Record Store Day 2015

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In honour of worldwide Record Store Day on the 18th of April, I thought I’d pay tribute to one of my holy grails, the 45rpm, 7-inch single of the EastEnders theme song composed by Simon May b/w “Julia’s Theme”, as in EE co-creator Julia Smith.

No, BBC Records did not re-release it as an official RSD release; that would be too clever with it being EastEnders’ 30th anniversary in 2015. But what do I know?

My RSD purchases included British invasion singles by Jeff Beck and The Kinks.

Happy crate and bin-hunting.

Remembering EE Co-Creator Tony Holland

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By Michael McCarthy

Tony Holland, along with his producing partner Julia Smith, created EastEnders.

A remarkable television writer, Holland was a man for all seasons, in an industry of creation by committee. If left to today’s writers’ rooms, all the king’s horses, his men and his many mistresses would still be floating somewhere in the ether above the cocaine spoon and the sweet drifting smoke of marijuana. No index cards or corkboard for Holland, just a notebook, some pencils and a fertile imagination.

All of the storylines for EastEnders’ first season came from Holland’s fevered brain. He had 14 days to come up with 23 characters, Albert Square, the Queen Vic, the Bridge Street Market, all the council houses, and Arthur’s allotment.

(Editor’s note: Smith and Holland left EastEnders in 1989 after working on the show for five years, reportedly over talk of bringing back Den Watts from the dead, which eventually happened in 2003. They previously collaborated on Z-Cars, Angels, and following EastEnders, they created Eldorado, which only lasted a year. Holland died in 2007 at 67 and Smith in 1997 at 70.)

Every builder knows that you can design whatever structure you choose, be it glass and steel or con- crete and plasterboard, if you lay a truly strong foundation. Within a frame an artist can create anything from an intimate portrait to a still life to a seashore full of summer revelers.

Holland’s idea for the families that would populate the Square – the Beales, Fowlers, Wattses and all the other blue-collar inhabitants – formed a community with an “us against them, hurt one of us, you hurt us all” mentality. Each day is a struggle to put food on the table, there are no guarantees, no handouts, a pride of place. Put it simply, they’re survivors.

Sure, Holland created the silver-tongued devil Dirty Den, but this human mosaic allowed for a future ducker and diver like Big Mo, or the apple of every lady’s eye Alfie Moon, or good-hearted Jane offering practical advice.

Among Holland’s most memorable masterpieces was Den and Angie’s Christmas Day 1986, watched by 30.15 million viewers, more than half of the UK population at the time. He wrote himself those two scripts about Den asking Angie for a divorce.

In his four years as EastEnders co-creator, Holland interestingly penned himself only a dozen scripts (often directed by Smith), but his tenure as EastEnders’ storytelling creative genius was always evident in the rich characters, plots and story arcs.

EastEnders renews itself as it casts off storylines and characters. It’s come a long way since its premiere in 1985. Its writers carried a larger responsibility as it went from two episodes a week to three, and then to the current four.

On any given day the human drama that is EastEnders can suddenly explode, devastating a life, a relationship and sending characters helter-skelter. These episodes represent EastEnders at its very best, and this is why the show constantly surprises.

Thinking about the anniversary a month later

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By Larry Jaffee

If EastEnders’ 30th anniversary proved anything this past 19 February, it was that the series could still grip the nation (that would be the UK) with a whodunit.

Kudos to current executive producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins and the publicity office for feeding the Internet with a constant barrage of memes (intriguing photos posted on Facebook, Twitter, etc.) in the months and weeks leading up to “EastEnders Live Week,” 17–20 February (also known as “EastEnders: The Week of Revelations”).

Treadwell-Collins described the live week as being “a fantastic opportunity for EastEnders to create a massive national event, and one that will enable us to celebrate 30 years of [the show] in spectacular style.” He didn’t disappoint.

