Saturday, 2 January 2010

Coronation Street voices on vinyl

With HUGE thanks to Corrie fan David who recently sent us Bill Waddington's (Percy Sugden) Christmas Song Don't Forget The Old Folks at Christmas, because David then started wondering which other Corrie Street stars have put voice to vinyl and he's written this wonderful piece below and sent in these wonderful pictures too. Many thanks to David and I hope you all enjoy reading this, it's terrific.

With Coronation Street being the nation’s favourite for so long it was no surprise to find that its stars swapped TV studio for recording studio on numerous occasions. These included official spin-off records where a lot of cast members took part. The first of these was in 1969, a long-play single (Sing Along At The Rovers Return) featuring two jolly medley sing-along of favourites including When You're Smiling, Who Were You With Last Night, Show Me The Way To Go Home, You Made Me Love You and Yellow Submarine. Supposedly taking place in The Rovers Return with Stan Ogden at the piano it was actually made in a recording studio with full backing by Derek Hilton and his band, but it suggested the atmosphere of a boozy pub sing-along with a lot of the cast members including Pat Phoenix, Jennifer Moss, Peter Adamson and Phillip Lowrie adding amusing comments (in character) between the songs.

The record was the first release on Granada's own record label. Fans had to wait another 18 years before another cast recording. But this time it was a whole album, the striking Coronation Street: The album issued by K-Tel in 1987. Here we could enjoy contributions by Bet Lynch (Julie Goodyear) with her unique rendition of These Boots Are Made For Walking, Sally Whittaker warbling a cover of Gloria Gaynor's Never Can Say Goodbye, Johnny Briggs (Mike Baldwin) doing a Sinatra impression with You Make Me Feel So Young and last (and definitely least) Chris Quinten (Brian Tilsley) warbling All You Need Is Love (ironically poor Brian was stabbed the following year). Included with the record was a colour booklet with lots of photographs of the cast past and present.

Nine years later they were at it again with a new, more stylish album, the similarly titled The Coronation Street Album, which included contributions from famous singers alongside the soap stars. There are songs by Bill Tarmey and Kevin Kennedy, both of whom can sing, and Thelma Barlow and Peter Baldwin (Mavis and Derek Wilton) who can't, plus duets by Johnny Briggs and Amanda Barrie (Mike and Alma Baldwin), Barbara Knox with Michael Ball and most impressively Denise Black (Denise Osbourne) with Cliff Richard.

However there were also several solo spin-off records. As early as 1962 Columbia records issued a single of Pat Phoenix singing the lively Rovers Chorus (where she sounds a bit like Hylda Baker) featuring interjections by an uncredited Peter Adamson. The song was backed by the more restrained Coronation Street Monologue where the actress reminisces about life 'oop north' to the strains of Eric Spear's famous theme tune. Needless to say the single didn't bother the pop charts being more a kitsch curio for diehard fans than a pop record but better was to come.
In 1963 Chris Sanford as Walter Potts dipped a Chelsea boot clad toe into the pop world with the Beatlesque Not Too Little, Not Too Much. Walter Potts was a pal of Dennis Tanner’s, a Liverpudlian milkman who became the John Lennon-style pop singer ‘Brett Falcon’ and the song featured in the programme. In the show the song is so successful that Walter leaves the street to embark on a European tour. Real life imitated art when the song (produced by legendary Joe Meek) hit the Top 20 in 1963.
If you thought Jedward was an original creation think again because The Street had the original in the shape of petty criminal John Edward ('Jed') Stone played by Kenneth Cope. He was also guilty of singing on the 1963 single Hands Off Stop Mucking About, a twangy comic beat number very much a copy of Mike Sarne's Come Outside. It didn't chart but was a bit of fun.Next up was success for Sue Nicholls (Audrey Roberts) although not really a Corrie spin-off as this was when she was still in rival soap Crossroads as wannabee pop star waitress Marylyn Gates who served up Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent’s “Where Will You Be”. It charted at number 17 in July 1968.
Short-lived Corrie character Mickie Malone played by Bill Maynard (now best known as Claude Greengrass in Heartbeat) was the next cast member to challenge the charts in 1970. Malone was a song agent who helped Ena Sharples when her songs were being stolen and sold by Stan Ogden. Maynard released the single Dreaming Time / Moments Of Pleasure which were both songs supposedly penned by Ena in the show. The record was released by popular demand but didn't sell enough copies to get in the hit parade.
Away from pop and into the middle of the road (or should that be The Street) came flame-haired Barbara Mullaney (now Barbara Knox) as nightclub singer cum shopkeeper, Rita Littlewood. And lovely Rita really can sing as demonstrated on the rather obviously titled On The Street Where I Live album released on the Philips label in 1973. Sadly there are no songs linked to her role in the soap but she does deliver some terrific interpretations of such classics as You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me and Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall In Love. The cover shows her in Manchester's real-life Coronation Street.
1971 saw Albert Tatlock (Jack Howarth) record an album that like Bill Maynard's record was directly linked to a story in the programme. Mr Tatlock appeared in a rather tenuous plot performing comic monologues in the style of comedian Stanley Holloway in talent show at The Rovers Return. He didn’t win but his album, the wonderfully titled Ow Do, followed and included his renditions of some old Lancastrian monologues such as Knobbly Knees and Plenty Of Punch From An Old Judy which are amusing but of their time and the album was not a huge seller. So he had every right to look stony faced on the sleeve.
Just as miserable was Violet Carson as gargoyle-faced Hitler-in-a-hairnet (but much loved) Ena Sharples who, perhaps ironically, ran the Glad Tidings Mission. She had been a regular on the ITV hymn showcase Stars On Sunday and even appeared on a couple of their spin off albums alongside James Mason, Ronnie Ronalde and Max Jaffa. She also put her name to an album called The Lad from Coronation Street, a collection of religious songs played on a church organ by a rosy-cheeked cherub called David Hill. In yet another tenuous link to a Street storyline Hill had played a runaway lad Tony Parsons (no not that Tony Parsons) who had broken into the Glad Tidings Mission to play Ena's beloved organ and, realising his intentions were good, she gave him a chance. I don't expect this sold in bucketloads but like the Rovers Singalong single was issued on Granada's own label again and is proof that they were interested in making a buck from spin-off products quite early on in the show's history.
Lastly Peter Adamson (Len Fairclough) teamed up with Pat Phoenix to record the dodgy duet The Two Of Us issued on the tiny Indigo label in 1972. This was an attempt to cash in on what was at the time The Street's longest on-off romance but yet again this failed to chart. This is perhaps understandable because neither actor can really sing and I doubt this got much airplay, but as with all of these records it's a fascinating document of its time. The amusing cover shows Len and Elsie sharing a romantic moment in a restaurant but look closer and you’ll see that the waiter is none other than Elsie’s screen (and real life) hubby Alan Browning (Alan Howard)!
The spin off songs seem to have dried up in the mid-1970s but there were probably others. Mention should also go to Davy Jones who played Ena Sharples' Grandson Colin Lomax in several episodes in 1961 and Peter Noone, who played Stanley Fairclough in one episode the same year. They went on to be lead singers of The Monkees and Hermans Hermits respectively but don’t really count as true Coronation Street spin offs. But I wonder what spin-off songs can we look forward to in the future?

2 comments:

Flaming Nora said...

I would have liked Vernon's love song to Liz to have been released - Don't Fall Into the Mason's Arms - what a classic that was!

Tvor said...

That's fantastic! Thanks!

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