Monday, 7 July 2014

A Delve Into The Past

For the last few years BBC Four has been enriching our Thursday nights with repeats of thirty five year old Top Of The Pops.  It's given us a valuable insight into the tastes of another era: last week's episode featured ABBA, Sparks, the Boomtown Rats and Legs & Co dressed like whores dancing to Donna Summer's "Bad Girls".  It also encourages interactivity, as you shout at Peter Powell to take his hand off that 16 year old's shoulder or he'll get Yewtree'd in a few years time.

It lead me to wonder what was happening in Corrie 35 years ago this week and, because it's 2014 and literally everything is on YouTube, I was able to find out.  So here's a little recap of what was going on in Corrie this week in 1979.  It's like a very low budget version of Back to the Future.

Episode broadcast 9th July 1979

There's a surprisingly ambitious crane shot to reveal Len, Rita and Bet returning from a caravan holiday together in Morecambe.  I'm not sure what lead to this threesome but I'm guessing there was a hilarious mix up.  Meanwhile, at the Tilsleys, Ivy is wearing a really hideous nylon slacks and sweater combination that I wouldn't wear anywhere near a naked flame.


She's badgering Brian about his relationship with Gail, as usual, and in particular trying to get him to ask her about a certain Roy Thornley.  She refuses to elaborate further, and neither does Bert Tilsley when he comes downstairs, leaving Brian looking more vacant than usual.

Down the street, Gail is reading a bridal magazine; presumably these days she has a subscription.  Susie has had a terrible bleach job and wants to be bridesmaid, but Gail has more important things on her mind: whether it will be a church or registry office wedding.  She is thinking of leaving the decision to Ivy because of the religious issues, only for Elsie to tell her she should do what she wants on her wedding day.  "After all, you'll only do this once."  HAH!

Rita's bought Mavis some perfume from her hols (Eau de Irish Sea?), leading to Ms Riley fantasising about her ideal holiday: a beach bar somewhere, with boats bobbing in the harbour.  Rita suggests she goes to Trafford Docks (which is of course now known as Salford Quays, and is home to the new Corrie set).

It's lunchtime now, so Susie Birchall goes into the pub for a double bitter lemon.  She's got a telesales job, flogging dance lessons, and talking all morning has given her a sore throat.  She's still puffing on a ciggie, mind.  Bet reveals that on holiday she copped off with a businessman (who was really a carpet fitter) by pretending she owned a chain of hairdressers.  Elsie encounters Brian, who asks her about Gail's DARK SECRET with Roy Thornley; she refuses to comment, and Brian looks vacant.

After Ivy and Bert eat their lunch - some kind of brown mess - and he berates her for interfering with Gail and Brian's relationship, we cut to Dawson's cafe.  Emily's going to pay for Gail's wedding cake - three tiers, pink and white - as her present to the happy couple.  I'm distracted by the non-speaking kitchen worker in the background, who appears to be Rosemary West.


Gail then makes a callous remark to the recently widowed Mrs Bishop about how "nobody wants to be on their own," making Emily downhearted.  Then Brian comes in and all is forgotten.  Finally - after fifteen minutes of us beating around the bleeding bush - he asks Gail about Roy Thornley.  She immediately bursts into tears and runs into the back, leaving Brian looking vacant.

After the ads, Emily goes into the kitchen, packing Rose West off into the front of the cafe to hold the fort.  We then find out Gail's disgusting secret; when she was younger she had an affair with a man who turned out to be married, though she didn't know it at the time.  "His wife threatened to cite me in t'divorce!"  "Oh no, Gail!", gasps Emily, fully aware that this is quite literally the worst thing that can happen in the universe.  She sends Brian away so Gail can gather herself together.

There's a brief scene with Susie, Mike and a man called Steve who I have to look up on IMDB because he looks just like the lead singer from Black Lace, but the action resumes with an outdoor sequence.  It's shot on scratchy film, and involves Gail going to see Brian at the garage he works at.  I spend the whole scene trying to work out where in Manchester it is, and wondering how many hundreds of thousands of pounds apartments in those warehouses go for now.

