Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Victor Pendlebury - A Romantic Soul

In 1983, when Mavis Riley (Thelma Barlow) and Victor Pendlebury (Christopher Coll) set out for the Lake District, everything seemed set fair, despite one or two misgivings from Mavis.

Upon return, their views of what had passed were so different. Victor, a true romantic, deemed it a great success; Mavis, a true romantic but only when surrounded by her creature comforts, deemed it a failure.

But what about the owl, THEIR owl, looking down on them one night, Victor asked. Hadn't Mavis felt that the owl wanted them to be together?

"It was raining!" was all Mavis could say.


Christopher Coll played Victor Pendlebury, dubbed "The Saddleworth Sage" by Rita Fairclough, in the 1980s.

What If... Coronation Street had 21st Century Style Story-lines In The '60s, '70s and '80s?

"That new couple from Mawdsley Street seem nice. She works in't kitchens at Imperial Hotel. He's a dry cleaner by day, serial killer by night."

Imagine if 21st Century-style Corrie story-lines had run rampant in the show's early years, wreaking a trail of explosions, serial killers, dark secrets and ghostly visitations across the first three decades.

Would viewers have switched off in droves, or been desperate for more? Here's how a few TV listing magazine synopsis for our favourite soap may have looked in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s:


Myra Booth's marriage is in trouble. She decides to murder Jerry - and the pot dog on the mantelpiece may be the perfect weapon.

Len murders Nellie and says she has run off with the insurance man.

Florrie Lindley has a nervous breakdown and blows up the Corner Shop.

Jack Walker continues to psychologically abuse Annie.

Stan suspects that Alan, Elsie's new boyfriend, is the serial killer.

Evil young builder Ray Langton meets a nasty end when Lucille Hewitt gets on his case.

The Vestry is devastated by a huge explosion. 


Shock for Emily...

A power cut is the perfect time for a serial killer to strike...

Pulled from the flaming rubble of her maisonette, a dying Valerie Barlow confesses to Emily Bishop that Ernest is the father of the twins.

Renee Bradshaw admits that Suzie Birchall is her long-lost daughter.

Sick to the back teeth of men, Bet decides to kill Stan Ogden. She goes to prison, but is released quickly on a technicality, and returns to the Street to continue her reign of nastiness.

It's not snowing anywhere else in England, but the Street has a white Christmas.

Steve Fisher reveals his dark side (typical man!).

A flying duck ornament becomes a murder weapon.

Where was Ken when the murders took place?

Rita is taken hostage at the Kabin.


Eeek - Mavis turns.

Deranged Fred Gee drives Annie Walker into the canal.

As the factory blows up, Mavis murders Derek and Victor, and decides to use the explosion to cover her actions.

Curly buys a gun.

The Claytons beat a hasty retreat before Connie's terrifying secrets can be revealed...

Nasty Alan Bradley comes unstuck when his business is blown up by a deranged ex-girlfriend.

Hilda is comforted by a visit from Stan's ghost.

As Percy tries to find out who sat on his Christmas pudding, he begins to suspect that it might have been a serial killer.

Driven mad by Corner Shop assistant Sally Webster's nasal twang and smug ways, Alf Roberts picks up a tin of pineapple chunks and...

Monday, 21 November 2011

The New Houses - Completed In 1989

In Coronation Street, it seemed that the building of the new side of the street began in September 1989 and most of the building work was completed before the end of the decade. We've been exploring that story-line recently, but Ian has recently studied all the relevant episodes and has written to tell us that, in reality, all the building work on that side of the street began and ended in 1989.

I now have all the episodes from August 1989 to January 1990 and have been able to study the building of the new houses, the story-line time frame and the real time frame, bearing in mind that the show was recorded at least three to four weeks in advance. I've read your stuff on here, and would like to add my findings - made whilst studying the episodes concerned this week.

It was a great story because here was the Street undergoing immense change. New Exec Producer David Liddiment had decided to update the show in the summer of 1989 and had travelled around real Coronation Street terrace disticts where he saw modern houses and industrial units springing up beside the old houses. This seemed perfect for Coronation Street, with the show about to go three times a week, allowing much more story-line potential. In the story, the factory and community centre frontages were demolished in September 1989 (in reality, August 1989). That side of the Street was then boarded off and the production team teased us with very occasional glimpses of the new side of the Street going up.

In an episode broadcast on 1 December 1989 (recorded November) we were treated to an aerial view of the site with work in progress. In an episode transmitted on 11 December 1989 (recorded November), we glimpsed the nearly completed salon. In an episode broadcast on 1 January 1990 (recorded November or December 1989) we saw Steve McDonald drive a JCB from what is now the yard in front of the factory unit and garage into the Corner Shop window - and glimpsed part of the frontage of what is now Gail's house. In an episode broadcast on 8 January 1990 (recorded December 1989), Ken Barlow drove up the Street to visit Deirdre and we glimpsed the completed Kabin, waiting to have its windows put in (I think one was already there).

The evidence points to the new side of the Street being built in reality from August to December 1989. In January 1990, teaser shots of the completed houses appeared in various magazines (in the story-line the finishing touches were being made) and in February 1990 Des and Steph Barnes moved in - the first new residents.

Thanks for that, Ian - I've received a few queries about the new houses and all now seems clear. It was a very ambitious project for the Street and I remember enjoying every moment as the girls struggled to get compensation for losing their jobs at the factory, the bulding site lads brawled in the Rovers, Alan Bradley used a job on the site to terrorise Rita and Tina Fowler became involved with labourer Eddie Ramsden. And I love the way we were "teased" with glimpses of what was being built.

A great era for the Street.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

1989: The New Side Of The Street

Opening shot from 1989 - a wet and misty morning in the street, with building work in full swing.

Chris has written:

When did work start on the new houses in the street? And how did the building work affect the program?

The factory and community centre were demolished in September 1989 in the story-line, Chris. As I wrote elsewhere on this blog recently, the programme was recorded some weeks in advance, so it's safe to assume that the demolition took place in reality at the latest in August and the building work on the new houses, shops and industrial units then began.

