Wednesday, 26 August 2009

1981: The Arrival Of Alma Sedgewick...

The Sun, Monday, June 22, 1981.

Alma Sedgewick (Amanda Barrie) made her Coronation Street screen debut in 1981. And all I can say is, that cafe on Rosamund Street had gone right downhill.

Flippin' 'eck!

It had started out in the late summer of 1978 as quite a nice little place, lovey. Owned by Joe Dawson (Peter Schofield), and staffed by Emily Bishop (Eileen Derbyshire) and Gail Potter (Helen Worth), the food was a little on the pricey side - so pricey in fact that Ena Sharples (Violet Carson) declared on her first visit that she'd come back when she was married to a Rothschild - but it was a nice stop-off for a cuppa and a fancy cake. Mind you, the crusty loaves sometimes looked a little overdone to me, although Mr Dawson was a baker by trade.

Sadly, all this changed in 1980, when Jim Sedgewick (Michael O'Hagan) bought it and turned it into a transport cafe to take advantage of trade from the new lorry park at the back of Canal Street.

Emily, horrified by the ruffians and the jukebox, beat a hasty retreat, Gail stayed and Elsie Tanner (Patricia Phoenix) became manageress.

Then, in 1981, Jim Sedgewick's wife, "Alma The Alligator", put in her first appearance.

Describing Alma in her early days, Amanda Barrie once said: "She was a frivolous, heartless, work-shy, person who wasn't interested in anything except herself."

But people, and Corrie characters, can and do change. Alma was an occasional visitor to the cafe and the show until late 1988, and then settled down to become a Street regular and favourite.

The Sun newspaper's 1981 TV feature on Amanda and Alma read:

Actress Amanda Barrie takes a sentimental journey to Coronation Street tonight.

Although she now lives in London, Amanda comes from Manchester and made her first stage appearance there.

Amanda will be a regular in the Manchester-based Coronation Street (ITV 7.30) for a short spell.

She plays Alma Sedgewick, wife of the owner of Jim's Cafe, who has to do the cooking now that Elsie Tanner (Patricia Phoenix) has been sacked.

Amanda says: "We used real food and I ended up feeding anyone in the cast or film crew who felt peckish."

Monday, 24 August 2009

Kathy Jones - Coronation Street's Tricia Hopkins - Sings "Down Our Street", 1976

I have just enjoyed a YouTube clip of Kathy Jones, Coronation Street's Tricia Hopkins, singing a song called Down Our Street in 1976.

Late '70s and early '80s little 'uns will probably remember another venture Kathy was involved with for a while - the Granada children's programme A Handful Of Songs. A girl, a guy and a guitar, pictures and requests sent in by youngsters, and there you had a successful formula which certainly kept my two little sisters and their friends glued to the screen for the ten minutes or so that each instalment was on.

Below is some YouTube music - Tommy Steele, singing A Handful Of Songs, when it was a chart hit back in 1957. Lots more Handful of Songs '70s/'80s TV series details can be found here.

Said In The '70s - Part 3

1976: Tricia Hopkins (Kathy Jones) and Gail Potter (Helen Worth) are working together in the Corner Shop. Ena Sharples (Violet Carson) has just come into the shop to make a purchase, and the recently-returned Elsie Howard (Pat Phoenix) is the subject of conversation.

Tricia thinks that Gail is jealous of Elsie's glamorous appearance. Gail is outraged.

Gail: "Jealous?! What, of somebody 'er age?!!"

Tricia: "I'd like to see you when you're 'er age. You're grotty enough now!"

Gail: "Have you seen yourself lately?!"

Ena (annoyed): "Look, I don't like to break up a first class row, but would somebody give me a packet of tea?"

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Holiday Time!

Holiday time - Minnie Caldwell (Margot Bryant) and Ena Sharples (Violet Carson) take a holiday at home. Minnie wears her "Kiss Me Quick" hat!

Well, I'm off on me hols - Hunstanton beckons.

"You're holidaying in England?!" an American pal of mine said last night.

Well, yes. A holiday isn't a holiday to me without a nice stick of rock and a rain-lashed beach!

Next week, I'll start the 1976 Revisited series of posts. Until then, whatever you're doing, I hope you enjoy it!


E-Mails - Coronation Street Tory Propaganda In The 1970s... And More Albert?

Just a brief round-up of some recent e-mails received. The Corrie 1980s Anti-Thatcher post I wrote yesterday and posted in the early hours of this morning has already sparked a response from Colin, who tells me:

Yes, fine, there was no full employment in the 1970s, and Bet Lynch was talking cobblers in 1986. Some thick-witted scriptwriter doing a spot of soap-boxing was probably the culprit. But do you remember the pro-Tory propaganda in the show in the 1970s? I particularly remember Ken and his girlfriend saying how the working classes had taken all the money from the middle classes, now had more money than they did, and were basically sitting pretty. I lived in conditions of great poverty in the '70s and sometimes found Corrie's stance incomprehensible and offensive.

