Damien on… Eric Spear
If you are any age – and British – you will know the name. But you will as likely not know from where. Allow me to fill you in (and I do not even know you!)
Eric’s name has appeared several times a week, every week, on your TV screen, for the last FIFTY-TWO YEARS – as the composer of the “Coronation Street” theme.
He was born way back in 1908 and was a largely unsung (no pun intended – oh, all right then) composer. He worked on many films and TV series, but finally hit gold in 1954, with the main theme from the film “Meet Mister Callaghan”.
This was a British PI movie, starring Derrick De Marney. It is now long-forgotten, but those who have seen it say it is pretty good.
However, the film’s title theme was a HUGE hit, being covered – on both sides of the Atlantic – by EVERYBODY. Well, Les Paul and Ray Martin, for a start.
Here is Semprini’s version… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYjiOBqMU4Q
At this time, he was already 46 – and would be 52 when he was commissioned to write the theme for a soap opera that studio execs thought would only last six weeks.
But debuting in December, 1960 – it is STILL RUNNING. However sadly, Eric died only six years later.
So who WAS Eric Spear?
Well, he started his career at about the age of 20, as a stage ACTOR – he even had a role in a 1956 TV movie, as the Sultan Of Morocco.
But by his late twenties, he had added another string to his bow – that of composer. From 1935 until his death, he worked on around forty films – then after 1953, he started on television.
Fifties TV series like “Strictly Personal” and “Patrol Car” benefitted from his music – plus he wrote the themes for “The Errol Flynn Theatre”, “Sword Of Freedom” and “Time Out For Peggy”.
It is also said that he contributed to the De Wolfe music library. If that is true, it means you might have unwittingly heard Eric’s work on anything from Seventies Hong Kong kung fu flicks – through Eighties porn – to a Beyoncé video.
A long way removed from those black-and-white days of British Fifties TV and films.
So, a full, forty-year career then – but today, he will forever be known as the man who composed the “Coronation Street” theme.
The piece is actually called “Lancashire Blues”. Being set in the north of England and introducing southerners to phrases like “Ee, lass”, “Ecky thoomp”, “Aye, choock” and “‘Appen ‘t will” – Eric decided to go with a brass band – they being associated with northern folk.
The original piece goes like this… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNV_Hh5ZWaE
It was never released commercially, until a CD appeared in 2005. It only lasts two minutes. Those familiar with the programme will note it has a short solo trumpet intro that was never actually used on the show, where the theme sounded like THIS… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvNwpy_U_KU
Actually, that was the 1964 re-recording, from a restored version of the kinescope of the 1960 Episode One – but it is virtually the same as the original and sounds more strident on the kine, than on the CD.
The tune probably gives actor William Roache the screaming abdabs every time he hears it, since he has been in the soap since that very first episode (you can see him in that last YouTube clip) and is now the LONGEST-SERVING actor in a continuous role on TV – anywhere in the WORLD.
But that is another story – which you can read on… http://morpheusatloppers.wordpress.com/2009/07/21/morpheus-on-william-roache/
Anyhay, that is about it for this dissertation on Eric Spear. Forty years of work – producing two immortal pieces – a two-minute TV theme and a quirky instrumental. But then again, some composers work their whole lives and achieve NOTHING…
[UPDATE!] I am indebted to “radioman” – who I believe WORKS at the Beeb – for the following exchange, which I have “elevated” from the comments section on this piece.
Don’t forget he also wrote the music to another soap (the first British soap?) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Grove_Family
And I replied…
I had HEARD of this programme – named after the Lime Grove studio – but, curious, I looked it up. The first episode (arguably) is on YouTube. According to IMDb, the theme (and other music) was indeed the work of Eric Spear. Like the Corry theme (“Lancashire Blues”) it too has a title – “Family Joke” – and is a jaunty piece, played by a small combo, featuring a harmonica.
I am now “promoting” this exchange to my main article, complete with a piece I just knocked up for YouTube, featuring said theme – and a picture of ME, taken just about the time “The Grove Family” first aired.
Thank you for the inspiration, sir!
And said piece can be found HERE…
This piece has been an interesting journey – and a chance to link a number of my YouTube uploads to this column!