Since December 9th, 1960 (that’d be 55 years) a lonely and sad sounding jazz riff has marked yet another episode of long-lived Coronation Street, a soap opera of sorts set in the grotty streets of ‘Weatherfield’ (read Manchester).
The Granada Television people didn’t give it much hope for longevity. How wrong they could be. Not only did ‘Corry’ entrance its English audience but, much to the surprise of the people behind it, it went international.
Not only has CS been around for more than half a century, but actor William Roache has played Ken Barlow since that very first episode. Barlow, the retiring former schoolmaster who later became a journalist also managed to score more nookie than Sinatra over the years.
I am a former teacher who became a journo and my mother always said I reminded her of Barlow. I will, for the sake of discretion, refrain from discussing the nookie part.
When I was in high school I’d come home from classes and there would be my mother sitting and watching the behaviors and misbehaviors of Len Fairclough, Ray Langton, Elsie Tanner and others, all overseen by the highly judgmental eye of Ena Sharples, and insufferable snob, pub-owner Annie Walker. There were so many such characters and through the years the casts changed. Some died. Some moved on. And the complexions changed from a once all-white Anglo-Saxon community to one that reflected the ethniciities of a contemporary working-class neighborhood a la 2115.1981
Of course all CS is is a proletarian soap opera with all the elements of any soaper, including lots of illicit sex, some heavy boozing, people facing marital strife and economic duress. On occasion there was violence as well. Also, years before it became voguish, CS boasted a transexual. It worked and hopefully enlightened a few people.
I watched CS off and on over the years from its black-and-white days (I preferred the B&W because it made the street seem grittier and it reminded me of some of the wonderful British ‘kitchen sink’ films of the era like Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. When I lived in England in the early 1980s I didn’t miss the two evenings a week it was on because I knew it would be a topic of conversation with my landlady the next day. During that year she was thrilled because the writers had the wedding of Ken Barlow and Deirdre Langton coincide with that of Charles and Diana in the summer of 1981.
CS was never a star headliner but an amazing number of later accomplished performers got their start there, including Davy Jones of the Monkees (see photo).
Periodically I will still glance at it, often after years of non-viewing in between, yet I am amazed at how quickly I catch up.
“I remember him,” I will say to Wendy in reference to an early middle-aged man, “he was the teenager who lived with the Duckworths, or was it the Ogdens?”
Just like family, in a way.