Gail confesses all about her FILTHY ILLICIT LOVE AFFAIR WITH A MARRIED MAN.  In the process, she manages to imply that Brian's a bit boring.  He sands down a car angrily - well, as angrily as Chris Quinten can manage - before storming off back into the garage and leaving Gail alone.  Later, he drinks tea with his dad.  Bert asks what his problem is, and Brian admits that he can't deal with the fact that Gail isn't "innocent".  Bert points out that "there aren't many innocent brides about these days!" and calls Brian a massive hypocrite because Brian's copped off with birds left right and centre.  I cheer Bert on, and wonder what he did to be lumbered with Ivy as a wife.

Susie is sexually harassed over the phone while trying to flog a dance class, and concludes that telesales may not be the job for her.  She asks Elsie for money for a modelling course, which causes Elsie - and the audience - to tell her to get a grip.  She's never going to be a top model.  Especially with that bloody awful hairdo.


The Tilsleys are eating their tea in tense silence.  To break it, Bert starts whittering on about some bloke at work who breeds budgies, until Ivy finally asks Brian if he's spoken to Gail about her saucy past - "how many more have there been that we don't know about?"  Brian loses it, as best as he can, and storms out, leaving Bert to call Ivy a "stupid bitch."  "Who are you calling names?" she demands, so Bert clarifies why he called her "stupid"; presumably the "bitch" part is taken as read.  Brian returns with a holdall - "I'm off.  I can't live here no longer" - and the episode ends on a close up of Ivy Tilsley's face.



Episode broadcast 11th July


We pick up next morning in the Tilsley household, where Ivy is berating Bert for being able to eat at a time like this.  Personally I'd have shoved the plate of bacon and eggs into her mithering face at that point, but Bert is a better man than me, and simply lays out that this is all Ivy's fault.  He goes off to look for Brian, but first makes a call at Elsie Tanner's to see if he's there.  She brings him in to have a word with Gail, who's understandably upset to find out that (a) Brian's disappeared and (b) Ivy Tilsley knows all about her FILTHY ILLICIT AFFAIR WITH A MARRIED MAN.  When Bert leaves, Elsie confesses that she was the one who told Ivy about Roy Thornley - "I was trying to get her to lay off you!".  Gail, like the audience, can't quite grasp the logic of how telling someone a secret about a person they hate will make them like you, and she storms out.  There's an awful lot of storming out in these episodes.  The set decorators must have got through a lot of door hinges.

There's more storming when Elsie goes round to confront Ivy for what her meddling has done.  They have an argument in the Tilsley's front room, where Ivy calls Elsie a bad mother and the magnificent Ms Tanner threatens to do something unpleasant to Ivy's tonsils. Ivy concludes by shouting "No lad of mine is paying full price for shop soiled goods!", which is kind of a brilliant description of Gail Platt whichever way you look at it.


In the Kabin, Mavis is trying to flog a copy of Kate Bush's The Kick Inside to an unwilling punter.  I'd forgotten they sold records there as well.  Albert Tatlock comes in looking to buy something from t'top 20 for t'twins.  Mavis tries to establish which record he wants, but he's no idea, so they agree to let him listen to some records on the shop's "gramophone" so he can decide which one he wants.  The actual number one that week was "Are Friends Electric?" by the Tubeway Army, and the idea of Albert Tatlock listening to Gary Numan fills me with an unaccountable glee.

Susie is reading the paper, and conspicuously not checking for jobs, much to Elsie's annoyance.  She explodes at her, pointing out that she's late with her rent as well, and threatening to chuck her out.  Finally Elsie storms out (told you!) for a pie at the Rovers.  People also seem to do a lot of eating in these episodes.  In the pub, Steve and Mike are discussing how successful the factory is at the moment and how they'll have to take on some new staff.  I WONDER WHERE THIS COULD POSSIBLY BE LEADING.  Mike tells Betty that the only place that makes any money is the Rovers, and "if I had any spare cash I'd put it in this place."  FORESHADOWING!  Incidentally, despite banging out of her house at a fair old clip, Elsie never turns up in the pub.  Maybe she got lost.


