“There’s a song that I recall” – at least I thought I did until those crazy characters the Goons up and murdered it. The latest lunacy of Messrs Secombe, Sellars [sic] and Milligan is a number called “Ying Tong”. Presumably because they couldn’t think of anything else to call it. On the reverse is “Bloodnock’s [sic] Rock ‘n’ Roll Call” – both extremely funny sides, if this brand of humour appeals to you.
(Benny Lee reviews the Goons’ latest single in the Aberdeen Evening Express, 15 September 1956)
I’m guessing it doesn’t appeal to you, Mr Lee?
The Goons’ second single was released 66 years ago this month: ‘The Ying Tong Song’ (as it was actually called) reached number 3 in the Hit Parade, staying in the charts for 10 weeks. This chart rundown from the Daily Mirror from 27 September 1956 shows that the Goons overtook the likes of Frankie Laine, Bill Haley, and even Elvis.
(Two of these songs featured on Goon Shows, performed by The Ray Ellington Quartet. 'Giddy-Up-A-Ding-Dong' by Freddy Bell and the Bellboys - number 16 here - featured on 'The Nadger Plague', the third episode of series seven, while 'Razzle Dazzle' by Bill Haley and the Comets featured in 'The Man Who Won The War', the first episode of series six.)
The song was also deemed popular enough to use in advertising for local music shops.
(advert in the West Sussex County Times, 28 September 1956)
Credited to The Goons with Maurice Ponké and His Orchestra Fromage, the song was written by Spike Milligan and produced by Marcel Stellman. Stellman was made a lifetime honorary member of the Goon Show Preservation Society because of his work on the Goons’ music. I wrote more about him last year.
The B-side was ‘Bloodnok’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Call’, written by Tony Carbone. I can find zero information about him online, except for his writing credits on several Goon songs. The official artist credit is Major Dennis Bloodnok, 43rd Deserters (retired), with Roland Rockcake and His Wholly Rollers, directed by Maestro Ponké.
The song has been released several times subsequent to 1956, including several comedy compilations. It appeared on a 1957 Australian EP It’s The Goons, which consists of both hit singles and their B-sides, and in 1973 it was reissued as a single backed with ‘I’m Walking Backwards For Christmas’, presumably seeking to capitalise on renewed Goon Show appetite following ‘The Last Goon Show Of All’ the previous year.
The record sleeve and disc label from the Australian EP It's The Goons from 1957.
Harry Secombe appears but doesn’t sing on these songs. At the time he was contracted to Phillips, while the Goons were on the Decca label, so he wasn’t allowed to sing on Goons releases, according to Mr Secombe himself speaking at a 1997 Goon Show Preservation Society event. (Thank you, Wikipedia.)
The Muppets covered 'The Ying Tong Song', obviously. I’m not quite sure when, as I can only find it on this YouTube video.
Judging by the comments underneath, ‘The Ying Tong Song’ isn’t included in Disney’s back catalogue of The Muppet Show available on Disney+ because they couldn’t get the licensing sorted. I’m yet to check this out to see whether it’s true.
Kermit refers to the song as being “gibberish”, but he evidently hadn’t been informed of the true roots of the phrase “ying-ting-iddle-i-po”.
The phrase reportedly emerged when Harry Secombe repeatedly mispronounced the name of Spike Milligan’s army friend Harry Edgington. Correcting Secombe’s “Edgerton”, Milligan apparently said “EdgINGTON, INGTON, YING-TON!” To which Secombe responded “iddle-i-po”.
The nearest thing I can get to a source for this is a poorly-copied version of an obituary for Edgington from a Goon Show message board, although Milligan mentions that Edgington was dubbed “Edge-Ying-Tong” in his war memoirs.
No one seems to know who provides the opening voice, or who the opera singer is. Answers on a bollard, please.
Oh go on then, here's the Goons' most successful hit single.