The conversation you mention took place between Ken Barlow and Wendy Nightingale in 1976. It was bizarre, I thought. My family was on the breadline, we lived in a council house with a 1950s crumbling prefab kitchen tacked on, and there was a cold, mouldy wall in my bedroom.

It was very odd indeed as, with inflation rampant and unemployment spiralling, things were very difficult for many working class people. I'm not sure how interested people are in Corrie politics, but I'll certainly write more on the '70s Tory "thing" when I return from Hunstanton.

Meanwhile, Grace asks if we can have more Albert Tatlock?

I've loved the Albert-themed posts. Jack Howarth was brilliant!

Yes, there will be more Albert in our 1976 Revisited posts, coming soon!

1980s: Anti-Thatcher Propaganda In The Street...

Eee, the 1980s! The decade when we split into two camps - LOVE THATCHER or HATE THATCHER and our soaps developed a Left Wing bias. I fell into the second camp, very firmly, and a glimpse of Margaret on my TV screen would have me screeching for the remote control.

Brookside bravely showed us what a rotten country it was under Thatcher, and EastEnders followed suit.

The realities were far more jumbled (I hope one day somebody writes an unbiased study of the turbulent, multi-faceted '80s) but it was a shame when Corrie stooped to silly anti-Thatcher propaganda, and put absolute nonsense into the mouth of Bet Lynch (Julie Goodyear), briefly making a mockery of the character.

It happened in 1986. Hilda Ogden (Jean Alexander) asked Bet to reinstate Sally Seddon (Sally Whittaker) to her full-time post as Rovers barmaid, as Bet had just employed Betty Turpin (Betty Driver) to make the pub food, and cut Sally's hours.

Said Bet: "We're not living in the '60s and '70s now, Hilda, when the problem weren't getting the jobs, it were persuading folk to turn up and do them. Nobody were a bigger skiver than me - never worked Mondays and Fridays for years. But them days have gone, Hilda - and nobody can fetch them back..."


Firstly, whilst Bet was known to skive off under Annie Walker's regime at times, she didn't often get away with it, often ended up shouldering more work than she thought she should, and sometimes worked when she wasn't scheduled to - to suit Lady Walker's whims.

So, it seemed the scriptwriter didn't know Bet's history very well - or was very forgetful.

But worse was the absurd notion that the 1970s were a time of full employment.

Let's trek back briefly. In the 1970s, unemployment passed the million mark before we were midway through the decade, and stood at around one-and-a-half million by the end of the decade.

And Coronation Street fully reflected the fact.

In the mid-1970s, there was much publicity about graduates leaving universities and being unable to find work. Coronation Street featured this issue in 1975, when Annie Walker was threatened by two young men in her bedroom, seeking to rob her. She was informed by one of them that he had been through college, but there was no job for him.

In 1976, Gail Potter (Helen Worth) and Tricia Hopkins (Kathy Jones) faced losing their jobs at the Corner Shop. They tossed a coin for the chance of a job at Sylvia's Separates, and Gail won. Trisha could not find employment, and left the Street to live with her parents.

Also that year, Alf Roberts (Bryan Mosley) was terrified at the possibility of redundancy at the sorting office where he worked.

And 1976 brought us the grim tale of Ernest Bishop's photographic business going bankrupt and his and Emily's desperate searches for work. Emily was forced to take a job as an orderly at the infirmary, Ernest spent several months in the wilderness before being employed by Mike Baldwin.

Another epic tale from '76 involved a dastardly plan devised by Annie Walker (Doris Speed) to cut Betty Turpin (Betty Driver) and Bet Lynch's wages, rather than give them a pay rise! Both walked out, but walked back in again, glad to have their jobs back, when Annie dropped her plan. The pay cut would not go ahead, but they wouldn't get any pay rise that year either, Annie decided!

Fred Gee (Fred Feast) told Annie Walker that he was well aware he was lucky having two jobs when a lot of folk didn't have one!

Not long before Christmas 1976, Terry Bradshaw (Bob Mason) lost his job with Fairclough and Langton. Despairing of finding another job in the district, and romantically rebuffed by Gail Potter, he went back into the Army.

In 1977, Steve Fisher (Lawrence Mullin) decided to go abroad to find work when he was sacked by Mike Baldwin (Johnny Briggs), saying he was going "because there's no jobs here." Fortunately, Mike reinstated him.

