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This is the

BBC light programme we present


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The Goon Show was a revolutionary comedy show which was aired on radio, it was so surreal and different from anything else which was on the wireless at that time. The Show has been inspirational for many an artist, not just in the form of comedy. Over the last year The Goons have had a few landmarks in celebrating the 60th anniversary of the first broadcast, 40 years of the Goon Show Preservation Society and sadly it has been 10 years since the creator and godfather of surreal comedy Spike Milligan passed away


The Goons ran between

19511960 -5-

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The Goons consisted of three crazy people by the name of Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe and Peter Sellers. It was originally four members but Michael Bentine left shortly after the start. They wrote and performed in the radio show themselves.


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SPIKE MILLIGAN Spike wrote and starred in the Goons. After the Goons Spike wrote a number of books which included Puckoon and Adolf Hitler: My part in his downfall and is known to kids for his poetry with “Silly verses for kids”. Spike is well known for controversy, in 1994 Spike called The Prince of Wales, a Goon Fan, “a little grovelling bastard” live on TV. Spike died in 2002. His headstone saying “I told you I was ill”


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HARRY SECOMBE Harry was Welsh and before the Goons was a popular ‘turn’ at church socials with his impersonations. Harry starred as Neddie Seagoon within the Goon scripts, but since then has gone on to achieve fame as a comedian and a singer on both sides of the Atlantic. Star of many popular and screen musicals including Pickwick and Oliver!. In 1981 Harry was knighted, the motto he chose for his coat of arms was “GO ON”, a reference to the Goons Harry died in 2001, yet still sang at Spike’s funeral.


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PETER SELLERS With both parents and eight uncles in show business Seller’s career was a forgone conclusion. He played Bluebottle among other characters within the Goon Show with his ability to do impressions and characterisations. After the Goons, Sellers went on to star in many movies including Dr Strangelove, Alice in Wonderland and played the lead role Chief Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther Sellers died in 1980.


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The Other Goons

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Ellington’s Quartet within the Goon Show played the shows interludes and helped with some of sound effects. An ex-RAF P.T instructor, Ellington formed his original Ray Ellington Quartet in 1950. He was known to millions through the radio programme Mr. Ros & Mr. Ray, as well as the Goon Show.


In 1970 he established the popular Ray Ellington Big Band and Singers.


Cast Jazz harmonica player Geldray was born in 1935 in Holland, where he began his career. After doing many broadcasts and playing in nightclubs all over Europe, he joined the Ray Ventura Band in France. In Paris he played with such Jazz ‘greats’ as Django Reinhardt, who became a good friend. He settled in England after the war, where he grew popular through his radio, Tv, live performances, and such records as Goon with the Wind.


Geldray’s part within the Goon Show was interludes while the Goons could prepare for the next segment within the show.


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Born Wally Stott in 1924. Died Angela Morley in 2009. Stott underwent sexual reassignment surgery in the 1970’s. Morley will be remembered for writing the theme tune and incidental music for Hancock’s Half Hour and was the musical director for the Goon Show from the third series in 1952 to the last show in 1960.


During the 1980’s she wrote numerous scores for popular TV Shows such as Dynasty, Dallas and Hotel.



Wallace Greenslade, known as Bill, joined the staff of the BBC in 1945 as a general announcer. In addition to his work with the Goon Show he announced a wide variety of programmes including The Great Gilhooly, Star Show and Variety Playhouse.


Greenslade wasn’t the original announcer to the Goons that accolade goes to Andrew Timothy, who also announced “the Last Goon Show of Them All” Greenslade died in 1961


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ERIC SYKES Late in 1954 Sykes began collaborating with Spike Milligan on scripts for The Goon Show, easing Milligan’s workload. Their first collaborative script was for a Goon Show special called Archie in Goonland, a crossover between The Goon Show and the radio ventriloquism show Educating Archie (for which Sykes had also been writing). The special was broadcast in June 1954 and featured the regular Goon Show cast plus Peter Brough, his dummy Archie Andrews and Hattie Jacques. It was not a success, however, and the recordings and scripts


have not survived. Sykes and Milligan are credited as the co-writers of all but the first six of the 26 episodes in Series 5 (1954–55) and three episodes of Series 6 (1955–56); Sykes also wrote a 15-minute Goon Show Christmas special, The Missing Christmas Parcel, broadcast during the Children’s Hour on 8 December 1955.


