1986: EastEnders - For The Record
The behind-the-scenes story of the other EastEnders by Leslie G Peters of The Courier.
The inspiration to make a record of the EastEnders theme came directly from the fans on the terrace things at East End Park. Almost exactly a year before, the popular BBC soap opera made its television debut and the music was instantly adopted as an anthem by the faithful following at the home of Dunfermline Athletic. Recently appointed director Mr Blair Morgan heard the song and decided to investigate the possibility of committing their version to tape to help mark the club’s centenary.
The first step was to get the permission of the BBC and the music composer, Simon May” explained Mr Morgan. “Then we needed appropriate lyrics. I sat down with my son Steven and wrote the words which then had to be approved by all concerned.”
A date was set for the recording and everything was going smoothly when interest in the project suddenly took off and everything had to be speeded up virtually overnight.
“The BBC invited us to take part in their Pebble Mill at One show which was to feature EastEnders star and Anna Wing but gave us less than a week to have everything ready” continued Mr Morgan. “After an initial disappointment when our original choice of studio was unavailable there are REL studio in Edinburgh stepped in at the last minute to help us out.
On the evening of Tuesday, February 11, the team aided and abetted by local musicians from bands like 7 West, The Syndicate and White China travelled through to Edinburgh where Dalgety Bay Singer songwriter Billy Rankin had the unenviable task of knocking them into musical shape. Perhaps surprisingly it took only a few takes before the tape was perfect.
The studio session was recorded by BBC reporter Alan Mackay and his camera crew and was shown the following night on Reporting Scotland. But even as it was being broadcast a party of 32 players directors and friends were winding that way south to Birmingham to perform the song live on Pebble Mill.
“Promotion on the field is still a primary concern but promotion off the field is also important continued” Mr Morgan. “This was too good an opportunity to miss and guaranteed the Pars nationwide publicity for perhaps the first time in many years. There was very little time to make all the arrangements and up until the moment our rain is coach left East End Park both manager John Richmond and myself were still time the final details.”
After leaving Dunfermline the luxury coach travelled to Edinburgh and Hamilton to pick up players before setting off on the journey south. The light-hearted video films were interrupted us several intervals by rehearsals of the song to ensure that everything would be perfect the following day.
The team bus arrived at the St John’s Swallow Hotel in Solihull shortly after 11:30 pm and after a few light refreshments and several unscheduled rehearsals which the locals voted a hit it was off to bed for a comparatively alright early night.
The equally early rise came as a shock to a few next morning and after a light breakfast it was off to the famous Pebble Mill studios in the centre of Birmingham. Along the route the late rush hour traffic was treated to yet more rehearsals.
At Pebble Mill the party was met by the show’s producer who put everyone at ease. The budding stars were shown into dressing room 13, a cause for some concern among the more nervous considering it was also February 13th.
But any thoughts of impending disaster were quickly dispelled with the arrival of the Umbro rep with the strips which would become of familiar sight at East End Park from the next season, their first public showing was on the show.
By this time some of the players were getting the wind up but their arrival of presenter Paul Coia soon cleared the air. He laughed and joked with us all and very soon all the nerves were forgotten explained Jim Leishman. Then he happened to mention that he would be singing in front of the viewing audience for some 3.2 million people!”
Then it was time for more rehearsals with a slight alteration having to be made to the music provided by the excellent Pebble Mill musicians. After a quick session in the make up department it was back into the studio for the actual sure. The programme was introduced by Paul Coia surrounded by the team everyone was then ushered off stage while the other stars did their sessions. “We provided the finals with the song itself” continue Jim. “I was just amazed just how smoothly everything went and I was very proud of my ‘team’.
“Pebble Mill were delighted with the way things worked out and the club made many friends among those involved with us during the trip.” After a visit to the hospitality lounge it was back to the bus for a long journey home but there was no rest for the wicked.
Aston Villa manager Graham Turner had kindly agreed to give the team the use of the clubs training facilities just outside Birmingham where he joined Gregor Abel, Jim Leishman and John Nelson in a gruelling session. There was even time for a visit by former Par Allan Evans the man described by Jim Leishman as his ‘understudy’ at Dunfermline.
Back on the bus the weary and hoarse party began the journey home finally arriving in Dunfermline shortly before midnight. Behind them there were many new fans including EastEnders star and Anna Wing. “I love the record” she said “and I wish the Pars continued success at their own East End.”
Watch Pebble Mill at One
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