Interior daytime scenes in the old terrace then had building site noises as a background, and the site was used to introduce Eddie Ramsden (William Ivory), a worker there who became a love interest for Rovers barmaid Tina Fowler (Michelle Holmes), and as a place for ominous Alan Bradley (Mark Eden) to work and continue to terrorise Rita Fairclough (Barbara Knox). On December 1 1989, the police, believing that Alan had killed Rita and buried her body there, dug up part of the site filled in when Rita disappeared - which may have played host to a shallow grave! These scenes would actually have been recorded in November. In a scene broadcast on 11 December 1989, the salon is glimpsed nearing completion and recognisable as the building it is today. Once again, the episode would have been recorded in November.

Remembering that the show was recorded several weeks in advance, it is interesting to note that the first new residents moved in in February 1990.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

The Claytons - Being Boring?

Connie Clayton: "Eee, Andrea, don't take on, love. We're not boring. What with Sue and her lack of academic qualifications, me an' me dressmaking, you an' your lovely perm and your dad and his trombone, who could possibly call us boring?"

Thursday, 17 November 2011

More About The Pillar Box...

Post Office official souvenir cover - introduction of the new style posting box, 31 July, 1980.

We wrote about the poor old Coronation Street pillar box destroyed by a tram in the (then) latest story-line for sensation hungry viewers last year. Replaced with a new style box apparently from Planet Zog, we now discover that it is from Planet 1980s as Postmaster General has written with the details:

The original box from the sixties was a double ring box with the Victorian cipher. I think the box was a replica, possibly fibreglass, I did see a good closeup on youtube. The famous box that was destroyed by the tram was an odds and sods box. It was fitted with a George 5th door on a later Elizabeth 2nd body, made by Carron Company. The present box is known as a K-type, and this particular one is made by Carronade, I just caught a glimpse of the maker's name one day whilst watching. There were five makers through the years of this box, which started in 1980, finished 2000.

Many thanks. So, Coronation Street now has a 1980s-style pillar box, very like the one in Brookside Close way back then.


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Betty Driver

We were deeply saddened to hear of the recent death of Betty Driver - Betty Turpin/Williams in Coronation Street since 1969.

As warm hearted and good natured as the character she played, experienced performer Betty Driver was actually retired from acting and running a pub in Cheshire when Corrie producer HV Kershaw spotted her and asked her to audition for the Street. Betty always recalled with deep gratitude the support given to her by actor Arthur Leslie, the Street's Jack Walker, during her early appearances in the show, and she became firm friends with Jean Alexander - Hilda Ogden. The two ladies would often spend time chatting and making padded coat-hangers for their favourite charity between takes.

My own personal feeling is that Betty could lift a scene simply by bustling into it, and she had that magic quality of seeming to be everyday working class - the sort of person you'd have a giggle with if you accidentally clashed trollies in Tesco's.

The character of Betty Turpin was one of the Street's anchor characters, often just simply around behind the Rovers bar, but she endured her fair share of drama, particularly in the '70s and '80s. She arrived in 1969 as the sister of Corner Shop owner Maggie Clegg. In the early '70s, her husband Cyril was retired from the police force after attacking a criminal (who had been terrorising Betty) with a lead pipe. Cyril died in 1974, and Betty then endured the shame of the revelation that her "nephew", Gordon Clegg, was actually her own son, born out of wedlock during the war. In 1982, Betty was mugged, but her greatest triumph came during that decade when her employer Bet Lynch, recently taken over as Rovers chief, asked Betty to make her hotpot a regular on the Rovers menu. The hotpot, a very occasional feature for some years beforehand, became a legend - and a version actually appeared in real-life supermarkets in recent years.

God bless, Betty - we'll miss you. xx

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Richard Hillman, 1982: "You Left The Door Open..."

Richard Hillman - dead or did he take a Tardis back to 1982 and pretend to be a social worker?

Eeek! That's all we can say having just viewed an episode of Coronation Street from 1982! There were Rita, doin't washing up, when she became aware that somebody was at the front door. Oh no! we thought - Albert Tatlock coming round for a good moan? Annie Walker to tell Reet that Len's drinking was getting beyond a joke and that she really couldn't bear his presence in her establishment any longer? Elsie Tanner ready to have a bitch at her old pal, the woman who had married her long-term romantic interest? Or Mavis Riley, all of a dither after a filling at the dentist? "Ooh, Rita, I shall have to go to bed this afternoon, I can't work in the Kabin, I really can't. My cheek's come out like a golf ball..."

Rita emerged into the hallway, and we flew off the settee in alarm as RICHARD HILLMAN stood there, smiling, and saying something like: "Your door was open..."

ARRGGGHHH!!! Were the far cosier 1980s becoming infiltrated by some of the weirder story-lines of more recent decades? Had Richard Hillman found a Tardis and travelled back to 1982, thus altering the past? What could we expect next? That awful Tony Gordon trying to bump off Phyllis Pearce so that he could have her job in the cafe? Mad Maya seeking to blow Alf's Corner Shop off the face of the planet?

But no, it's OK, the 1980s remain sane (well, at least in Corrie!) the man in Reet's 1982 hallway wasn't Richard Hillman. it was Brian Capron playing social worker Donald Worthington.

Caring social worker Donald Worthington, a role which neatly dovetailed with his role as caring schoolteacher Mr Hopwood in Grange Hill from 1980-1983.

Phew! We'd clean forgotten Mr Worthington. We returned to the settee, all of a tremble, and had to watch four episodes from 1985 featuring the Clayton family to calm our nerves!

So weird to see performers playing bit parts who later went on to play central characters...

Michael Le Vell as Neil Grimshaw, truculent Kabin paperboy of 1981 minus Kev's glamorous 1980s 'tache, was another surprise.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Fags On't Windowsill Quiz - The Answer

Well, did you guess the correct answer to our "Fags And Matches In't Picture" AKA "Fags On't Windowsill" quiz? Of the e-mails and comments received, nobody did - William Tarmey and Liz Dawn, Julie Goodyear, Michael Le Vell and Jill Summers were the clear winners, but it was actually an unknown member of the group of actors who played the Clayton family in 1985. The United Newspapers photograph was captioned: The Clayton family (L to R) Susan (Jane Hazlegrove), Andrea (Caroline O'Neill), Connie (Susan Brown) and Harry (Johnny Leeze).

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

1985: Fags & Matches In't Picture...

Flamin Nora! You're called out on to the Street's exterior set for some publicity photographs, and suddenly find you've nowhere to put your fags and matches (after all, you can't be seen clutching them in't photo). And then you happen upon a handy windowsill.

So, your Silk Cuts and Swan matches are popped down, and there you stand, all fragrant and smoke-free. But, to your chagrin, the fags and matches appear as large as life on't photo anyway - it seems the camera angle was wider than you'd thought...

Can you guess whose windowsill that was, and which 1985 Corrie actor/s are now forever connected with the fags and matches on't windowsill? Was it a single person, duo or group photo? Choose from't followin':

Bill Waddington (Percy Sugden) and Eileen Derbyshire (Emily Bishop).

Julie Goodyear (Bet Lynch).

William Tarmey (Jack Duckworth).

Anne Kirkbride and William Roache (Ken and Deirdre Barlow).

Johnny Leeze (Harry Clayton), Susan Brown (Connie Clayton), Caroline O'Neil (Andrea Clayton) and Jane Hazlegrove (Sue Clayton).

Johnny Briggs (Mike Baldwin), Helene Palmer (Ida Clough), Lisa Lewis (Shirley Armitage), Liz Dawn (Vera Duckworth) and Lynne Perrie (Ivy Tilsley).

Liz Dawn (Vera Duckworth) and William Tarmey (Jack Duclworth).

Kevin Kennedy (Curly Watts), Nigel Pivaro (Terry Duckworth) and Michael Le Vell (Kevin Webster).

Jill Summers (Phyllis Pearce).

We'll let you know the answer next week.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Bill Webster in 1983 BT Ad... He Were Right About That Saddle...

This much-loved ad from 1983 was part of the "Good Old Yellow Pages" series which also launched JR Hartley of Fly Fishing fame the same year. In this little gem, Peter Armitage, who would make his debut as Bill Webster, father of Kevin (Michael Le Vell) in Coronation Street in 1984, plays a nice Northern Dad who, together with his nice Northern wife, buys his son a bike for his birthday - despite having some reservations about the saddle...

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The Shock Of The '80s...

Deirdre Barlow: "Ooh, Ken, I'm a woman of t' '80s!"

Ken Barlow: "You're a woman of taties, Deirdre? Oh, no! Not sausage and mash again for dinner, is it?!"

Casey takes us to task:

Please, please, please, can't you print warnings and "scroll down if you feel strong enough to see" notices when it comes to pictures featuring 1980's fashions? Rita's humping blue shoulders and Deirdre's terrifying hair have nearly given me heart attacks recently.

Back On The Street replies (sulkily); Well, we LIKE '80s fashion, lovey. It's as good for us today as it's always been. Cheeky cat.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

1982: When Annie Walker Met The Queen...

Flamin' Emma! The Queen? Visiting Coronation Street? Best get your glad rags on, lovey...

I've just been reading Julie Goodyear's fabulous autobiography, Just Julie, and the lady behind our favourite buxom blonde pub barmaid and landlady reveals much about what went on behind the scenes during her years in Coronation Street within its pages.

It's a lovely, lovely read.

My favourite anecdote (it was hard to choose) concerns the wonderful Doris Speed and something that happened in 1982. The new Street exterior set, bigger, better and far more complete than it had ever been before ("At last we had a real street!" said HV Kershaw), was all set for a visit from the Queen...

Julie recalled...

I FIRST met the Queen and Prince Philip in May 1982 when they came to visit the set of Coronation Street. I was wearing Diana and Charles earrings which I'd had made specially. The Duke peered at my earrings and said: "I think I recognise those two."

As the Queen came towards us, Doris Speed turned to me and said in a very loud voice: "Oh dear, isn't her make-up dreadful?" I know the Queen heard and I just wanted to die. At times I wondered whether Doris just forgot herself or did such things on purpose.

Afterwards, I asked her why she had said that. "Don't be silly, dear," she replied. "You must be hearing things!"

Darling Doris - naughty, but nice!

Sadly, Mrs Walker never made it further than Lady Mayoress. But she didn't let that deter her in her endless quest for gracious living.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Coronation Street - 1989: A Pivotal Year...

Pump Up The Jam...

Flippin' 'eck! 1989! What a year it was! Rita Fairclough was nearly smothered by Alan Bradley, and a tram dominated the end of that saga... but what ELSE happened down Weatherfield way?

Well, one half of the Street disappeared and new buildings rose in its place, courtesy of one Maurice Jones.

Deirdre Barlow (note her squarer framed glasses and nice '80s perm) found out that Ken had been up to naughties with former town hall mole Wendy Crozier. The icy atmosphere at No 1 ruined Tracy's Christmas.

Meanwhile, the Corner Shop suffered a direct hit - from a football, causing the front window to fall out. The McDonald twins, Steve and Andy, were responsible. The Roberts household was already under strain as Alf and Audrey's attempt to buy a new house had fallen through and they'd gone to live in the flat above the shop. Audrey was not pleased. "It's only temporary," wheedled Alf, taking her a nice early morning cuppa. "LIFE'S only temporary!" snapped Audrey.

And for Curly Watts his new job as assistant manager (trainee) at Bettabuys Supermarket was fraught with complications. Manager Reg Holdsworth asked him to write reports on all the staff, and then announced his intention to use them as the basis for making redundancies in January 1990.

Curly was gobsmacked - particularly as his landlady, Vera Duckworth, was on the redundancies list.

There's so much more to write about 1989...

We'll be returning soon.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

We've Got Rita's 1980 Dream Kitchen!

1980 - and Rita tells Len where to get off.

