British actor Johnny Briggs has had a long, distinguished career in the business of show. Born in 1935 he graduated from the Italia Conti Stage School and was immediately thrust into movies, appearing in dozens of gritty dramas (Cosh Boy, the Leather Boys), war epics (633 Squadron, Sink the Bismarck!) and comedies (Carry On Up the Khyber, Bless This House) before landing the role that would make him famous: for 30 years he starred in Coronation Street (world's longest-running TV soap opera) as factory owner and Deidre Barlow-shagger Mike Baldwin.
But we’re not interested in his film and TV work, are we? No. What we’re celebrating today is his one attempt at vinyl immortality. For in 1983 Johnny released a single on the tiny (and short-lived) MVM record label: Warm backed with Livin’ on the Road.
This dismal offering sold about three copies: Corrie fans must have been bewildered by the fact that the bluff, gruff Mike Baldwin emitted such a thin, reedy vocal when he tried to sing. Warm? Barely tepid at best; lukewarm more like.
Although the writing credits on both sides of this dull slice of eighties pap went to Cass and Casstree, the sleeve rightly credits one Cass Casstree (as opposed to a brace of him/them) with having written the words and music and played keyboards on this insipid ballad. Bury-based Casstree has spent decades trying to have a hit: he wrote Sharon Benson’s 1988 flop Our Love’s Alive (she would later record a ‘hip’ version of the EastEnders theme, retitled I'll Always Believe In You), and still works as a professional musician, appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2005 and gigging regularly in his home town.
But back to Johnny; look at him on the cover, with his flicked back hair and gold medallion hanging over his tight, open shirt. Doesn’t he make you Warm? You’d think he would learn from this appalling crime, but in 1995 he would team up with co-star Amanda Barrie to record a simply dreadful version of the Frank and Nancy Sinatra classic Something Stupid which, when released as the B-side to the Corrie cast singing Always Look On the Bright Side of Life, reached number 35 in the UK singles charts. There’s just no accounting for taste.
Enjoy..and big thanks to Mick Dillingham for reminding me of this monstrosity.