An old lady walks into the cafe to meet her friend, and they proceed to do some of the best extras acting I've ever seen outside of Acorn Antiques.  It's all emphatic nods and studious analysis of the menus and it's a joy.  Unfortunately the professional actors then intervene, with Emily giving Gail the afternoon off because she's so worried about Brian and is neither use nor ornament.  As she leaves, the two old ladies are still doing their "we're just looking at the menu" faces.

Ivy is doing Bert's dinner for him, and he reveals that he found Brian; he'd kipped on a mate's sofa the night before.  At the Tanner household, Brian arrives to surprise Gail.  He's spent all night figuring out what he wants - apropos of nothing, I note that "Brian" is a mangled version of "Brain" - and he's decided he wants Gail.  ADVERTS.

Susie, meanwhile, is complaining to Bet and Betty about her failed telesales career and how she can't find any other job.  Who should come in at that point but Steve from the factory, and you'll never guess, but he offers her a job as a trainee machinist.  She's not keen, because it will involve having to work with "Ivy and that lot", but finally gives in when she realises she hasn't got much option.  Brian and Gail, meanwhile, are curled up on the sofa making up.  Brian tells her that whatever happened before they met is unimportant - how noble of him! - and they decide to go and sort out their wedding right away.  Gail looks ecstatic.  Brian looks vacant.

In the cafe, Emily gives Steve some egg on toast, as prepared by Rose West in the kitchen.  Two extras, meanwhile, wander out of the cafe by going behind the camera - isn't there meant to be a wall there?  Mike Baldwin comes in and is horrified that (a) Steve is eating egg on toast and (b) that he's employed Susie Birchall.  "Over my dead body!" he shouts.  In the Kabin, Elsie buys some cheap tights off Rita.  Isn't it meant to be a newsagent?  Records, tights - I wouldn't have been surprised if Ken Barlow nipped in to buy a couple of steaks and some turpentine.  Albert Tatlock returns to listen to the second half of "that military band record" he was listening to earlier - I thought he was looking for something for the twins?  I didn't have Peter Barlow as a fan of the Band of the Grenadier Guards.  Elsie tells him not to bother buying a record, because you can hire them for 15p from the library.

In the Rovers, Brian is holding his marriage licence in a distinctly awkward fashion so that the camera can get a good look at it, and I get another Acorn Antiques flashback.  Steve comes in and they discuss the upcoming Tilsley-Potter nuptials, set for August 11th.  Bet and Betty coo over the couple, and Bert comes in to buy a couple of bottles of beer for his tea.  Brian tells his dad that they've set the date, and Bert returns home to tell an irate Ivy what's happening.  He also relays the fact that Brian isn't coming back and basically everything that's happened is her damn fault.  The director ends the episode on another big close up of Ivy's face, because apparently it worked so well in Monday's episode.

From the perspective of a 21st century viewer, it was recognisably Corrie, but there was plenty that was alien as well.  The extensive hand wringing over Gail's SECRET PAST, for example, with everyone talking about her affair as though she was Liz Taylor having it away with Richard Burton on the set of Cleopatra.  The extensive brown of all the sets - had no-one told the designers that it was colour telly? - got me down after a while, as did the nasty looking meals people were picking through.  Ivy Tilsley served up about forty eight different courses and not one of them looked palatable.


It was surprisingly clunky in places too, with quite a few cast members tripping over their lines (especially Pat Phoenix).  Gail Potter is recognisably the Gail of today, just at 35 years remove, though I was surprised to find out that she used to be close to Emily Bishop, as they barely have two words to say to each other these days.  It's astonishing how many of the characters are genuinely iconic; pretty much every character is still a household name today, with the exception of Steve from the factory, who is utterly forgettable.  And Brian Tilsley is easily the most vacant, brawn over brains character ever to inhabit the Street; he makes Jason Grimshaw look like a finalist on Only Connect.

I do wish there was a channel somewhere that showed all these episodes still.  It's a handy compare and contrast.  Still, there's always YouTube...


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19 comments:

Tvor said...

Wonderful stuff! I look at episodes from that era and generally, aside from some great lines delivered by the likes of Elsie and Bet and Rita, am more or less bored. I much prefer the early to mid 90s or going back further, the 60s as well for the more gritty version of Corrie as well as that being the Stan and Hilda glory days before Bernard Youens got older and more frail.

abbyk said...