In early 1978, Ernest Bishop (Stephen Hancock) was accidentally shot and killed by two unemployed young men in a wages snatch at the denim factory.

In late 1978, unemployed Gail Potter and Suzie Birchall (Cheryl Murray) decided to seek work in London, although they were warned that it might not be easy. In the end, Gail chickened out, and Suzie set off for the bright lights alone, only to return in early 1979, disillusioned. Her failure to find permanent work, and her drift into a tacky relationship with a wealthy older man, note wealthy (Suzie did!), made fascinating viewing.

If Bet Lynch had been a real person she would have never have made such a barmy comment about full-employment in the '70s. The Bet we saw on-screen in '70s Corrie knew the realities.

But there she was, in 1986, basically stating: before Margaret Thatcher, we had full employment!

Maggie was obviously to blame. Before her, everything in the UK employment garden was peachy.

It was a shame. The illusion briefly fizzled. It wasn't Bet speaking, it was some well paid scriptwriter, who obviously did not know his/her facts.

Now, if Bet had said: "Things haven't been easy for a long time, but they've got a damn sight worse since Thatcher came to power - unemployment's more than doubled!" I'd have risen from my armchair and cheered.

But in 1986, when the grim realities of the '70s were far too recent in memory to have been hyped and rewritten, her comment simply brought a puzzled "EH?!!" from yours truly.

I well remembered my step-father's time on the dole back in the '70s. And still do.

Bet's boob qualifies as one of the battiest comments in Corrie history.

But it's an interesting manifestation of the "EVERYTHING WAS FINE BEFORE THATCHER" ethos of many TV scriptwriters in the 1980s.

Intruder: "I've worked very hard, been to college, but there's no job for me, nowhere. So I've decided that what I can't get legally, I'm prepared to take.."

Emily: "What's wrong with us, Ernest, why CAN'T we find work? I mean we're reasonably well-educated, responsible adults..."

Tricia: "I've 'ad a sickener round 'ere just lately - no money, no job..."

Alf: " 'New Staffing Levels', they called it. I never thought it'd work out like this."

1978 - Ernie was accidentally shot and killed when two unemployed youths tried to snatch the wages at the denim factory.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Coming soon - 1976...

Coming soon - a few surprises in store when we revisit 1976 - the year that Gail Potter got up to naughties with a married man in the stockroom at Sylvia's Separates, jobless Tricia Hopkins said her farewells, Renee Bradshaw took over the Corner Shop, a certain brash London businessman breezed into the Street, and Stan Ogden left his dear wife, Hilda...

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

1981: Ken And Deirdre And Charles And Diana...

It's strange now to look back at 1981 and think how things turned out for the Royal wedded couple of that year. But, back then, the wedding was a bright spot in a highly turbulent year, and the public was entranced by what seemed a fairytale romance.

Fad-wise, 1981 had some real corkers, as illegal CB radio usage went into overdrive in the run-up to legalisation in November, and, after the arrival of the Rubik's Cube in late 1980, the UK was finally fully stocked with them (there had been a shortage) and the colourful puzzle took over 1981. They were everywhere. You could even get a Charles and Di version.

As an aside, the legalisation of CB radio in November 1981 led to romance in The Street in 1982 as Eddie Yeats (Geoffrey Hughes) joined the craze, adopting the "handle" "Slim Jim", and meeting the love of his life, "Stardust Lil", Marion Willis (Veronica Doran) over the airwaves.

A survey for the Walls Ice Cream Company came up with the findings that the Cube was 1981's favourite children's toy, and hide and seek was the favourite children's game.

Days of innocence...

Well, not really. They just seem it in comparison to now!

Coronation Street, of course, got another dose of wedding fever, as well as the royal one (Corrie characters tended to be royalists in those days) as Ken Barlow (William Roache) and Deirdre Langton (Anne Kirkbride) said "I Do" on 27 July, a couple of days before the royal nuptials.

From the Daily Mirror, 27 July, 1981:

The Street of smiles

Ken Barlow and his bride Deirdre Langton have ensured that their wedding won't be completely upstaged by holding it two days before the royal nuptials.

Deirdre is sure to cause a stir by dispensing with her horn-rimmed specs for the occasion.

"I thought most women would take off their glasses for the biggest day in their lives," said Anne.

"I wear contact lenses normally, but I took them out so I could get a better feeling of what it is like without them. I found it quite difficult to negotiate the aisle.

"I leaned on Alf Roberts's arm going up the aisle and held on firmly to Ken Barlow's coming down."

I sympathise with her - the world's a blur for me without me specs!

The ad on the same page brings back memories. VG shops! And to celebrate the Royal Wedding, they were offering Persil automatic at fifty-five-and-a-half pence, Domestos at thirty-nine-and-a-half pence, and Whiskas cat food (large tin) at thirty-and-a-half pence.

Oh, and you could win a Ford Fiesta in Mr VG's Royal Wedding Competition.

Those were the days...

1984: The Complicated Love Life Of Miss Mavis Riley...

Rivalry at The Rovers and consternation at The Kabin in 1984... Victor Pendlebury (Christopher Coll), Derek Wilton (Peter Baldwin), Mavis Riley (Thelma Barlow) and Rita Fairclough (Barbara Knox).

1984 always sounds ominous to me - also being the title of George Orwell's famous novel. Did you know that Mr Orwell took several years to write the book back in the 1940s, and that it was originally to be set in 1980, and then in 1982?

The real 1984 didn't see the arrival of Big Brother - I think that today is far more like that, with the various databases (established and planned) and security cameras logging our every move - but it did see the arrival of the Apple Mac - complete with affordable computer mouse. A revolution was beginning...

The UK edition of Trivial Pursuit arrived and we went trivia bonkers. Sir Alec Jeffreys accidentally discovered DNA fingerprinting, at the University Of Leicester, England (More here). The miners fought a bitter, losing battle; Frankie Goes To Hollywood shocked the charts; the yuppie era was drawing in; V was on the telly and Do They Know It's Christmas? hit the No 1 spot. Agadoo was another chart favourite. Push pineapple, grind coffee? Hmm...

In the world of fashion, shoulder pads were getting bigger and bigger, people were streaking their hair blonde and using hair gel to very striking (or ugly, depending on your viewpoint) effect and moon boots were a must-have, as were Frankie Say T-shirts.

And, in Weatherfield, one woman agonised over the attentions of two very different men...

The love life complications of Miss Mavis Riley, reported in the News Of The World, September 16, 1984

Having met meek-and-mild mother's boy Derek Wilton way back in 1976, Mavis Riley had developed a very diffident, on-off relationship with him. Well, when I say "relationship", I don't mean that anything improper took place, goodness me, no!

But it was more of a (kind of) romance than just a friendship.

And the Derek and Mavis "romance" flickered on, and off, until 1982. Towards the end of that year, Mavis met one Victor Pendlebury at an evening class, and together they penned a story which was broadcast on local radio. Of course, Mavis was nerve-stricken on the day - was the story too... earthy? she wondered. But, apart from one or two adverse comments, the local branch of civilised society did not collapse in a heap.

And then, in 1983, Victor, every inch the poetic wanderer of moor and heath, the weaver of words, the potter of pots, asked Mavis to join him in a trial marriage.

Mavis, whatever you may think, wasn't really a fuddy-duddy, despite her dithery ways. Our Miss Riley wasn't totally out of touch with the racy realities of 1980s living, wasn't a total prude - in fact, she was once accused of being a "Jezebel" (though only by Derek). But this sort of behaviour, living with a man outside of wedlock, was certainly not for her. She was particularly upset when she discovered that Victor intended to pass her off to his neighbours as "Mrs Pendlebury" and she would be expected to live a lie. Brave and unconventional Victor - not!

Then, in 1984, Mr Wilton and Mr Pendlebury suddenly made plain their desires to make Mavis their Mrs. And Mavis was left in a hopeless state of dither. Which should she choose?

Finally, she plumped for Derek. The wedding was arranged, the church and the reception were both booked...

But on the big day the indecisive couple suddenly chickened out. Neither turned up at the church. Their feelings for each other were simply not strong enough.

We, the folks sat at home in front of the "one-eyed monster" (as my granny called the telly), were absolutely agog.

The News Of The World had leaked the non-wedding story-line, and, in September 1984, contained an interview with Thelma Barlow.

She worked in an office for years, devoting her spare time to amateur theatre.

"Then I decided the time had come to make a break and really do something about acting," she says.

"So I went off to London, as green as a cabbage."

She got a job with Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop, and then appeared in plays all over the country.

Thema has been a Street regular for the last 11 years.

She confesses: "I'm not at all like Mavis in real life. Someone like that would drive me mad. I admire strong, positive people, and she's the essence of indecision.

"Unlike Mavis I've long since lost my shyness.

"When you're up there on the tele in front of millions of people, you're bound to meet some of them off screen.

"If you can't stand to be hailed by total strangers you shouldn't be in the Street.

"We're friends of a huge family of viewers and we've got to accept it."

The Street's scriptwriters originally did not plan Mavis as one of the series' main characters.

"I was only supposed to be in one episode, but the character clicked and I've been fluttering over medium sherries ever since," says Thelma.

"There are some good qualities in Mavis. She sticks to her principles at all times and is starting to develop a little bit of steel...

"I can imagine masses of spinsters all over Britain watching me in the midst of all this wedding drama.

"They all obviously picture themselves in Mavis's situation and identify with her like mad.

"That's what makes the whole character of Mavis so very interesting.

"I've got a special picture in my mind of who Mavis is, and I play to it."

And she adds: "I can see me playing Mavis for a long time to come."

This was very good news. And it wasn't the end of Derek and Victor as far as the story-lines went, either.

And when Derek proposed to Mavis again, in 1988, through the letterbox of the Kabin door, things turned out very differently...

And Mavis was a "Miss" no longer!

Monday, 10 August 2009

1969: Man On The Moon And Tatlock Goes Over The Top...

An historic headline from the Daily Mirror, July 21, 1969:



Inside the paper, we turn to the TV listings...

... and discover such delights as loads of Apollo 11 coverage, Crossroads, Not In Front Of The Children, World In Action and Coronation Street. Whilst history was being written elsewhere, Corrie was focusing on two if its menfolk, and the onus was on comedy. The synopsis read:

Stan enters the rag trade and Tatlock goes over the top.

So, what was it all about? Well, consulting my trusty Coronation Street - 1960-1985 - 25 Years book, I discovered full details of the story-lines: Stanley Ogden (Bernard Youens) had borrowed £50 to buy fifty suit lengths from 'Billy Oilcloth' on the market, planning to sell them for £10 each. But Hilda (Jean Alexander), thinking they were stolen, sold them for £1 each whilst Stan was out.

Meanwhile, Alice Pickens (Doris Hare), out to snare Albert Tatlock (Jack Howarth) into marriage, turned up at his regimental museum where he was giving a conducted tour. He fell off the platform in shock, breaking his arm and two ribs ("Tatlock goes over the top"!), and Alice moved in with him to nurse him - the choice being either that or a stay in hospital.

In August, Albert proposed to Alice, but in September both bride and groom were left waiting at the church when the vicar's car broke down and he failed to make it to the service. Albert and Alice called off their marriage plans.

September 1969 - the wedding that wasn't. Standing to the left of Albert is his daughter, Beattie Pearson. Actress Gabrielle Daye made occasional appearances in this role from 1961 to 1984.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

The Rovers - 1976

Dave writes to ask if we have a pic of The Rovers Return, in the days before the wonderful 1982 passageway, when the pub loo doors opened directly into Albert Tatlock's house at No 1.

Certainly, Dave, here's our favourite boozer in 1976.

As some wag once said, no wonder Albert was always so grumpy...

Said In The '70s - 2: Telly Watching With Uncle Albert Tatlock...

Ken Barlow (William Roache) - a frustrated telly watcher in 1976.

Ken was pleased to note that a Shirley MacLaine film was being shown on the telly one night in 1976. As he told Bet Lynch, hopefully he'd get Albert Tatlock to go to bed before the film started at 9pm, and then he could enjoy it.

Just after 9pm, Ken walked into the Rovers Return. Bet was surprised:

"Ah! Don't tell me - Shirley MacLaine run off with another fella!"

Ken: "Yeah, Uncle Albert, actually!"

Bet: "Ah, that I can understand!"

Ken: "He decided that he wanted to watch the film too, and that I couldn't stand! He's got this unbreakable habit of talking through the plot - you know, not the dull bits, he'll keep quiet for those, but let anyone try to say anything vital, and he's off!"

My wife says I'm just the same.

Flamin' cheek!

Anyway, back to our Mr Tatlock - bless him! Although he didn't actually appear in this particular episode, he certainly made his presence felt!

Poor old Ken...

Domestic bliss with Ken and Albert (Jack Howarth) in the early 1980s.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Albert Tatlock - High-Flying Gadabout!

Posh Albert - mixing with Roddy Llewellyn.

Whilst Albert was stuck in The Rovers, hoping for a rum, Jack Howarth who played him was apparently often out and about, mixing with the great and the good.

From Peter Tory's Diary, Daily Mirror, February 9, 1983:


CORONATION STREET actor JACK HOWARTH (he plays grumpy Albert Tatlock) will be 87 next week. But he rarely misses an important party in London.

The other evening he was hob-nobbing with PRINCE MICHAEL OF KENT. Here he is at another function discussing the Mike Baldwin-Deirdre Barlow situation with PRINCESS MARGARET'S former boy friend RODDY LLEWELLYN and MRS TANIA LLEWELLYN.

The Llewellyns are both fans of the TV show, which is watched by 16 million people every week.

Jack is much admired by MRS THATCHER, who gave him the MBE in the New Year's Honours List. He supports her policies and would like to meet her.