A BBC radio scriptwriter, best remembered for co-writing The Goon Show with Spike Milligan. Stephens was a regular writer of the show for the first two years, and then returned to The Goon Show to assist Milligan, during the latter’s tougher moments. From his association with Milligan, Stephens became involved with Associated London Scripts (ALS), and was said to have been “one of the most eyecatching characters, in the earliest days of the company...he played a significant cameo role in the first phase of success for ALS”


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The coming together of the Goons began in the ancient Westminster hostelry known as ‘Grafton’s’. Its then host, ex-infantry officer turned publican, city councillor and scriptwriter, Jimmy Grafton – in whose family the pub had been since 1848 – was the primary catalyst in this gradual but significant chemical reaction. Christened ‘KOGVOS’ or “Keeper of Goons and Voice of sanity”. -22-


The first edition of ‘Crazy People’ was broadcast on May 28 1951, on London Home Service only – the other regions joined as the series progressed. Some familiar characters, gradually emerged during the first series – Eccles, Bloodnok, Flowerdew – as well as regular characters who were later phased out – Ernie Splutmuscle, Herschell and Jones, Colonel Slocombe (a sort of American Bloodnok), and Harold Porridge. Secombe emerged as a regular character, but under his own name – Neddie Seagoon was as yet someway off.


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The Characters

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Eccles The Famous Eccles, complete and utter idiot. An amiable, well-meaning man with no wits or understanding. When people tell him to shut up, he frequently joins in and often goes on telling himself to shut up long after everyone else has given up. Eccles often finds himself helping Ned Seagoon alongside Bluebottle. Catchphrases include “Hello der”, “Fine, fine, fine”, “I’m the famous Eccles” and “Shut up Eccles”. Played by Spike Milligan



Ned Seagoon An honest but gullible idiot, around whom the plot revolves. The patriotic Neddie is always willing to lay down his life for his country. He is often unemployed, some episodes begining with him accepting a new job which leads him into to trouble. Many jokes are made about his short yet rounded appearance. Catchphrases include “Hello folks”, “Needle nardle noo”, “What,what,what,what,what” and “I don’t wish to know that”. Played by Harry Secombe


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Bluebottle A young, lustful boy scout with a squeaky voice who normally gets blown up in each episode. He is often a companion of Eccles and is willing to help anyone for sweets, although he frequently fails. Bluebottle is noted for using tools or weapons made from cardboard and string. Catchphrases include “Enter Bluebottle, waits for applause...Not a sausage”, “You rotten swine, you deaded me” and “I don’t like this game”. Played by Peter Sellers



Major Bloodnok A corrupt military cad, pervert and idiot. Seagoon’s former commanding officer who suffers terrible flatulence. Bloodnok is a total coward who will betray anyone or anything for money. Catchphrases include “Nurse the screens!” and “It was hell in there”. Played by Peter Sellers


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Count Moriarty Unscrupulous member of the French aristocracy who turned to crime to support his lifestyle. As The Goon Show developed, Moriarty decended from a ined criminal mastermind into a snivelling sidekick to Grytpype-Thynne. He is often found scavenging in dustbins looking for food and uttering meaningless foreign-sounding curses. Catchphrases include “Oooowwwww” and “Sapristi nabolis”. Played by Spike Milligan



Hercules Grytpype-Thynne A sleazy, well-educated and scheming cad. He generally collaborates with Count Moriarty to swindle Ned Seagoon. Catchphrases include “You silly twisted boy” and “Have a gorilla”. Played by Peter Sellers


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Henry Crun An elderly idiot inventor and partner of Minnie Bannister. Rather decrepit and forgetful, he often struggles to keep pace with the action around him. Catchphrases include “You can’t get the wood you know”. Played by Peter Sellers



Minnie Bannister A feeble old spinster with an interesting past. Minnie enjoys moderntype music and is as flirtatious as a girl a third her age. Catchphrases include “Henrrryyyyy” and “We’ll all be murdered in our beds!”. Played by Spike Milligan


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The 4th series began on 2 October 1953. Unusually, after the standard twenty-six episodes, it ran for a further four, making this the longest Goon Show series. This series saw the final stage of the show’s development into its familiar form. Two changes had taken place at the very beginning of the series, although neither was obvious to the -34-

listener. Up to this time, most o the characters – Eccles being on exception – had been indicated in the script as an instruction to the actor- for example, ‘Peter (Crun)’ or ‘Spike (Bannister)’. For the first time, all the major characters were indicated in th script by their names – perhaps because they were beginning to take on a life of their own.

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History The other change was in the recording system. The new system, magnetic tape, meant that editing was possible and allowed for mistakes; dubious ad-libs and so on could be taken out. This change gave the goons more freedom to ad-lib at will, safe in the knowledge if it didn’t work then it could easily be taken out. Though genuine ad-libs were often cut, and what sound like ad-libs were often actually in the script.

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Dishonoured First broadcast on December 14, 1954 Script by Spike Milligan and Eric Sykes Produced by Peter Eton Announced by Wallace Greenslade The orchestra was conducted by Wally Stott

We’ll have to give a week’s notice.