The actual anniversary episode, in which the killer was revealed (no spoiler will be revealed here), peaked with 11.9 million viewers (and a 44.7% share), and was considered a great success. In contrast, “Who Shot Phil?” garnered 22 million nearly 14 years ago. In 2001, social media wasn’t invented yet. More than 30 million Brits watched Den serve Angie divorce papers on Christmas Day 1986, but then there were only four TV channels.

The 19 February show was performed entirely and broadcast live on BBC-1. Live scenes had been inserted into episodes during the week. Superimposed on the screen throughout the week was: #EELive, encouraging viewers to comment via Twitter.

As the murder mystery unravelled, social media records were broken twice. The first episode saw 508,678 tweets sent, while the flashback episode broke that record with 519,359, making it the most tweeted-about UK soap episode. The live broadcasts came off without a hitch, except for one moment when an actress, who shall go unnamed, asked, “How’s Adam?”, when she meant “Ian.”

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Speaking of whom, special kudos to Adam Woodyatt for his amazing performance. The London Underground got into the 30th celebration. Passengers travelling via Bromley-by-Bow station on 18 February were treated to special station announcements from Danny Dyer (who plays current Queen Vic landlord Mick Carter) throughout the day. Mick is often found passing through the barriers of the fictional Walford East Station, which in the show replaces Bromley-by-Bow on the map. Putting his own spin on various announcements, Dyer told passengers to stand back from the closing doors and to ensure they’re using a valid ticket.

Stateside, the Los Angeles Times ran a nice essay from a London writer about why EastEnders is so important. “You’re forced from an early age to watch it, in a way,” TV critic Emma Bullimore was quoted as saying. “You see them grow up as you grow up. They’re kind of part of your life.”

New Issue Complete: #89

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The new issue of the Walford Gazette has been delivered to the printer, and newspapers should be delivered to the U.S. Postal Service by March 28.

Much of the issue focuses on the 30th anniversary this past 19 Feb. Stay tuned for updates.

If you cannot wait, feel free to order the full-colour pdf from the website (listed towards the end of Special Offers/Subscriptions on the right column), and it will be delivered instantaneously.

EastEnders Knees-Up in Charlotte, North Carolina

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By Larry Jaffee

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – Getting a jump on EastEnders’ 30th anniversary 19 February, several dozen Yanks here reveled on all things Walford the afternoon of 14 February in this American city situated in the vicinity of the great 1960s US sitcom, the Andy Griffith Show. No sheriff was needed to break up any rowdy punters a la Grant & Phil or Nasty Nick.

Since it was Valentine’s Day, attendees were encouraged to dress up as Albert Square’s all-time favourite couple, Kat & Alfie, and many did. But they’re were also other characters on hand, such as Dot Cotton, Bianca Jackson and Den Watts, as you can see from the photos.

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The Kat & Alfie cake

The ringleaders of the festivities were the Charlotte EastEnders Fan Club co-presidents Melissa Berry, Melanie Campbell and Shonni Dixon.

“I was determined that our club would have the biggest and best collection of EE memorabilia this side of the pond,” explains Berry, known colloquially as “Mo,” once gifted a pair of earrings to Pam St Clement so that Pat Butcher would wear them on EastEnders, and she did! “At one point in time, my home office became what was jokingly referred to as the NC EE Museum,” she adds. Much of the mobile museum was on display at the party.

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Part of Melissa Berry’s EastEnders collection

Checking the authenticity of the knees-up was Cockney journalist Ruairdh Connelian, whose reportage apparently is headed for one of the UK tabloids this week.

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Melissa Berry as Dot Cotton

These Charlotte club fans’ stellar reputation and memorable parties precede them. The BBC in 2009 sent a camera crew to North Carolina to film Shane Richie (Alfie) for a Children in Need segment.

This club supports the annual fundraiser for UNC-TV, the public television station that broadcasts EastEnders, one of ten US over-the-air outlets that still show the series after so many have canceled it, with typical management explanations of low ratings. On Facebook, the club also offers an active constantly updated “spoilers” page.

As the adage goes, apparently the grass is always greener on the other side.