Judging by various publicity photographs I've seen, Coronation Street now has the worst interior decorating schemes it's ever had. Not sure why. A lot of them don't look like anything around my own rather common housing estate. "It's 1970s!" screech various nerdy types, almost peeing themselves with excitement. But, of course, that's not true. Look back at the Street in the 1970s and nowhere was as bad as today, and there are few similarities! And anyway, sorry '70s nerdy types, but "1970s" decor was usually 1960s, all those lovely gaudy wallpapers, etc, were actually a product of - or inspired by - the 1960s (probably designed by hippies on bad "trips" by the look of them) - and tarried on through the '70s and into the early 1980s.

In the photograph above, we see Rita Fairclough telling husband Len where to get off in 1980. No 9 was a shambles, apart from a spot of wallpapering in the back room, Len hadn't touched it since years before they were married, and Rita wanted different.

Well, lovey, there were 'ell to pay. Rita left home, Len clobbered her one, then she fled to Blackpool to work in a laundrette and live with her Uncle Harry. In the end, Harry told Len where she was, and Rita finally returned home.

To please Rita, Len made changes at No 9 - second hand central heating, new wallpaper (probably chosen by Rita and absolutely skank, even though this was 1980) and new kitchen units. Rita was thrilled by the kitchen units, and so were me and my Mrs when we re-watched the episode in which Len and Eddie Yeats fitted them recently. They're exactly the same as ours!

Rita's fake wood effect, self assembly units, with the lovely hard wearing work surface, are precisely the same design as the ones still doing service in our kitchen today! As for the rest of our house, our front room is trapped in the 1980s (lovely pastel blue walls, and lots of black furniture, including a glorious black up-lighter), our hall is trapped in the 1980s (a very pretty pink), our bedroom is a style we call "near derelict" (one day we'll decorate). It's not that we created a mostly 1980s style house on purpose. We just somehow got stuck taste-wise circa 1987 and we're comfortable with the look and feel of the place.

The kitchen has not been touched by us (apart from re-painting it a few times) since we moved in, it's not our choice. The kitchen units are flanked by glorious brown and cream flowery tiles, giving the room more of a late 1960s/1970s/early 1980s effect than the mainstream '80s feel elsewhere, and we didn't like it much. The house was built in 1980, so it's obviously all original.

But now we've witnessed Rita's delight, we're thrilled with it. She always did have style, our Reet.

Me and the Mrs went dancing round the kitchen in a frenzy of merriment as soon as we'd viewed the episode. Even better, we think Rita's units did long service with the Duckworths after they moved into No 9 in 1983.

We're chuffed to little mint balls!

Just imagine, us serving up our cheese and spud pie on our trendy Fairclough/Duckworth style work surface, in our trendy Fairclough/Duckworth style kitchen.

Viewing by appointment only.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Speak Easy - June 2011

Above: Mrs Connie Clayton, official portrait; text below - Mrs Connie Clayton having a "natter" in the pork butchers, 1985:

"So, we've just moved into this house in Coronation Street. To be honest, I'm not that keen, but Harry likes it. Mind you, he'd settle anywhere. Seems a bit rough to me, this district, and I'm worried about Sue. She's pretty impressionable. I'm glad our Andrea's got her head screwed on - she'll be all right. Mind you, she were saying last night that she'd like a computer to help her with her studies. A computer! How daft can you get? Harry says we must look to't future. Apparently, Ernie Wise made the first mobile phone call in England during January just gone. 'We'll all have them in twenty-five years or so,' says Harry. 'And there'll be serial killers in this street and life round here'll be like a bad soap opera!' I said. He does talk wet - watches too much Tomorrow's World... Anyway, what were I sayin'? Oh aye, No 11. Ooh, you should see the outside cludgie - disgustin' in't word for it..."

And so from the thoughts of Connie Clayton, played by Susan Brown, in 1985, we pass to your questions and opinions in 2011.

Jamie asks:

Why did Philip Lowrie leave Corrie in 1968?

Reports at the time indicate that he was frustrated with the character of Dennis Tanner, who was used a great deal to comic effect in the story-lines. Mr Lowrie felt that Dennis was not being allowed to grow up, but was pleased with Dennis's final story-line in which he finally married, despite some opposition from his mother, Elsie.

Paula asks:

There was a young blonde actress around in the soaps in the early 1980s. I believe she appeared in the Southern TV soap "Together" and in Corrie, very briefly. I can picture her very clearly, but can you give me a name?

Gina Maher, Paula - she played Debbie Nuttall in The Street, daughter of Eunice Nuttall/Gee.

Albert writes:

A friend of mine says that Mavis Riley received anonymous phone calls in one plot, and had a nervous breakdown. Is this true?

Yes, and no, Albert. Mavis suffered a series of strange phone calls in February 1980, but she didn't have a nervous breakdown over them. The story-line was in comic vein and saw Eddie Yeats being mistakenly arrested as the caller. The identity of the true caller was never discovered, but Mavis had other fish to fry at the time and managed to put the incident behind her without resorting to a breakdown.

Coffee asks:

Why is this blog updated so rarely?

Because I'm working elsewhere, Coffee. I do update whenever possible though. Thanks for dropping in.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Elsie Tanner's Ending....

The e-mails have been coming thick and fast, all asking the same thing: what do we here at Back On The Street make of Philip Lowrie's return to the show as Dennis Tanner? Well, although we don't watch, good luck to him. Dennis is an all-time favourite Coronation Street character, and one of the originals.

We hope the writers are good to the character and that he doesn't encounter any horrid explosions or nasty serial killers.

Be warned, Dennis lad, the Street's changed a lot since your day...

A couple of people have also asked what we make of the ending of Elsie Tanner, related by Dennis to Rita Sullivan.

Love it.

Straight out of an old Hollywood movie, and very Elsie, who mixed melodrama with margarine and crumbs on't table cloth in a way no other character ever did - or has since.

A dramatic accident - Elsie going over the cliff in a red sports car, aged eighty-one, hand in hand with the love of her life, for whom she had searched for many years, lost, found, lost and then finally, in late 1983, found again.