Why? What have I done? Nothing, but we’re having to cut down on staff. You see, there’s been a robbery. Um, would you get that van started while I get my hat and coat?

You coming too? There’s no point in staying. There’s more money in the van than there is in the bank. -37-


Very well, we’ll be partners.

Shake. I give you my hand.

I gave him my foot, it was a fair swap.



“That was quite a breakthrough - it doesn’t seem it to us because we’re so used to making fun of the officer types - I’ve done it myself and it is pretty easy - but it wasn’t then...” Stephen Fry Actor, comedian, author, and broadcaster


The Scarlet Capsule

First broadcast on February 2, 1959. Script by Spike Milligan. Produced by Peter Eton. Announced by Wallace Greenslade Orchestra conducted by Wally Stott


Unexploded German skulls? I hadn’t thought of that. -43-


Elephant soup with squodge spuds.

I hadn’t thought of that either


Sabrina in the bath


, H a a , H H Ha, a! I do have some spare time. -47-

“They took things to such surreal places - rockets going to the moon, which turned out to be made of sandwiches, or whatever it was. That’s why the Goon Show is timeless, like Alice in Wonderland...” Eddie Izzard Comedian and Actor




what -49-

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History The 4th (and subsequent) series scripts were no longer being edited by Jimmy Grafton, who felt this function to be no longer necessary, and after the first twenty shows Larry Stephens dropped out of the partnership, leaving Milligan standing on his own feet for the first time. He was now sufficiently developed as a writer to be able to cope on his own, and produced the stories of, among other things, the Vanishing Room, the Silent Bugler, and another attempt to climb Mount Everest – this time from the inside. The writing was still improving – and would go on doing so for some time – but with the series ‘The Goon Show’ at last stood in a class of its own. The longer stories allowed the characters more elbow room, and the show was settling down to the slightly slower pace (with fast patches when needed) which suited Milligan’s Style better than the earlier rapid pacing.


“The Goon Show was long before and more revolutionary than “look back in anger” (it appealed to “eggheads” and “the people”). Hipper than the hippest and madder than “Mad,” a conspiracy against reality...”

John Lennon Musician


Through the pigeonhole flew a carrier pigeon. There was something attached to its leg.

It was a postman -53-

The famous Eccles!


“Never had I heard anything so absurd, so giddyingly wonderful, wild, and silly in all of my life. There was nothing in America to compare with it. If Britain could produce nonsense as pure and anarchic as that, then that was the place for me...� Terry Gilliam Actor, Animator, Director, Producer and Screenwriter


The Seago n Memoirs

First broadcast on December 19th, 1958. Script by Larry Stephens & Maurice Wiltshire. Produced by John Browell. Announced by Wallace Greenslade


Oh, Henry, after all these years, our own piano!

Yes, all our own. Atlast, we can take a bath. -59-

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With the start of the 5th series on September 28, 1954 ‘The Goon Show’ entered an important new phase. For the first time, the shows were also recorded by the BBC transcription services, who select the best BBC programmes, and make them available to overseas broadcasting organisations. Anything likely to be of interest is transferred to processed long-playing records; overseas radio stations can then buy the right to use the programmes for a limited period – usually a year or two after the issue. There is a considerable demand for BBC comedy programmes, and ‘The Goon Show’ is still extremely popular, particularly in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.


The Listening figures for the 5th series were very good, as high as 4 ½ million for some first transmissions. This partly reflected the very high standard the shows were achieving, and partly the fact that, for the first time; Radio Times was billing the show with a sort of synopsis and cast list. These synopses were taken from the fronts of the scripts, which at this stage were being written far enough ahead to meet the Radio Times press date. (In later years Milligan was sometimes still writing on the morning of the recording.)



The Vanishing

First broadcast on October 13th, 1958. Script by Spike Milligan Produced by Roy Speer.


Is this an offical visit? I’m afraid you will have to put your helmet on.

Oh dear, dear, that will mean re-potting the geraniums. -64-

And the baby, too. -65-

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Thanks goes to the members of the Goon Show Preservation Society for all the help and co-operation they have given me on creating this book.


GSPS I only discovered the Goon Show fairly recently. Growing up, the name of a family member was often bandied about in relation to the Goons but it was only when I started researching my family history a few years ago that I discovered what an important contribution he had made to the show. My grandmother was the sister of Larry Stephens’ father and I was astonished to discover a whole page devoted to Larry on Wikipedia! I bought recordings of as many shows as I could; listened and giggled my way through them all on the way to and from work every day and quickly became hooked. Nowadays my conversation is peppered with quotes and I can do a passable Bluebottle impersonation. And I get a shiver of pride every time I hear Wallace Greenslade say, “Script by Spike Milligan and Larry Stephens.”

Julie Warren The Goon Show Preservation Society


Needle nardle noo

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