always something going on!" said Len to us, the telly audience. "See you later!"

And the Granada logo flashed up and the opening credits began, and we Corrie junkies settled back for our first fix in ages.


Saturday, 7 February 2009

1985: The Brazen Hussy!

"Who is best Coronation Street Lover Boy" - Nigel Pivaro (Terry Duckworth) or Christopher Quinten (Brian Tilsley)? - asked the Sun in January 1985.

And somebody who er... knew both the chaps well gave her informed opinion!

So, we here at "Back On The Street" climbed in our Tardis, set the coordinates, whipped through the Time Tunnel, and asked a typical 1980s Weatherfield person who she thought the wicked bean-spiller, the naughty teller of bedtime tales was:

"Flippin' 'eck - it'll be that Dulcie Froggatt, that's who it'll be. Ooh, this neighbourhood's gone right downhill. Now, I'm not one to gossip, you can ask anyone, ask Ida Clough, she'll tell yer, but I don't 'old with this sort o' thing.

"Talkin' o' Dulcie Froggatt, I were on me way up Back Gas Street last Friday when me flamin' 'eel came off right outside Maggie Gartside's..."

And so on. And on. And on.

Actually, It wasn't Dulcie Froggatt who had been passing judgement, but a young page three pin-up who had enjoyed the... er... company of both Terry and Brian. Er, Nigel and Chris, I mean. Sorry.

So, who did she deem the best in the... er... romance department? Well, chuck, I'd tell ya, but as we're now living in the sophisticated 21st Century and not the tawdry 1980s, I'm sure you wouldn't be interested.

And anyway - we don't hold with gossip round here!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

1987: Sally Webster - Upwardly Mobile Harpie

Even way back in 1987, Mrs Sally Webster of Coronation Street, Weatherfield, was showing signs of being an upwardly mobile harpie. She'd come blinking from the shadows of Arkwright Street, straight from the bosom of a dog-rough family, to win her way into young Kevin's affections.

Even Hilda Ogden (or "Mrs Ogdin", as Sally called her) was soon on-side after initial suspicions. Kev and Sal married in 1986, moved into the flat over the Corner Shop the following year, and then the whinging, in Sally's inimitable (thank God) nasal twang, started.

In 1987, Sal wanted Kev to borrow £18,000 to buy Brian Tilsley's garage.

"You definitely promised me you were going to't bank to see about borrowin' some money!" said Sal, when Kev arrived home from grease monkeying one night.

"Yeah, well I went to the bank as a matter of fact!" snarled Kev, he of the '80s 'tache.

"Oh yer did, did yer? Now, did yer ask to see a bank manager?!" twanged Sal.

"No, I'll tell ya wot I did," replied Kev Magnum Webster, "I asked to see a bank statement! And you know how much we've got in there, you an' me, between us? Fifty-five pounds - and you expect me to ask the manager for £18,000?!! Me feet'ud never've touched the floor!"

Sal wasn't having any of this tripe. "Other people do it!" she squawked.

Kev looked amazingly like that bloke out of Hall & Oates as he told Sal all about himself: "Yeah, well I'm not other people, am I? I'm not one of these tycoons like Mike Baldwin! I'll tell you what I am - I'm the type of bloke who goes to work in the mornin', comes 'ome at night, gets 'is wages in his hand Friday afternoon... I'm not the type of bloke who goes poncin' around with bank managers, accountants and things like that!"

"Well, you could be!" whined Sal.

"Yeah, well I don't wanna be, do I?" bawled Kev, boinging about like Zebedee. "And you're wrong, 'cos if I tried it, it wouldn't work! So, if you don't like me the way I am, then you shouldn't've married me!"

And Kev went all dejected-looking.

"I do like ya!" said Sal, after a lengthy pause.

"I'll tell you summat else, as well," Kev started boinging again. "If I did what you wanted an' got a load of debt 'angin' round me neck, and went into this garage business... I'd make a mess of it. So it's no good you shovin' me into it!"

Another lengthy pause. Then Sal twanged back into action: "I do like you the way you are, Kev, honest I do!"

"Yeah, well, it's as well 'cos you're stuck with me now!" said Kev.

"Well, don't be grumpy!" wheedled Sal.

"I'm not!" The Tache was outraged.

"Yeah, you are!" said Sal, firmly.

Kev's fire died. "Come 'ere!" he said.

And the row was over.

But, as we all know, the trouble was just beginning.

1976: Aggro At The Gatsby

In answer to Flaming Nora's request for some screen caps of Miss Rita Littlewood in her nightclub singer heyday, here's the lady herself in full flow at Ralph Lancaster's Gatsby Club (with its retro Upstairs, Downstairs decor) in 1976. This was a little cracker of a story-line.

Elsie Howard (as was) and Len Fairclough were in the audience, as were Ray and Deirdre Langton. Elsie was not impressed with Rita's performance. Not usually the jealous type, Elsie would happily get the claws out for Rita. She hadn't wanted Len herself when marriage was offered back in the '60s. But she certainly didn't want Rita to have him.

Len thoroughly enjoyed having two women at odds over him, and told Elsie: "You know, if you'd worked your cards right, you could have married me!"

"Ooh, you don't begrudge me one little stroke of luck, do yer?!!" grinned Elsie.

Apparently Elsie didn't reckon much to Len's potential as a husband (and recalling his marriage to Nellie, perhaps it wasn't surprising), nor did she fancy working for him as Rita did.

Elsie tried some heavy sarcasm: "You know, there's nothing I'd like better than to work for you - for insults and peanuts. Mind you, she [indicating Miss Littlewood] deserves it!"

Rita was on great form that night and had some news for Len: she'd been offered a month's singing contract in Torquay; Len made it plain that if she took it, she'd lose her job and the flat over The Kabin. To put it simply, the green eyed monster had claimed Len that night, just as it had Elsie: he was worried that Rita might fall under the spell of her agent or some other handsome devil whilst away from his earthy aura.

Rita began to seethe as Len told her not to expect a job when she got back - "and you'd better take your bits and pieces with yer, 'cos they're gonna be on the street when you get back!"

"Go on, take a poke at me!" Len goaded.

So, she did, knocking him from his bar stool to the floor, where he lay unconscious.

"Will you get a doctor, somebody?!" cried Ray.

"Oh my god!" said Rita.

Nowadays, the whole incident would have been recorded on CCTV installed at the club, and Rita would have been hauled off down the police station, charged, and on the DNA Database before you could say "Ooh, 'eck! What's Mavis going to say?!"

But this was the 20th Century and the whole incident was simply put down to Rita having a "red headed" moment.

Which I think was rather a better way of going about things!

1987: Mavis Riley - The Culture Vulture Jet Setter

Thelma Barlow, as Mavis Riley, stepped into the Street spinster role left vacant by Emily Nugent and made it all her own. In the best traditions of the Street, Mavis filled the gap left by the newly-wed Mrs Bishop, but was also very much a character in her own right.

I loved Mavis.

In the 1980s, the character stepped further into the spotlight as the Street suffered the loss of several members of its early cast.

The character of Mavis was delightfully "sent up" in the '80s by comedians Les Dennis and Dustin Gee, who paired her with Vera Duckworth (not something which happened much in the series!) for some brilliantly funny sketches. "I don't really know!" said Mr Dennis - in OTT Mavis tones. Although I have accumulated hundreds of '80s era Corrie episodes, I don't believe I have a single one where Mavis actually utters these words. If she did say it, it was a rare occurrence. But, thanks to Mr Dennis, "I don't really know!" become a much parroted catchphrase up and down the land.

I've just been watching a Corrie episode from 1987, in which Mavis seems squeakier and funnier than ever before. Was the impressionist influencing the original, I wonder?!

But, although it's fun to have a laugh at Mavis, it's important to remember the serious side to the character...

This was the woman who wrote a novel in the mid-1970s and a radio play in the early-1980s; the woman who could cook foreign dishes before cooking foreign dishes was popular in Weatherfield; the woman who sought to broaden her horizons, through reading, evening classes and travel. This was a sensitive, cultured woman.

In 1987, Ken Barlow was in conversation with Mavis at The Rovers one lunchtime. Mavis, of course, was bogged down by her earthy surroundings, and had succumbed to a gentle grumble about one of the customers at The Kabin...

"She's one of these women who always complain about how big her paper bill is, and this morning she tells me that the whole family's off to the Costa Del Sol for a fortnight!"

Ken: "Well, lucky for some!"

Mavis: "I mean, not that I'd fancy it meself really - I've never been one for lying about in a bathing costume."

Ken (teasing): "You go in for this nude business, do you, Mavis - total freedom and all that?!"

Mavis (going all giggly and silly): "Oh, Ken! The very idea! Not that I think there's anything wrong with it, but... no, I've never been one for lying about on a beach all day. When I go on holiday I go more for the atmosphere. You know, ancient cities, different cultures, the romance of history."

Ken: "Yes, well, it sounds very nice. Have you got anything lined up for this summer?"

Mavis: "No, not definitely. I thought I might try Bridlington."