It's infinitely preferable to the ending offered in the VHS release The Life And Loves Of Elsie Tanner, which we are now delighted to lay to rest.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Percy Sugden - A Groundbreaking Character...

1987 - Percy pokes his nose into Deirdre's business.

It just occurred to me, toying with me rubber duck in the bath this morning, that Percy Sugden, who arrived at the Coronation Street community centre in 1983, was actually quite a groundbreaking character.

Percy, played by Bill Waddington, is often written off as simply being a replacement for the dearly loved Albert Tatlock (although the two characters overlapped) and he definitely continued the "old soldier" role, although he was Second rather than First World War.

But as we've pointed out elsewhere, Percy wasn't Albert. Whilst Albert was chiefly known for moaning and miserliness, Percy was a man of action - he saw himself as a righter of wrongs, and was constantly sticking his nose in where it wasn't wanted.

Percy was, I believe, Corrie's first male "sticky beak" character, forming something of a bridge in older male characterisations between grumpy Albert and nosey Norris.

Can you think of any other habitually nosey male Corrie character before our Mr Sugden?

If not, caps off to Percy!

Monday, 7 March 2011

Back On The Street - On The Tour....

Found some more Granada TV Studios Tour pics the other day...

It was the early 1990s, and Bet Gilroy was doing her lone landlady bit at The Rovers,
whilst Alf Roberts had briefly regained control of the Corner Shop...

The new side of the Street was in fine form, and the viaduct was (thankfully) silent...

I was thinking the other day about 1989 and the building of the new houses and the Duckworths' stone cladding. Was it really a good year for the Street's architecture, I wondered?

Mind you, at least 1989 didn't go beggaring about with the (now) late, lamented pillar box! Looking at the newly rebuilt Street, post-tram crash, I cannot see any noticeable differences to the old. Although Producer Phil Collinson said that Weatherfield would never be the same again, the only real difference I can spot is that darned pillar box!

Whose Living Room Is This?

Several thousand years ago, we asked you, our readers, to identify a character's dinner as seen in a 1979 episode of The Street. That wasn't beyond you. So, today, we're going to ask you to identify a Street living room from the past. This pic dates back to the early 1990s, when I visited the Street a few times on the Granada Studios Tour, and the room was quite trendy at the time. Many of the trends represented were actually continuing from the 1980s.

The figure with the blanked out face is me - it's for the best, I know you all relish your sleep.

There's an absolutely mega-clue as to the location of this room... take a look, go to the comments, and let me know!

Friday, 25 February 2011

Speak Easy - February...

In one of her despondent moods, Mavis Riley came across a book called 1001 Ways To Fill Your Spare Time in The Kabin library. "None of them work!" she sighed. But that was 1976, and things are very different today. So, Mavis, if you fancy writing to Back On The Street from your home in the glorious Lake District and letting us know how you're getting on, we'd be very glad to hear from you. And it would be a great way for you to fill the odd minute or two!

All comments and ponderings welcome here at the Speak Easy!

And so, here we go...

Jane writes:

Your stuff about the Corrie pillar box was genius - just a pleasure to read. You're very funny, but obviously know your stuff. Watch out, Daran Little!

LOL - Mr L has watched every episode of the show, acted as archivist and written episodes. We just like looking back in our own way and sifting through old episodes and newspaper articles. We do promise accuracy though, in fact we're downright pedantic!!

Sara writes:

Loved your article about the teens in the show. I remember an episode in the '70s when Gail Potter made Mike Baldwin feel old by mentioning Stevie Wonder. "Stevie WHO?!!" said Mike. But Stevie had his first hit in the late 1960s, so you would of thought Mike would of known about him!

I've got that episode, and yes, it was funny. The Street being terribly modern in the late 1970s... never mind the Buzzcocks - let alone the Sex Pistols!

James writes:

Don't you think Phyllis Pearce was a fruitcake?

Eccentric and highly colourful she was! But there was a reality about her. She hadn't aged mentally - very much the oldest swinger in town - but in the back of her mind lurked the knowledge that she was no spring chicken any longer. She was very grateful to Martin Platt when he was nice about the dress she chosen for a dance in the late 1980s, after Gail Tilsley had made a good natured joke about what Phyllis SHOULD be wearing at her age, and she was terribly insecure about her job at the cafe. It gave her something to do, a place out there in the community, but she knew her age was against her, that the job might be taken from her and given to somebody younger, and that she stood zilch chance of getting another.

All flirty and cheerful on the surface, relentless in her pursuit of Percy Sugden, underneath it all Phyllis knew she was far from being sweet sixteen. I admired her courage - and zest for life.

That's it for now, folks - keep 'em coming. I'm off for a little lay down and a spot of Classic FM...

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Name That Cliffhanger 2 - The Answer!

Mavis Riley (Thelma Barlow) thought that Fred Gee (Fred Feast) was a very nice man. Rita Littlewood (Barbara Knox) was quite unmoved.

Thanks so much to those participated in our latest Name That Cliffhanger challenge. Only one right answer this time - and congratulations to Coronation Street Corner , who wrote:

Am I right in saying that she pretended he was her boyfriend because Fred Gee was pestering her to go out with him - she kissed him when Fred came to the shop to check up on her. What would be interesting if you could evaluate the Fred/Rita relationship in a blog post. Fred was one of many that held a torch for our Rita!

Absolutely correct answer, and an interesting idea for a future blog post. Thank you!

Anonymous wrote:

Had Rita been drinking? Was she not responsible for her own actions?

Well, knowing how our Reet liked to nip in The Rovers at lunchtimes, she probably had BEEN drinking, but that didn't contribute to her actions in this case!

Greg wrote:

1976 - the year before Rita married Len - so I wonder if she was kissing Derek to make Len jealous? Mavis was probably in on it.

Interesting scenario, Greg, but not the right one!

Cerys wrote:

Mavis was sick of Derek and asked Rita to take him off her hands. However, Rita's overtures made Derek realise that he loved Mavis.

Another interesting scenario - have you ever thought about taking up soap scriptwriting?!

The full, unexpurgated truth, is below.

