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Love these Goon Shows!

Updated: Oct 12, 2021

Episode 22 of the second series of the Goon Show exploded out of the wireless sets of Britain on 24 June 1952. Proof of its existence can be found on page 18 of the Radio Times for that week – as we all know, the Radio Times never lies.

Yesterday I wrote about the Sinful Savage Tigers from North Carolina. Today I’m going to write about a slightly more well-known group who were also influenced by the Goons.

The Beatles, having grown up in the 1950s, were all fans of the Goons.

“We met him at numerous parties and different things, but at that time, I think we were all more in awe of him because of our childhood – because of the Goons. We just loved the Goons. That was the greatest thing that we'd – certainly that I'd ever heard on the radio.”

(George Harrison on meeting Peter Sellers)

The full clip of George Harrison talking about Peter Sellers and the Goons, preceded by a sketch featuring Sellers and Michael Bentine, is here.

There are myriad different links between the Goons and The Beatles. For example, famed producer George Martin worked on several Goon records before meeting The Beatles, while film director Dick Lester’s work on The Running, Jumping And Standing Still Film (featuring Sellers and Milligan) led to him being hired to direct the band’s films Help! and A Hard Day’s Night.

John Lennon was once asked by the New York Times to review one of the books of Goon Show scripts. The result was a wonderful stream of consciousness about his love of Milligan and the Goons – less a review and more a love letter to a radio show.

Here are The Fab Four demonstrating their humour by matching Eric Morecambe at his own game (nearly)…

The appreciation went both ways. Peter Sellers recorded several silly cover versions of Beatles songs, such as ‘Help!’ and ‘A Hard Day’s Night’. Meanwhile, George Harrison became friends with Sellers and Milligan – although he perhaps wasn’t as responsive as Spike would have liked, as this letter (wonderfully read by Andrew Scott) demonstrates:

Reading through Beatles fan forums brings up several threads about Goon Show links, both obvious and tenuous. One that is often brought up is the song ‘You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)’, which starts relatively normal and morphs into something distinctly Goonish, complete with silly voices and sound effects.

The title of this post comes from a snippet from a Beatles BBC radio appearance, in which John Lennon riffs on introducing a cover of Chuck Berry’s ‘I’ve Got To Find My Baby’, concluding with: “Love these Goon Shows!”

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