Released today in 1987: And I Dream

First Night SCORE13

First Night SCORE13

British soap operas have a lot to answer for. They have launched – or revived – countless recording careers that we would otherwise have been spared. It has been that way since in the 1950s, but the proliferation of long-running continuing dramas in the 1980s meant that this was the decade where it seemed that every month there was another soap actor with a single in the racks. There were imported shows as well of course – If You Were There has already looked at the contribution ‘Neighbours’ made to the charts, for example – but it was the cast members of UK soaps who had maximum opportunity to promote their records, American and Australian stars having to take a break in their filming schedules to do PAs in support of a single in Britain.

Of course, not all the records were bad. And strictly speaking, many of those actors attempting to make the pop charts in the 80s had paid their musical dues before joining their soaps, so they weren’t using them as a platform to begin a career in the recording industry: the increased exposure of appearing on TV screens at least twice a week simply encouraged either the artistes themselves, or A&R reps at record companies, to see if making a record was viable. Take ‘Coronation Street’ (first episode: 9 December 1960) for example. Actor Bill Waddington (born in 1916) had been a music hall performer in his early career; he joined Corrie in 1983 and it was one of his final jobs before his retirement in the late 90s. His contribution to the 1980s music scene was the novelty record Don’t Forget The Old Folks At Christmas (Ritz PERCY1 – the vanity catalogue number was a reference to his character’s name). His stage performing history didn’t excuse this single, but it does at least explain it (somewhat).

Its sheer longevity led to numerous stars from another ITV soap, ‘Crossroads’ (first episode: 2 November 1964) appearing on vinyl, either before, during or after their time on the show. The cast was headed for more than 15 years by Noele Gordon from its first episode until 1981, when she was sacked. This was allegedly because the studio wanted to cancel the series, but they couldn’t justify ending a series with such high ratings; it was thought that if its most popular star was removed, viewing figures would drop and it could then be quietly retired. Gordon’s response? The appropriately-titled single After All These Years (EMI EMI5218), released as news of her exit made the press. (Even without Gordon, ‘Crossroads’ continued until 4 April 1988.) Another cast member releasing a single in 1981 was Kate Robbins, whose More Than In Love (RCA RCA69) actually featured in the show. It was co-written and co-produced by Simon May, later composer of the ‘EastEnders’ theme tune. (See our earlier list of original cast members from ‘EastEnders’ who released singles in the 1980s.)

Still in 1981 but back to the novelty end of the market: Grandad’s Motto (Spy 80 S1000) was ‘Emmerdale Farm’ (first episode: 16 October 1972) actor Stan Richards’ contribution, released under the name Stan And The Gang. Richards played poacher Seth Armstrong from 1978 until his death in 2005. Early in his career, he had earned a living as a pub pianist.

Channel 4’s ‘Brookside’ (first episode: 2 November 1982) featured David Easter as the ‘jack-the-lad’ Pat Hancock from 1984 until 1987, when he left to pursue other opportunities, one of which was today’s featured single with Hazel O’Connor from the musical ‘Girlfriends’. Easter had long had an interest in theatre and singing. Before ‘Brookside’ he had had a stint as assistant stage manager at Brighton’s Floral Pavilion, and had acted in Rep in Chesterfield, Nottingham, York, and London. He had had a role in the 1980 film ‘The Music Machine’ and danced in Paul McCartney’s movie ‘Give My Regards To Broad Street’. His ‘Brookside’ alter ego was also an aspiring musician.

‘Take The High Road’ (first episode: 19 February 1980) seems to be the only long-established British soap in the 80s where no one in the permanent cast tried to have a hit single. Or perhaps I’ve missed that novelty hit by Mrs Mack? Let me know if you know otherwise.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Oct. 5
1981
U2 Gloria (Island WIP6733)
1984
The STYLE COUNCIL Shout To The Top (Polydor TSC7)
1987
The CURE (Robert Smith) Just Like Heaven (Fiction FICS27)
EIGHTH WONDER (Patsy Kensit) (It’s Over) When The ‘Phone Stops Ringing (CBS PHONE1)
Samantha FOX I Promise You (Get Ready) (Jive FOXY12)
Hazel O’CONNOR and David EASTER And I Dream (First Night SCORE13)
THEN JERICO (Mark Shaw) Muscle Deep [re-issue] (London LON156)

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