Noele Gordon will be best known to British readers for playing the part of Meg Mortimer (nee Richardson), the imperious owner of the eponymous Motel in the long-running soap opera Crossroads.
A trained dancer, Joan Noele Gordon (she got her middle name because she was born on Christmas Day, 1919) first appeared on the screen in 1945, in the British film 29 Acacia Avenue. She was also the first woman to ever appear on colour television in the UK, appearing in several tests made by the BBC in the 1940s. Stage success followed (she was in the London cast of Brigadoon) before, in 1955, she joined the fledgling Independent Televison network, first as a presenter for Associated Television’s first-ever programme, The Weekend Show before helping launch ATV Midlands in 1956. For the best part of a decade she worked both as an on-screen presenter and, behind the scenes, as a producer. Then, in 1964, Crossroads was launched. The character of Meg Richardson, head of the family-run motel, was created especially for her.
Crossroads was famed for its wobbly sets and ridiculous storylines: many of the earlier episodes were broadcast live, and the acting often left a lot to be desired. However the show was enormously popular with viewers, and Noele went on to win the TV Times award for most popular television actress on eight occasions. Her sacking came about while ATV was being restructured (it became Central TV on 1 January 1982). The programme was an embarrassment: network bosses hoped that audiences would abandon the show and they could cancel it. Bizarrely that didn’t happen, and it limped on for several more years.
She died of cancer aged 65, just four years after she was sacked, in 1985. Many then and now blame her untimely demise on losing her job as matriarch of the Crossroads family. Sadly for her many fans the show had been planning to bring her character back…
But anyway: the music. Noele (or Nolly as her friend Larry Grayson would always refer to her) left us with several classically awful recordings. A few of the stage shows she appeared in have associated ‘original cast’ releases, but it is her solo discography I wish to celebrate today. It began in 1974 with the diabolically awful To My Daughter, issued on Jonathan King’s UK record label. Luckily for those of a nervous disposition, she did not appear on the disc’s b-side. To My Daughter is diabolical: a spoken word atrocity in which the unmarried Noele waxes lyrically about a baby girl born eight-weeks premature. It’s brilliantly bad.
Shortly after a whole album of Noele doing her best Barbara Cartland impersonation appeared. Noele Gordon Sings features the great woman massacring such classics as These Foolish Things and The Nearness of You, and her on-screen marriage to Hugh Mortimer (played by John Bentley) resulted in an album’s worth of nonsense, sold to viewers as the Crossroads Wedding Party. Mixed up with tracks by Stephanie de Sykes, duets with Bentley, medleys from the Crossroads cast and (naturally) the theme to the show itself, were highlights from the show’s wedding service. It’s a camp classic.
Noele’s recording career ended the same year as her Crossroads career did, with the 45 After All These Years/Goodbye. A quick attempt to cash in on the publicity around her sacking, it sank without troubling the charts.
Here, for your delectation, are a couple of cuts from Noele, her first single To My Daughter, and her last one, Goodbye. I’ll rip After All These Years when my copy (purchased this morning from Discogs) arrives and add that later!
Download Daughter HERE
Download Goodbye HERE