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Anne Kirkbride: Goodbye To A TV Legend

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The country is still reeling from the shock death of Coronation Street legend Anne Kirkbride this week from cancer. The sixty year old actress had graced our screens for more than forty years as Deirdre Barlow and many of us have grown up with this iconic character.

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Last weekend, I read an article in which Anne was considering extending her leave from the top Manchester soap due to exhaustion. She had made her last Corrie appearance  last October, and it was even hinted that Anne was growing tired of playing Deirdre. So the next day when I read the first part of a  headline in which William Roach, who played Anne’s on-screen husband Ken Barlow, talking about Coronation Street having lost a legend, for a split second I assumed that Anne had quit the role that had made her a household name. I then went on to learn the incredibly sad news that Anne had passed away. The news had come as a great shock, not only to viewers but to many of the Oldham-born actress’s co-stars, as very few knew that she was ill. At the time of her death very little was revealed regarding the details of her illness.

Deirdre and Ken marry for the first time

Deirdre and Ken marry for the first time

 

My earliest memories of Coronation Street also include my earliest memories of Deirdre. My mum was a huge Corrie fan and back then, the nation was gripped by the Ken-Deirdre-Mike love triangle. I was obviously too young to understand what was going on but I did know that the lady called Deirdre had been very naughty. She’d done something bad with a man called Mike and now her husband Ken was very angry with both of them. I even remember the incredibly touching moment when Deirdre revealed that she didn’t want to leave Ken for Mike or go to live with her mother – and Ken forgave her and took her back. Years later when I was a little older, I thought that Deirdre probably should have chosen Mike as he was more exciting but what did I know? It would never have worked with Mike, and Deirdre without Ken is like fish without chips!

Those glasses!

Those glasses!

 

And over the years, Deirdre definitely became on of my favourite characters. She was a good mum to her daughter Tracy – well maybe a little too good as Tracy could have done with a slap from time to time – and I really did enjoy Deirdre’s scenes with her mother, Blanche. I even understood that Ken and Deirdre belonged together and was very angry with Ken when he cheated on Deirdre with that awful Wendy Crozier (even though Deirdre had been unfaithful first!) I was also very disappointed when Ken had a child with Denise Osbourne and in Deirdre’s marriage to Samir Raschid as I felt that this was hindering Ken and Deirdre’s inevitable reunion. But reunite they did, and the nation went crazy when the Barlows remarried in 2005 – a wedding that attracted more viewers than Prince Charles’s wedding to Camilla Parker-Bowles.

The wedding that attracted 12 million viewers

The wedding that attracted 12 million viewers

 

Anne also met her real-life husband on the show, actor David Beckett, when he appeared in Coronation Street playing Dave Barton in 1990. Love blossomed for him and Anne and the couple went on to marry in 1992. In an industry where marriages are not known to last, David has been described as a devoted husband who was with Anne until the very end. Anne had previously said of her beloved husband:

  “It’s thanks to Corrie that I met my wonderful David. I wouldn’t be without him. He adores me and I adore him. What else do you need?”

Anne marries co-star David Beckett

Anne marries co-star David Beckett

The popularity of Deirdre Barlow is testament to Anne Kirkbride’s talent as an actress and her ability to breathe life into a character that has gone on to become a British television icon. After news of Anne’s death broke, tributes came flooding in from fans and the world of entertainment including Anne’s colleagues who regarded her as a much-loved friend. Her co-stars were so devastated by her loss that filming had to be cancelled for a day. A few days later at the National Television Awards, William Roache paid an emotional tribute to his friend and colleague to whom he had shared such a close working relationship, causing many people present, especially the Coronation Street cast and crew, to become quite tearful.

Deirdre Barlow was known for her husky voice, and at one time, overly permed hair. But as we all know, Deirdre’s trademark were of course those oversize glasses that she was never without. Along with those facial expressions that Deirdre used to pull whenever she got upset, and the words “Tracy love,” which seem to have become her catchphrase, Deirdre Barlow was an impressionists dream come true. But far from being the butt of jokes, Deirdre Barlow has become one of television’s most enduring characters, and Anne Kirkbride one of our best-loved actresses. She was part of our family entertainment for so long. Coronation Street will never be the same without her.

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Rest in peace, Anne xx

 

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Posted by on January 24, 2015 in Gone Too Soon

 

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Ten British TV Comedy Theme Songs We Sang Along To

The first post of 2015! yay! I hope everyone’s new year has got off to an amazing start.

One of the best things about growing up in Britain is the multitude of comedy shows that this country has produced over the years, many of which have gone on to become classics and are well known all over the world. As much as I enjoy sitcoms, comedy shows, and stand-up from any country – just as long as it’s funny – nothing beats the British sense of humour, which explains why I love so many of our sitcoms. Only Fools And Horses, Fawlty Towers, One Foot In The Grave, Keeping Up Appearances – all fantastic!

