Updated: Oct 19, 2021
By far the most cited Goon book is Roger Wilmut’s exhaustive The Goon Show Companion: A History and Goonography. I’ve relied heavily on Wilmut’s research in my own work on the show, including his full rundown of each series and summaries of other projects involving the Goons.
First published in 1976, it features Wilmut’s own take on each series. As a former BBC staffer having served in a variety of roles, the author is well placed to explain in some detail how the show developed technically. For example, he explains the change in recording technique that means every episode from the start of series five still exists, and he details the changes that Peter Eton brought in from series three to improve the dynamics of the show.
It’s worth tracking down a copy if you haven’t read it yet, as it also features the nearest thing we have to an autobiography of KOGVOS himself, Jimmy Grafton. So far I’ve only been able to find it on Amazon.
Each of the four Goons provides a brief intro to the book, with Milligan marvelling that “it is hard to believe that somebody has actually written a TEXTBOOK on the Goon Shows”, while also adding: “I wish the book well, but I cannot help feeling that it’s my obituary.”
Wilmut also penned books about Tony Hancock, the comedians that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, and the history of variety theatre. The latter two – From Fringe to Flying Circus and Kindly Leave The Stage – are on my long list of books to read as they will probably give some good context on the world of comedy immediately pre- and post-Goons.
He also has running orders for Monty Python’s Flying Circus, I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again, and At Last The 1948 Show available here.
For those with a truly technical interest in radio, broadcasting, and/or 19th and 20th century music and recording history, Roger Wilmut’s websites (plural!) are a veritable treasure trove. The top post on his ‘Not a blog’ tells how he helped the BBC track down recordings they had lost – usually by digging out his own illicit versions!
My thanks to Mr Wilmut for his wonderful work – look out for the Goonography citations spread liberally throughout this blog.