What was the "Mike Baldwin-Deirdre Barlow situation" mentioned in the article?

It was the famous Mike/Deirdre love affair, of course, which had an awful lot of people on the edge of their seats back in 1983.

Even posher Albert - mixing with Annie Walker.

Remembering Arthur Leslie As Jack Walker...

Debbie has written to tell me that she fondly remembers Rovers Return landlord Jack Walker, played by Arthur Leslie from 1960 until his death in 1970:

He was such a kind man, putting up with Annie, and very caring to the locals in the pub. He always tried to help people. I used to wish that I knew Jack in real life - he would have made an excellent relative or friend.

I remember crying when Arthur Leslie died in 1970. I was 17 and I had grown up with Jack and Annie and I was just so sorry that the actor had died in real life.

There's never been another Jack Walker!

I agree - Jack was a lovely character, and Arthur Leslie was held in high regard. I have an old TV programme on VHS (tucked away somewhere, I must find it!), featuring an interview with Betty Driver talking about how helpful Mr Leslie was to her when she made her Street debut as Betty Turpin in 1969.

Street writer and producer Harry Kershaw wrote about Arthur Leslie in his 1981 book, The Street Where I Live:

When he died in 1970 show business lost one of its most talented men and certainly one of its nicest. He was a quiet man who wasn't given to talking about his past but his tremendous value as an actor-manager in the theatre was evidenced by the number of 'big names' who, when visiting Granada, first paid their respects to Arthur. Success had come to him late, almost, he confided, when he thought his career was finished. Finished, although he didn't say it, with little in the way of material reward to show for the years of dedication. And then had come Coronation Street and the quiet man who was known only to the repertory audiences of South Lancashire became a national name, a well-known and well-loved face. And he enjoyed every minute of it.

Jack Walker was certainly one of the kindest characters to ever live in Coronation Street. And Arthur Leslie's on-screen partnership with Doris Speed (Annie) helped to make the show's first decade one of its very best.

In fact, in my humble opinion, the very best!

Friday, 7 August 2009

Brian Tilsley - The Brain Of 1987?

Brian in 1987: Concentrate... concentrate...

Estelle has been in touch with a lovely Silly Season query:

I read in Hilary Kingsley's excellent "Soap Box" book, that Brian Tilsley was listed as "Brain Tilsley" in the closing credits of a couple of 1987 episodes. This appeals to my sense of humour and as you recently said that you were studying 1980's episodes, I wonder if you might have seen the episodes?

No, sorry, Estelle. But I'll post some screen caps if I do.

'77, '87...

I've just been watching some Corrie episodes from 1977 and 1987, and reflecting on all the water that flowed under the bridge between 1977 and 1987 in Weatherfield...

In our 1977 screen cap, Elsie Tanner (Pat Phoenix) and Rita Fairclough (Barbara Knox) had just seen Alf Roberts (Bryan Mosley) and Renee Bradshaw (Madge Hindle) driving off - they were going for a drink together.

In 1978, Renee and Alf married, but she was killed in a road accident in 1980, and by 1987 Alf had transformed the Corner Shop into a mini market and married the gorgeously squawky Audrey Potter (Sue Nicholls). They were living in Elsie's old home, No 11.

Elsie had finally left the Street with her old love, Bill Gregory (Jack Watson), in early 1984 to help run his bar (and enjoy the sunshine) in Portugal.

In 1977, Rita's husband, Len (Peter Adamson), was running the builder's yard in Mawdsley Street, as he had done for many years, in partnership with Ray Langton (Neville Buswell).

By 1987, Ray had gone to Holland, after an adulturous relationship with cafe waitress Janice Stubbs (Angela Bruce), Len had been killed in a car crash, returning from a visit to his secret lover as it turned out, and after a brief period in the hands of Bill Webster (Peter Armitage), the yard was being rented by Terry Duckworth (Nigel Pivaro) and his good friend Curly Watts (Kevin Kennedy). An odd pairing, trying to scratch a living. Both characters had made their Street debut in 1983 and were unheard of in 1977.

How times changed...

Thursday, 6 August 2009

1985: An Unfounded Rumour - And Was The Street "Out Of Touch With The '80s"?

The 1980s saw UK soap operas change radically - the arrival of Brookside in 1982 and EastEnders in 1985, both shows featuring gritty story-lines and social issues never seen before, sent out shock waves which rattled and shook the village of Beckindale and the borough of Weatherfield.

And Corrie was also battling the loss of several of its longest running characters.

The ratings remained high, but some of the tabloid newspapers had a field day - was the end of Coronation Street nigh?

I recall reading a rumour that Corrie was to end after the ITV strike of 1979. It had been off-air too long for viewers to regain interest was the rather potty logic of that particular tabloid story.

In 1985 former Street story-liner Esther Rose was in the news with a similar story:

The Sun, April 15, 1985:

Coronation Street will NOT be axed, angry TV chiefs said yesterday.

They denied a claim by Esther Rose, the Street's veteran scriptwriter, that they plan to end the TV series in December, its 25th birthday.

The show, starring Jean Alexander as Hilda Ogden, has been slammed as "out of touch with the Eighties."

Of course, the Street was not taken off during its 25th birthday month, and has outlived the Eighties, the Nineties and most of the Noughties!

Jack Howarth - MBE

Daily Mirror, December 31, 1982:

Grumpy old Albert Tatlock of Coronation Street makes a special guest appearance in the Honours List.

He receives an M.B.E. in the person of actor Jack Howarth, 86.

Jack, a great fan of the Queen and Mrs Thatcher, has played the part of cadging, cantankerous Albert for 22 years and appeared in the first episode.

In real life he has a heart of gold. He is vice-president of the Stars Organisation for Spastics and a tireless fund raiser.

Of his acting role, he says: "I'll never retire. The Street will go on forever."

A deserved honour for Jack Howarth in my opinion, one of the Street's original greats. But it's interesting to note that the article states:

Jack... has played the part of cadging, cantankerous Albert for 22 years and appeared in the first episode.

But, in the very early episodes, Albert was portrayed as being quite a jolly chap, and Elsie Tanner commented on what a lovely old gentleman he was!

Of course, it wasn't long before The Rovers regulars were hearing little gems of heartwarming patter from Mr Tatlock - like these:

"Bloomin' 'eck! You young folk don't know you're born!"

"I fought for you in't first lot!"

"I'll 'ave a rum if you're payin'."

Good old Tatters!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Back On The Street Disasters Poll - Andy Makes A Boo-Boo...

1965 and 1967 - Consternation Street.

I'm very sorry, luvs, but I've made a cock-up with this blog's first poll! I meant it to run for a month, but somehow managed to set it to end on 30 July! I've only just noticed it was closed. I thought it was odd that there had been no votes at all since the 30th!

Anyway, the Poll has been re-opened, and will run until 30 August, so please vote - I've re-posted the original explanatory blog article below.

Ta very much and ta-ra for now!

Each of Corrie's first three decades seemed to have it in for our cherished Weatherfield back Street. The apparently hippy-trippy, peace loving '60s demolished a house and then attempted to demolish the entire Street - with a train; the pissed off Punky '70s sent a raging fire and an out-of-control lorry to the Street; and the turbulent, technological and hugely shoulder-padded 1980s tried to destroy the Street's central meeting place by fire.

In detail: 1965 saw No 7 come crashing down, and in 1967 the whole Street almost followed suit when a train hurtled off the viaduct.

1975 and 1979 - EEK Street!

The 1970s were just as unkind - the Street was threatened by a huge fire at the warehouse in 1975, and then, in 1979, a lorry crashed into the Rovers Return.

1986 - Conflagration Street.

The 1980s gave absolutely nothing to report on the major structural catastrophes front until 1986, when the Rovers went up in smoke.

Which Street-shattering catastrophe gripped you the most? Was it the shuddersome moment when No 7, former home of Harry, Concepta, Lucille and Christopher Hewitt, came roaring down?

The awesome drama of the train crash, no mean feat to create on an exterior set which was built in the studios?

Or what about the warehouse blaze - with the whole Street evacuated and Edna Gee meeting a terrible end?

Memories of the horrifying Rovers lorry crash still linger - "TRACY! TRACY!"

And as for the Rovers fire - courtesy of Jack "Duck Egg" Duckworth and the wonky old electrical wiring in the pub, well, what can we say? The Street's legendary meeting place temporarily bit the dust in highly dramatic style and would never be the same again...

So, eyes right to our Poll and click on the Street-threatening drama which most sent you screeching to the edge of your seat...

Whose Dinner Is This?

It's just a bit of fun this, luvvy, just a bit of larkin' about, but can you guess whose plate of pie, marowfat peas and tomato ketchup this is? It were right tasty fare for yer dinner in 1979. Mind you, that pie looks shop-bought to me (sniffs disapprovingly).

E-mails... '80s Shoulder Pads...

Sarah has e-mailed me all the way from Canada and asks:

I loved your post on Rita and the '80s shoulders. Are you planning further glimpses of '80s fashion?

Thanks for getting in touch, Sarah. I've been watching a glut of late '80s Corrie episodes and the fashions leave me staggered. '80s fashion is back in this country - I see blonde-streaked hair, off the shoulder tops, neon socks, leggings, ra ra skirts and other '80s glories every time I go out and about. Remember the trend for neon mesh in the mid-to-late '80s? Yesterday, I saw a young girl wearing neon pink mesh arm warmers!