However with many shows, it’s not just the show, the characters and the actors that are memorable, but most come complete with intros, opening and closing credits and theme tunes that stick in your mind. They’ll having you singing along with the beginning and end of each show, and it’ll probably have you singing the theme song for days. I still can’t get some of these theme songs out of my head years later!

So I’ve compiled a list of ten of the most memorable theme songs from British comedy series. There are a few comedies here that have been locked away in the ‘long lost’ vault but they’ve thankfully been found and I’m sure they’ll have you going, “Oh yeah! I remember that!” And for those of you who noticed that some of your favourite theme tunes were not mentioned in Ten TV Show Theme Tunes We Loved Singing Along To, just remember there’ll be plenty more lists cropping up in the future!

1. Dear John

TITLE: Dear John

COMPOSED BY: John Sullivan (show’s writer) and Ronnie Hazelhurst

SUNG BY: Joan Baxter

YEAR: 1986

No, not the film with the delicious Channing Tatum, but the seriously underrated BBC sitcom of the 1980’s starring the late Ralph Bates as a divorcé who joins a club for the divorced and separated in the hope of making friends and finding love. Much of the humour comes from the bunch of oddballs he befriends. The Americans did a remake of this series which lasted four series but I much prefer the British version. Sorry!

Dear John is a comedy which is very dear to my heart and brings back lots of memories, not just of the show but of my childhood and the eighties in general. I recently came across some comments which stated that the theme song for Dear John was probably the most depressing and dreary of all the theme songs out there. Well now that they mention it, I suppose it is. But then when you think that the show is about a divorced man who has lost everything to his ex-wife after she ran off with his best friend and now has to live in a tiny bedsit, well we couldn’t have a theme tune that got us up and dancing now, could we? The song fits in with the ethos of the show. Because it has a 1920s feel to it, I assumed that it was a really old song but it was actually written by the show’s creator John ‘Only Fools’ Sullivan.

Fantastic song!

2. The Vicar Of Dibley

TITLE: The Lord Is My Shepherd (Psalm 23)

COMPOSED BY: Howard Goodall

SUNG BY: Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford

YEAR: 1994

How I love this comedy! Beginning in 1994, Dawn French is amazing as the female vicar who takes over a parish church in the heart of a rural community – and finds that many of her new parishioners have more than a few eccentricities between them. I watched the trailer for the show and thought it looked quite funny – I wasn’t wrong and I wasn’t disappointed!

When you think about The Vicar of Dibley, you think about three things: the stunning countryside; the barmy characters, and that distinctive theme tune, The Lord is my Shepherd by Howard Goodall, who has also worked on the themes for Blackadder, The Borrowers, Red Dwarf, and Mr Bean among many others. The theme song was based around Psalm 23 and was performed by the choir of Oxford’s Christ Church Cathedral. Originally Goodall had composed this song as a serious piece of church choral music – it hadn’t initially been intended for use as the theme of a hit comedy show. But more than twenty years later, viewers can see that the enchanting theme song fits in beautifully with the series.

Oh, just remembered a fourth thing: the joke between Alice and Geraldine at the end of every episode!

3. Butterflies

TITLE: Love Is Like A Butterfly

SUNG BY: Clare Torry

LYRICS: Dolly Parton

YEAR: 1974

This show was a bit before my time so I don’t remember it the first time round but I do remember watching Butterflies when it was repeated. It starred Wendy Craig and Geoffrey Palmer who were familiar faces to me, but then I saw a very young Nicholas Lyndhurst who was more than just a little familiar – he was ‘Rodders’ from Only Fools And Horses! Carla Lane’s classic sitcom focuses on a frustrated housewife and her male companion, whose friendship borders on romance, and their will-they-won’t- they antics had viewers gripped.

I had already heard the song Love Is Like A Butterfly before I realised that it was also used as the theme song for Butterflies as it happens to be one of my mother’s favourite songs and she used to sing it all the time. It was a hit in 1974 for American country music legend Dolly Parton, although the version that was used for the opening credits was recorded by British singer Clare Torry, especially for Butterflies. This version was recorded with a band conducted by well-known BBC TV composer Ronnie Hazelhurst.

4. Birds Of A Feather

TITLE: What’ll I Do?

COMPOSED BY: Irving Berlin

SUNG BY:  Linda Robson and Pauline Quirke (from third series onwards)

LYRICS: Irving Berlin

YEAR: 1923

Twenty first century kids will know Birds Of A Feather as an ITV sitcom that’s in its second series. But of course old-timers like myself will remember when the show was first shown on the BBC back in the 1980s and continued until the late nineties. Sisters Sharon and Tracy live in Tracy’s rather luxurious home in Essex while both their husbands are in prison for armed robbery. Tracy’s devastated to be separated from her Darrell, while Sharon couldn’t care less that she’s away from her errant husband Chris. It might sound like all doom and gloom but it is actually hilarious – with the girls’ man-mad neighbour providing much of the entertainment. I never missed an episode of this sitcom when I was growing up.