I don't get it. No murders. No secret kisses in the ginnel. No shouting in the street or folded arms of disapproval. The shop sells legit goods. Everyone has a job or is looking for one. Folk keep their pants/pantyhose on. Emily isn't the babysitter -- there are no babies. No drunks, either. Ill suited people stay married. What show is this?

Tvor said...

Gail certainly didn't keep hers on! ;)

Graeme N said...

The late 70s/early 80s rule for me as far as Corrie is concerned :)

Anonymous said...

Perhaps thhe "military band" Albert Tatlock was on about was Tubeway Army ;) -Smelloid

Llifon said...

Thank you for a wonderful synopsis!

Sonya said...

Fantastic! Loved this. More please!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Scott! This is a fantastic way to put our nostalgia for Corrie past in perspective!

Anonymous said...

Yes thanks Scott for reminding us that the past wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Despite this some people round here don't so much wear rose tinted as rose painted spectacles.

@abbyk apart from Tracy.

Flaming Nora said...

Brilliant stuff!

Anonymous said...

“Ivy Tilsley knows all about Gail's FILTHY ILLICIT AFFAIR WITH A MARRIED MAN.”

Lol, the close-ups of Ivy's face, her righteous shock expressions, and, yes, Bert's role as her foil, always trying to mediate and reduce the collateral damage that inevitably results from Ivy's moral rampages.

If I remember correctly, after Bert dies, Ivy gets an interesting comeuppance when she hoists herself on her own holier-than-thou petard. Adhering to Catholic doctrine, she turns down a perfectly good marriage proposal, upon finding out her fella divorced his previous wife. Later, regretting that decision, she arrives (finally!) at the conclusion that a Church which would make her choose between God and a loving relationship is not a Chuch worth sacrificing for (gay marriage, anyone?) But, of course, it's too late, because her fella has already moved on, and, if that weren't punishment enough, a marriage with twisted Don Brennan awaits.

Thanks for taking us back in time and reminding us “it does get better” :)

Anonymous said...

"An old lady walks into the cafe to meet her friend, and they proceed to do some of the best extras acting I've ever seen outside of Acorn Antiques. It's all emphatic nods and studious analysis of the menus and it's a joy. Unfortunately the professional actors then intervene, with Emily giving Gail the afternoon off because she's so worried about Brian and is neither use nor ornament. As she leaves, the two old ladies are still doing their "we're just looking at the menu" faces."

Priceless!!!

Humpty Dumpty said...

Greatly enjoyed this trip down memory lane. What strikes me is the innocence/naivety both in the storylines and with viewers. Storylines didn't seem to be complicated or stretch credibility too much.

We also didn't know a huge amount about every actor so we were allowed to enjoy the characters just as they appeared on screen. We were much more inclined to believe in Corrieworld and I was often mocked for that! These days, we're too cynical and that takes away the pleasure sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the reference to Acorn Antiques. I'd never watched it before, but I looked it up on youtube. What a hilarious hoot! It was a good reminder that if soaps were not preposterous, they would not be... well, soaps. I found The 'Making of Acorn Antiques' particularly rich.

Darryl The Hitman said...

Is it possible to do this every week? This is far more entertaining than what's shown nowadays. Also, would it be possible to include the links to the YT videos you watched so we can "watch along at home", so to speak?

David said...

It's worth pointing out that Gail didn't know Roy Thornley was married.

Anonymous said...

Random question, as a kid the Tilsleys were the first residents of No. 5 and as I recall all scenes always featured the fireplace (as per the photo of all three at the dining table), now and for some time it seems all scenes are shot from about where the fireplace should be towards the stairs. Can anyone explain when and why this happened?

Tvor said...

I think the change of camera view started with the Battersbys in 1997. I was quite surprised the other day when we saw the wall opposite the sofa in the Platt house, a rare occurrence there as well.

Anonymous said...

Yep, Ivy Tilsley IS my mother in law. Thanks to this site for making me realise that a year or so ago! Genuinely scary and nasty women, both of them. Thankfully there are continents between us!

*shudder*

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