The men in Corrie were conservative dressers, but the women...

Yes, it might be fun to look at the Corrie fashions more closely at some point. At the moment, I'm busy hiding away '80s photographs of myself - especially the ones featuring my neon blue linen jacket (with the rather large shoulder pads), cerise vest, and huge gelled/moussed hair - complete with blonde streaks.

But when I've got over the shock of the return of the fashions, I think I'd rather enjoy doing an '80s Corrie fashion parade post for the blog (I have another blog called "80s Actual" and find that decade fascinating) - and I'd like to write Corrie fashion features on the '60s and '70s too.

Thanks again for writing!

Walling Off The Stairs At Emily's...

Emily had a rotten time, didn't she? The swinging '60s saw her stuck behind the counter at Gamma Garments with Mr Swindley - although she did break out later, having a blissful interlude with Miklos Zadic. The savage '70s (as Corrie writer and producer HV Kershaw called them) saw Emily enjoy brief happiness with Ernest Bishop. Until he was shot and killed. The turbulent '80s sent her mad Arnold Swain and Percy Sugden.

Poor Emily.

And yet she managed to keep going, managed to keep a level head.

But, like every other character in The Street, she never seemed to realise just how architecturally impossible her surroundings were. For instance, that huge Select bar at the Rovers must have extended clean out of the building and across Rosamund Street. Annie Walker's sitting room and kitchen were just the same. The Rovers loos appeared to lead into Albert Tatlock's, until 1982, when the Street suddenly appeared to grow larger, lose its graffiti and smashed viaduct windows, and sprout a tiny passageway between the Rovers and No 1. It still didn't leave space for the loos, but never mind.

The Street's front doors stood side by side (with the exception of the Rovers, No 13 and the Corner Shop), with only a drain pipe and a tiny expanse of wall between them. However, there were often quite large expanses of wall beside the front doors inside each house, and these expanses of wall were sometimes larger than others.

Albert Tatlock was poorly in 1979, and his bedroom and landing were featured in a couple of episodes. At the top of Albert's stairs was a door which, if the architecture was at all logical, would have opened into Emily's house.

The Corner Shop flat sometimes seemed to have a kitchen and sometimes not. It had a number of windows which were invisible outside.

And so on.

Of course, we accepted all this. The Street was made in a studio, sets were erected when needed and taken down afterwards, and not a great deal of attention was paid to the interior architecture. It corresponded to a degree with the exterior (although the houses were impossibly small on the outside from the '60s to the early '80s, and even the 1982 Street was rather on the small side), and we were interested in the characters.

So what
if architectural abnormalities abounded?!! Who cared?

My mother certainly never noticed anything amiss.

Until some episodes which appeared in 1979.

Deirdre and a weird wall...

It was the lead-up to the Rovers lorry crash story-line, and the scene was Emily Bishop's back room. Suddenly, my mum cried: "Emily's stairs must run into her living room wall!"

And it seemed they did. Usually, the stairs ran alongside the wall, but for a few episodes, including the lorry crash itself, a new expanse of wall appeared at No 3, blocking off the stairs.

We laughed quite a lot over it, but were soon caught up in the horrors of the lorry crash story-line.

And after the lorry crash story-line, immediately afterwards, the strange new expanse of wall at No 3 disappeared.

And its occupants could use the bathroom and bedrooms again.

To this day I wonder about that wall. Why did it suddenly appear? And where did it go?

Back to normal: "I can assure you, Deirdre, there's nothing in the least odd about the walls in this house. Now, I'll make us a nice cup of tea."

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Screen Capture Request - Bet Lynch

Beverley says:

Have you a nice screen cap of Bet Lynch (Julie Goodyear) with her beehive hair in the '70s or '80s?

Certainly, Beverley. Here's the Street's beloved blonde (and buxom) barmaid in 1980. Looks a bit miserable, doesn't she?

Perhaps it was something to do with that swine of a lorry driver, Dan Jackson?

First, he was with Elsie Tanner. Then Bet made a play for him. The fur flew furiously when Elsie found out and she lambasted Bet across the Rovers bar. But Bet had landed herself (she thought) a fine catch with brash, macho Dan.

Dan wasn't with Bet long. She befriended a "fella" who lived across the landing from her bedsit, all completely harmless, a bit of company.

But Dan didn't like it. He punched the aforementioned "fella", and then took off when Bet remonstrated with him. He made it plain that he didn't regard Bet as anything very important in his life. There were plenty more women like her.

"Be lucky," he said.

Poor Bet.

She never was.