At that time in 1976, Fred Gee was new to the permanent cast, and the lazy, randy, ogling Fred of the late 1970s and early 1980s had yet to emerge.

This was Fred's first venture into the romantic arena since losing his wife, Edna, in the warehouse fire the previous year.

He was completely smitten by Rita, took her a pot plant ("Keep blooming," he told her), and invited her to a big band concert.

Rita was horrified and took the coward's way out - telling Fred she already had a boyfriend.

Fred, however, did not give up, and called at The Kabin just to make sure Rita's sweetheart turned up for their date, ready to whisk her off to the big band concert if not.

Derek's arrival at that point, with a message for Mavis, was a gift from the gods for Rita. Fred didn't know him, and she swooped on him, giving him a big kiss and greeting him as her boyfriend.

Fred was crestfallen, telling Derek he was a lucky man - and to look after Rita.

Rita couldn't resist teasing Derek after Fred had left the shop, with her "just ask and it shall be yours!" comment.

Of course, it all came out - and Mavis was furious, telling Rita she couldn't keep her hands off any thing in trousers. She also gave Derek his marching orders.

Rita managed to win Mavis round, and engineered a meeting between her and Derek in The Rovers. So, the relationship which would culminate in marriage in 1988 was back on track.

Meanwhile, Fred was hurt to discover the truth about Rita's fella, and told her there had been no need to make a fool of him.

And Rita was left feeling rather shabby.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Renee Bradshaw - Not What She Seemed...

Renee Bradshaw (Madge Hindle) breezed into Coronation Street in 1976.

Her arrival was foreshadowed by her brother Terry (Bob Mason), who warned Ray Langton (Neville Buswell) that Renee would eat him on a cream cracker!

Bit of a tyrant, our Reen. Terry was clearly in awe of her.

She was clearly an astute businesswoman, ousting tenants Gail Potter (Helen Worth) and Tricia Hopkins (Kathy Jones) when she took over the Corner Shop, and announcing plans for an off-licence - which brought her into conflict with Rovers landlady Annie Walker (Doris Speed).

Renee was successful in her application for an off-licence, and settled down to run the shop and look after Terry.

She wasn't as bad as she was painted. In fact, quite soon, viewers grew to like Renee, famous for standing behind the Corner Shop counter and saying: "Yer what?!!" on hearing the latest daft spoutings of Eddie Yeats (Geoffrey Hughes) or the latest piece of hot gossip.

Terry left at the end of 1976, rebuffed by Gail Potter, a girl he harboured romantic notions about, and unable to find work in the area having been laid off by Fairclough and Langton.

Renee retained her excellent business sense, refusing to let Bet Lynch (Julie Goodyear) move into the Corner Shop flat when she couldn't afford the rent Renee was asking, but changing her mind when Mike Baldwin (Johnny Briggs) secretly offered to subsidise Bet.

Having been dropped by her sailor boyfriend, Renee began seeing Alf Roberts (Bryan Mosley) and a romance developed which ended in marriage in 1978.

Coronation Street producer Bill Podmore later described the marriage as "rather humdrum" - which it undoubtedly was, and so, in the summer of 1980, Renee and Alf seemed set to go off and run a sub-post office at Grange-Over-Sands.

Unfortunately, Renee was killed by a lorry when she, by then a learner driver, took the wheel of the car whilst out with Alf and managed to stall it.

Alf inherited the Corner Shop, and decided to stay on.

Madge Hindle said of the production team's early vision of Renee:

"I think they wanted somebody to be strong and argumentative like Ena Sharples. But unfortunately you can't do that in a shop because people won't come in."

And so Renee lost her fiesty side.

However, Madge Hindle, an accomplished actress, managed to invest the character with a likeable warmth and many viewers (including me) were sorry to see her go in 1980.

But not sorry to see the end of the Alf/Renee humdrum marriage.

But still, for me personally, the character of Renee, particularly in her Bradshaw days, remains a favourite Street memory.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Name That Cliffhanger - 2

In our second Name That Cliffhanger session, we've headed back to 1976 and The Kabin (then based at 14 Rosamund Street). Rita Littlewood (Barbara Knox) and Mavis Riley (Thelma Barlow) may have got on each other's nerves at times, but they were the best of friends really - neither would ever do anything to hurt the other.

Or would they?

Witness the scene above - Rita greeting Mavis's boyfriend, Derek Wilton (Peter Baldwin) with a passionate kiss...

Worse still, Mavis was out - having a drink at The Rovers at the time!

At the double doors leading up to her flat, Rita said:

"Derek, just ask and it shall be yours!"

Derek replied nervously: "What?"

Rita smiled, saucily: "Anything!"

And the scene faded to the closing credits.

Was Rita really out to steal the boyfriend of her best pal Mavis?

Does anybody know the answer out there?

Friday, 18 February 2011

1989: Trailer For New Coronation Street Omnibus Edition...

Alf Roberts seems really excited about opening the Corner Shop on a Sunday... but he isn't really! It's early 1989 and the pics above are screen grabs from a trailer for the (then) brand new Coronation Street omnibus edition!

By the magic of YouTube, see it below!

The Coronation Street Pillar Box - Another Casualty Of The Tram Crash?

Chewy has written:

I reckoned you'd find this of interest, they've got a new postbox in the show now (after they lost the old one) was the old one there since the start or was it knocked over in the train crash?

Here's a pic of the new one

Love the blog though, even though it cuts off the year I was born in :D

Glad you like the blog. Thanks for writing.

Hmmm... interesting question...

Well, of course, Coronation Street had a pillar box outside the Corner Shop since Day One, and I thought it might be rather nice to take this opportunity to look at the highs and lows of its life on that draughty old corner, and indeed ask the question: "Was it always the same box?"

And did the original box survive the train crash of 1967?

The screen grab recently sent to us by Sky Clearbrook of Ida Barlow's funeral in 1961, clearly shows our old pal the pillar box, standing respectfully behind Florrie Lindley (Betty Alberge).

The tragic train crash of 1967 - and the pillar box has been knocked over - just follow my clumsy pink arrow! Oh, no! It does not appear to be damaged, however.