The show used Irving Berlin’s wonderfully moving What’ll I Do as the theme tune for the first two series. From the third series onwards, a version sung by Pauline Quirke and Linda Robson, who play Sharon and Tracy, was used.

5. Bread

TITLE: Bread Theme Song

COMPOSED BY: David Mackay

SUNG BY: The Bread Cast

LYRICS: David Mackay

Carla Lane had another hit on her hands with this classic sitcom from the 1980s. This used to be on Sunday evenings but I’m pretty certain that some series may also have been broadcast during weekday nights.

The sit-com focuses on the trials and tribulations of the Boswell family and their efforts to muddle through life with very little money – which often resulted in underhand tactics. I thought Grandad was hilarious, and the contempt of the lady from the DSS for the Boswell family was amusing

The theme song was composed by David Mackay and featured the vocals of the cast of Bread.

6. Desmond’s

TITLE: Don’t Scratch My Soca

COMPOSED BY: John Collins

SUNG BY: Norman Beaton

LYRICS: Trix Worrell

This seriously funny comedy was set in a barber shop in Peckham, owned by a Caribbean family, the Ambroses. The shop was a place for many of the local. lively and interesting characters in the show to congregate and share stories. It reminds me of the area of North-West London where I grew up. The local barber shops seemed to be the meeting point for many of the menfolk in our town, and it was very evident that there were more friends and relatives in the  shop than paying customers and it was a place where many of the male members of the community gathered together, and it had something of a social club vibe.

The theme tune was very familiar to us when we were growing up – some of my classmates knew all the words to the song. It had a soca vibe which reflected the Ambrose family’s Trinidadian roots. It was very upbeat and uplifting which reflected the liveliness of the characters and the business of the shop. There was never a dull moment at Desmond’s!

7. Streets Apart

TITLE: Streets Apart

COMPOSED BY: David Mackay

SUNG BY: Neil Lockwood

LYRICS: David Mackay

YEAR: 1988

Sylvie and Bernie were childhood sweethearts who dated and drifted apart, taking different directions in life. They meet almost twenty years later and try to pick up where they left off… but it’s not easy when you’re now different people each with a different set of circumstances.

I love this comedy written by Adrienne Conway. Almost thirty years on, it’s still very watchable – but it makes me yearn for the 1980s! It had been a long time since I first watched the show, but as soon as I heard those opening bars of the theme, it was instantly recognizable and transported me back to my childhood. The lyrics for this tender theme tune are full of longing, wistfulness and second chances. And Neil Lockwood’s amazing vocals do this song justice.

8. Just Good Friends

TITLE: Just Good Friends

COMPOSED BY: Ronnie Hazelhurst

SUNG BY: Paul Nicholas

LYRICS: John Sullivan

YEAR: 1983

Would you seriously consider being friends with your ex? Especially after he jilted you at the alter? Well that’s exactly what Penny Warrender does after her former fiancé Vince Pinner comes back into her life again. The two decide to put the past behind them and become ‘just good friends’ – but the question is, can they ever be just that?

Another one of John Sullivan’s masterpieces, it starred Jan Francis and Paul Nicholas who were huge stars in England back in the 1980s. This sitcom was a firm favourite with my parents so they would regularly tune in, and I do have memories of watching the final ever episode. Nicholas was already an established theatre actor and agreed to do the vocals for the track, written by Sullivan.

9. Watching

TITLE: What Does He see In Me?

COMPOSED BY: Charles Hart

SUNG BY: Emma Wray

LYRICS: Charles Hart

YEAR: 1987

Merseyside couple Brenda and Malcolm are very much chalk and cheese. They come from different backgrounds, have different interests, and completely different personalities. The only thing they have in common is watching: Brenda watches people; Malcolm watches people. It’s no wonder their relationship is more off than on.

I loved watching (scuse the pun!) this sitcom back in the nineties and loved the theme tune which my sister and I used to sing (quite badly!) I think the lyrics are quite fitting for the show. It sums up the fact that Brenda and Malcolm are very different, aren’t exactly consumed with lust and passion, but love each other and belong together.

 

10. Chef

TITLE: Serious Profession

COMPOSED BY: Omar

SUNG BY: Omar

LYRICS: Omar

Now here’s a sitcom I used to watch but totally forgot about! If you think Gordon Ramsay’s got a mouth on him, wait til you meet acclaimed chef, Gareth Blackstock, who struggling to balance his home life with his wife Janice and the demands of running a top restaurant, often gives in to temper tantrums in the kitchen.

The theme tune to Chef! has got to be the coolest theme tune I’ve ever heard to accompany a television show. Funky and upbeat, it’s guaranteed to get you up and dancing, not just singing along. Although of course when it features the smooth vocals of soul superstar Omar, how could it be anything other than cool?

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2015 in Comedy Shows, Name That Tune!, TV Shows

 

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