Early TV Drama

Rock music appeared in drama and soap-opera.

The one everyone would love to find is The Madhouse on Castle Street broadcast as The Sunday Night Play on the BBC on 13th January 1963. It featured David Warner and Bob Dylan, and the BBC scrapped the last copies in 1968, even though both were famous by then. Director Philip Saville had seen Bob Dylan in New York, and flew him to London for the play as the lead. It soon became clear that it wouldn’t work, so Saville split the role into two characters with Dylan singing and David Warner doing the acting bits.

It featured Blowing In The Wind, two traditional songs, Hang Me, O Hang Me and Cuckoo Bird, and a song co-written with scriptwriter Evan Jones, Ballad of The Gliding Swan. Most parts of the songs have survived and have been bootlegged, but the play is gone. Blowing In The Wind is even on Amazon music for 69p. There’s only a minute and a half of it. I listened, but even a Dylan completist like me felt no urge to invest in the bootleg or hazard 69p.

The Human Jungle (EP): Jess Conrad with The Rhet Stoller Group, Decca 1963

The same year, on 6th April 1963, the ABC drama series The Human Jungle (starring Herbert Lom as a psychiatrist) aired an episode about a pop singer called The Flip Side Man. Jess Conrad was recruited to play the singer, Danny Pace, backed by The Rhet Stoller Group and Decca issued an EP of the four songs. This play is available on DVD.

Coronation Street, which started in 1960 and is still going sixty years later in 2020, had several pop star appearances.  Cliff Richard did a cameo. Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits was in it for a while. Davey Jones, later of The Monkees appeared in March 1961, as Ena Sharples grandson and reprised the character in 1972. I don’t think that counts as he was a child actor then, not a singer. Robbie Williams has appeared as an extra.

Not Too Little Not Too Much: Chris Sandford, Decca 1963

In November 1963 (again) Chris Sandford sang Not To Little, Not Too Much on the show as part of the storyline, and had a #17 UK hit when it was released on Decca. It was written by Les Vandyke (aka Johnny Worth). Sandford was an actor playing a window cleaner who was discovered by Dennis Tanner.

ABC had him sing it in the soap one day, and repeated the exercise on Thank Your Lucky Stars the next day.

New Musical Express 2 April 1964

As happened in those days, by April 1964 he was on the Roy Orbison tour, just one of ten acts.

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