Look out for a glimpse of the fallen pillar box on this YouTube footage of the train crash (from about 0.44 in).

Of course, the pillar box was not always present in the Street from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, the era of the first outdoor set. Well, even pillar boxes need a break occasionally!

No, seriously, the pillar box was removed whenever filming was completed as the set was often visited by vandals and the box could have been damaged or pinched.

In the excitement at the end of the ITV strike in 1979, the Corrie production team appear to have forgotten to put the pillar box in place before recording Bet Lynch (Julie Goodyear) and Len Fairclough (Peter Adamson) welcoming us back to Weatherfield. The box-less 1981 picture (on the right) was taken on a non-filming day.

"Morning Ma'am!" The pillar box meets the Queen in 1982, and is immortalised on a mug in 1985. Ironically, later that year the shop changed dramatically, retaining its "Corner Shop" title, but also becoming "Alf's Mini Market" - with a drastically modernised frontage.

From the building of the 1982 outdoor set onwards, the pillar box appears to have been a permanent, immovable feature.

A pillar box through the decades - with Ken Barlow (William Roache), Emily Bishop (Eileen Derbyshire) and Len Fairclough in the 1970s; with Curly Watts (Kevin Kennedy) and Shirley Armitage (Lisa Lewis) in the 1980s; and with me in the 1990s. I posted some postcards to friends and relatives in that box whilst on the Granada TV Studios Tour, and they were received with the postmark: "Posted In Coronation Street"!

Note that the pillar box in the pics above is actually two pillar boxes! The design of the box seen in the 1970s photograph appears to be the same as the one in the 1961 funeral cortege screen grab. The 1980s/1990s/2000s pillar box is slightly different to the earlier model. Take a close look and compare the two!

There may actually have been other models used over the years but, from the evidence available to me, I can say that the box incorporated into the latest Coronation Street exterior set when it was built in 1982, looks the same as the box on duty outside the Corner Shop until the recent disaster.

Note that the box in the 1970s photo is positioned some way from its original early 1960s position just outside the shop and is much closer to the viaduct. This move would appear to have taken place when the new outdoor lot was established in the late 1960s. The box seen in the 1980s and 1990s is back in its original early 1960s position just outside the Corner Shop.

Eek! The Corner Shop, the pillar box and Molly Dobbs (Vicky Binns) are aghast as a tram crashes off the viaduct and heads straight for the shop. Molly, highly sensible as always, heads back into the shop. But, according to the screen grab on the right, the pillar box appears to have left the scene before the tram reaches its location.

Rather than being annihilated by the tram, I, being a whimsical little beggar, like to think that the old faithful pillar box skipped the country for a well-earned retirement and is, even as I write, swigging back the gin and tonics on a lovely beach in Portugal with Elsie Tanner, whilst both reflect on the good old days.

Okay, that's unlikely I know! But then so is a hammer murder, an explosion and a tram crash all in one night - and as for the ghost of Vera Duckworth...


Oh dear, for all my fanciful longings, having just viewed the tram crash scenes and taken some screen caps, I must face facts - the pillar box was destroyed.

Oh well...

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Ken And Deirdre - Happier Times...

Bill has written:

I've just watched the first on-line Corrie episode in the 'Ken and Deirdre's Bedtime Stories' saga and I thought it was funny and at the same time sad because the couple don't seem close at all and I was thinking about their first wedding in 1981 and how optimistic they were. What do you think? And do you have a photo of Ken and Deirdre in happier times? I feel quite concerned for them!

I saw it, Bill, and thoroughly enjoyed it. There's probably some affection underneath! I loved the scenario because it reminded me of Corrie in the good old days - a lovely, character-led scene, without an explosion or murder in sight!

I've posted a photo of Ken and Deirdre in 1988. This was the "January" pic in the 1989 Coronation Street calendar, and is from my treasured copy, signed by the cast.

Sorry, William Roache's autograph is missing because I couldn't scan the whole pic on my minute scanner! As you can see, Deirdre's beauty regime was different then - a lovely '80s shaggy perm - and note that her glasses had altered from the thick plastic-framed pair she originally wore. The pair in the pic are thinner framed, squarer, and if anything bigger than ever! But then, in the 1980s, everything was bigger!

Of course, in 1989, Deirdre went in for a brillo pad perm, which didn't really suit her.

But never mind. 1989 also brought us Sky TV, and, although it took some time for it to take off, Deirdre's 21st Century nights in front of the "soothing" shopping channel were assured.

I never thought the marriage would work - academic Ken and down-to-earth Corner Shop assistant Deirdre seemed a very unlikely combination to me back in 1981.

And, of course, it hasn't really worked.

But, although mismatched, they're still together.

I know several real life couples like that!

Norma Ford - Looking Retro In The 1970s...

Maggie Clegg (Irene Sutcliffe) and Norma Ford (Diana Davies) share a smile at the Corner Shop - probably over Norma's out-dated fashion sense. Norma went even more retro at Christmas 1972 for the Rovers 1940s Show, teaming up with Bet Lynch (Julie Goodyear) and Betty Turpin (Betty Driver) to sing Apple Blossom Time.

Actress Diana Davies revealed how her dress sense as the Street's Norma Ford in the early 1970s was actually out-of-date at that time in a 1987 interview - and earned her the nickname "Di the Thigh":

"I used to play shop assistant Norma Ford in Coronation Street. Norma was a bit behind the times so she used to wear mini skirts and hot pants, even though they were out of fashion.

"And I've got long legs - hence the name."

Diana inherited Paula Wilcox's wardrobe from the 1970 to 1971 comedy series The Lovers - so Norma, who made her debut in The Street in 1972, looked rather late 1960s. Mind you, with flared trousers and quite a lot of '60s hippie chic overshadowing the fashions of the 1970s, she didn't look too bad!

Norma wasn't alone. I mean, take a peep at Gail in the late 1970s: she sometimes looked as if Punk (and indeed at times the whole of the 1970s) hadn't happened. That dreadful coat she used to wear - so 1968, darling!

