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The Goon Show

The Goon Show was a British radio programme of the 1950s, originally airing from 1951 to 1960 in the UK. Episodes are still regularly broadcast in Australia and New Zealand and are still occasionally repeated on BBC Radio 2 or Radio 4 in the UK. More recently the show has become a regular feature on the new digital archive radio station BBC 7.

The series was devised and written by Spike Milligan with occasional assistance from others such as Eric Sykes and Larry Stephens under the watchful eye of Jimmy Grafton (KOGVOS-Keeper Of The Goons and Voice Of Sanity).

Performed by Milligan, Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe (the first two seasons also featured Michael Bentine), the Goon Show was an extremely popular comedy show on the BBC Home Service. The scripts mixed ludicrous plots with surreality, puns, catchphrases and an array of silly sound effects. Some of the later epsodes feature electronic effects by the fledgling BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Note, however, that some of the content had logic in it - note the piece of paper showing 8 o'clock; if it's 8 o'clock it tells the time. If it isn't 8 o'clock don't look at it. How do you know when it's 8 o'clock? By looking at the piece of paper....

"The Telegoons" (1963-4) was a 15-minute BBC puppet show featuring the voices of Milligan, Secombe and Sellers and adapted from the radio scripts.

In 1964 Milligan, Secombe and Sellers lent their voices to a comedy LP, How to Win an Election (or Not Lose by Much), which was written by Leslie Bricusse. It was not exactly a Goons reunion because Sellers was in Hollywood and had to record his lines separately. The album was reissued on CD in 1997.

In 1972 the Goons reunited to perform "The Last Goon Show of All" for radio and television, before an invited audience that didn't, however, include long-time fan Prince Charles.

The last time all three Goons worked together was in 1978 when they recorded two new songs, "The Raspberry Song" and "Rhymes".

In 2001 the BBC recorded a "new" The Goon Show, "Goon Again", featuring Andrew Secombe (son of Harry), Jon Glover and Jeffrey Holland, with Christopher Timothy (son of Andrew Timothy) announcing, based on two unpreserved series 3 episodes from 1953, "The Story of Civilisation" and "The Plymouth Ho Armada", both written by Milligan and Stephens.

Many of the earliest radio episodes no longer exist. Only one episode from series 4 (1953-4) survives, and only selected episodes from later series were selected for preservation in the BBC Sound Archive. However, commencing with the start of series 5 (1954), BBC Transcription Services began making copies for overseas sales, and even commissioned re-recordings of some key series 4 episodes.

The Transcription Services versions were cut to remove topical and parochial material and anything that might be potentially offensive (and the Goon Show did feature quite a lot of politically incorrect humour, much of it sneaked past the noses of BBC censors). For many years these abridged versions were the only surviving copies of many episodes, but in recent years the BBC has done a huge amount of research work to find and restore the missing footage, often literally from the cutting room floor.

To date, the BBC has released more than 20 CD sets of these remastered episodes, containing over 80 shows, plus "The Last Goon Show of All" and "Goon Again". Another 12 shows had been previously issued by EMI, but for contractual reasons these were all heavily cut to remove musical interludes and other music cues, and to this day they are the only commercially available versions of those particular episodes.

The show was extremely influential. The future members of Monty Python's Flying Circus were fans, but ironically at the time their efforts over-shadowed Milligan's later TV efforts. However now the Circus seems to be more quoted. It is fair to say that British alternative comedy based its modern form on the model created for the Goon Show by Spike Milligan.

Regular members

Other members Guest appearances They made a number of records including 'I'm Walking Backwards for Christmas' (originally sung by Milligan in the show to fill in during a musicians' strike), 'Bloodnok's Rock and Roll Call' (the first British record with the word "rock" in its title) and its B-side 'The Ying Tong Song', which was reissued as an A-side in the mid-1970s and became a surprise novelty hit.

In the movies the following were a product of Goon activity:

Resources: