You wanted freedom. I wanted you


t came as something of a surprise, last Sunday, to find a certain record sitting pretty at the top of my iTunes playlist.

Somehow, this wonderful pop tune has managed to outstrip (in terms of play counts) many worthier tunes: Alicia Keys Empire State of Mind, Annie Lennox's Why, Mercury Rev's Holes, Shirley Bassey's This Is My Life... Even my beloved, brilliant Nothing Like The Rain, by 2 Unlimited.

This song isn't even a "proper" song; it's a TV theme. Now that's sad. But what's really sad is the story of this record, When You Go Away, the theme to failed BBC soap Eldorado, by EastEnders legend Simon May, and performed by Johnny Griggs.

Oh, poor Eldorado. The BBC's white elephant, the big hit that never was. Telly history is littered with the corpses of failed, eye-wateringly expensive follies, TV that's hyped as the Next Big Thing, only to fall at the ratings hurdle.

Maybe you, dear reader, have a one-season-wonder show that provokes pangs of "What could have been..." Is it MetrosexualityThe Tripods, Savannah, Invasion, or maybe, the most recent, the BBC's Survivors.

Back in 1992 a new soap launched, called Eldorado, set Spain's Costa Del Sol. It didn't work out. It was over-hyped and up against impossible deadlines. There were problems with the actors, the storylines, and even the sound. Its executive producer - EastEnders' creator Julia Smith - had a nervous breakdown. Ratings were low, and the press merciless. And then, just when the endless problems seemed to finally have been ironed out, the grim reaper - in the form of a BBC suit - swung the axe. The epic standing set in "a pine forest on a hillside near Coin" was left to gather dust and the actors went home.

Not only was it a terrible waste (given time, Eldorado could have been a fantastic success), but its failure led to the eventual decimation of TV drama in the UK. The BBC wanted another crowd-pleasing soap, and when Eldorado failed, it looked to existing properties to fill the void. Casualty, hitherto a gritty nighttime drama, was converted into a feeble-minded, pseudo-soap peopled by ex-soap stars and models-turned-actors. ITV followed suit, trashing the formerly brilliant cop drama The Bill, turning it into a tabloid-baiting sleaze-fest. Great shows that were about real people, doing real jobs, played out by real actors, and written by real writers, turned to crap.

Today, British TV is a wasteland, populated by the remnants of those dramas-turned-psueodo-soap (to this day, the BBC churns out year-round episodes of Casualty/Holby City) and so-called reality hell. Let's not talk about the excrement smeared across the once noble Doctor Who. All that's left are the soaps: EastEnders and Coronation Street flourish, beautifully; supposedly mediocre mediums in which great things happen.

As for Eldorado, it bequeathed us this exquisite theme tune: a paean to unrequited love. "You wanted freedom, I wanted you," the lyrics go. Isn't that brilliant? I could listen to this gorgeous, guilty pleasure forever: and in my mind's eye, an empty, dusty mountain village waiting for lights, cameras and action that will never come.

Ah, the stories that could've been told. Not just in Eldorado, but there, everafter.

Download the full MP3 for free, here.

The Rise and Fall of Eldorado, in four parts:

More information on the show at The Unofficial Eldorado Website.


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