Gail Potter (Helen Worth) sees the Faircloughs off on their honeymoon in 1977. Ever heard of Punk, darlin'?! Study old magazine fashion articles from 1968 to 1973 and spot the Gails!

Terry Duckworth, supposedly street wise bloke-about-town in the 1980s, was often so out of date he looked like a right wally!

A related point is that nobody could call most of the Street's youngsters' tastes in music exactly cutting edge in the 1970s or 1980s either.

Dragged round various fashion shops by my older cousin, Sue, in the 1970s, I can vouch for the fact that the music played was current chart toppers. In The Western Front, Mike Baldwin's shop, staffed by Gail and Suzie, the music was horrendously out of date - late 1960s or early Roxy Music - and the music Gail and Suzie played at parties when Elsie was away was either yonks old or '70s '50s retro.

When Sally Webster, throwing a party at No 13 at the end of 1987, came up the hall warbling away to Shakin' Stevens' Lipstick, Powder and Paint, I nearly choked on me savoury rice and turkey sausages. Manchester was the city of Madchester at the time! Surely we could have at least had Pump Up The Volume?

All was explained in 1989, when Percy Sugden, ranting about late 1980s dance venues and "Acid Drops" (Acid House), described it as sounding like a ship's boiler house.

Kevin said he didn't know - he'd never been anywhere like that.

Good grief! Percy knew more about it than Kev!

Maybe Jenny Bradley listened? She kept her musical tastes to herself, with her trendy personal stereo, so it was hard to know just what she was listening to, but she did tell Rita that although her taste in music was eclectic, she didn't like 1970s!

I seem to remember that Sharon Gaskell was quite "with it" for fashion and music trends in the early 1980s, and when Curly Watts looked after Shirley Armitage's little sister in the flat over the Corner Shop, later in the decade, her friend turned up and brought her "blaster" (ghetto blaster) with her, and we actually heard some Hip Hop and saw some body popping!

My flabber was well and truly gasted!!

So, back to the main theme, clothes fashion-sense. Who scores honours as up-to-date young and trendy geezers and geezettes in our grotty backstreet of the 1970s and 1980s?

Well, for the 1970s it must be Suzie Birchall - beautifully cynical - she actually looked like a hard-faced '70s baggage - and managed to progress fashion-wise into the 1980s upon her return in 1983, actually looking like a hard-faced '80s baggage.

Of course, there was more to her than that. She was a gloriously complex character for one so young.

We love ya, Suz!

For the 1980s, it has to be Kevin and Sally Webster. I had a bouffant mullet and 'tache just like Kev's from around 1983 to around 1986, so it has to be deemed wonderful, and Sally's grasp of '80s female fashions - bulldog clips, shoulder pads, Minnie Mouse hair ribbons and crinkly perms - was second to none. TV critic Hilary Kingsley described her in 1988 as always looking: "young, fresh and fashionable."

Good on ya, Sal!

Hard to suppress a snigger with the benefit of hindsight, isn't it?

Mind you, seeing so many 1980s fashions back on the streets over the last five years or so, I do feel an occasional urge to adopt my old Miami Vice style...

I've still got that neon blue shoulder-padded jacket and cerise mesh vest stashed away...

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

1988 - Emily Bishop - Nosy Parker?!

A chance remark by Emily Bishop set this story rolling. Trying to sleep in the front bedroom of No 3, Coronation Street, she was sometimes disturbed by next door neighbour Don Brennan, arriving home in his taxi in the early hours of the morning. The sound of the car engine and the slamming of the car door often drew her from her slumbers.

It was never a good idea to say anything much at all about anything to Percy Sugden, Emily's new lodger at No 3. Especially when it came to problems. But when Emily let slip her night time difficulties in passing, he immediately set out to remedy the situation.

Percy had often noticed that Don's parked taxi overlapped from the space outside his own house into Emily's parking space, and so he immediately painted "NO PARKING" on the pavement, with two lines to mark out No 3's parking space.

On hearing of the problem he was causing, Don was sympathetic, and promised Emily he'd be quieter.

He and Ivy were, however, both annoyed and amused to see Percy's pavement etching, and Don said he'd get his own back...

The next morning, Emily emerged from No 3 to find a gaggle of factory girls outside, all laughing at the pavement! Percy's "NO PARKING" had been crudely altered to "NOSY PARKER". Emily was furious. She hadn't even been aware that Percy had daubed the pavement in the first place. She called him outside. "We've been vandalised!" squawked Percy.

Emily insisted that Percy removed the offensive lettering from her pavement immediately. Percy was, as always, sympathetic - and, in fact, quite outraged on Emily's behalf: "I can understand you being upset. There's no truth in this at all. You're no nosy parker, not in my book - and if anybody ever said you were..."

Emily could hardly believe her ears: "This is not aimed at me, Mr Sugden - it's aimed at you!"

Percy was deeply saddened. This wasn't the first time he'd encountered the bizarre female tendency to delude themselves when it came to any unpleasantness, but still, he'd thought better of Mrs Bishop.

However, he remained gallant: "I wouldn't think so, no, but if that's the way you want to think about it, Mrs Bishop, so be it."

Emily told Percy that she was going to work, that she wanted to see the pavement clean when she returned, and that she wanted no reprisals carried out against Don Brennan or anybody else Percy suspected of committing the deed. She would brook no argument!

As it happened, Don wasn't involved in the pavement daubing exercise. And if Percy had glanced down the street as Mrs Bishop stalked off across the road to Baldwin's factory, he might have gained more than a small clue as to who the miscreant actually was.

As Jack Duckworth later confessed to Gloria Todd, it was him.

He'd nipped out in his "jim jams" early that morning.

It had been too good to resist.

Percy never did catch the culprit.

And he was greatly disappointed to discover the attitude taken by Mavis Riley, apparently Mrs Bishop's best friend, who seemed completely unruffled and deluded regarding this outrageous slur against her.

Like Emily, Mavis told Percy that she believed the "NOSY PARKER" slogan referred to him!


You wouldn't credit it, would you?