THE CHOKING HORROR

GOON SHOW: TLO 97297

6TH SERIES: No 22

BROADCAST: 14 Feb 1956 [1]

Script by: Spike Milligan

 

GREENSLADE: This is the BBC Home Service.

(Recites) There was a young lady of…

SEAGOON: Mister Greenslade! Not in front of the natives.

GREENSLADE: I’m sorry, sir.

SEAGOON: I should think so. What would John Snagge say? [2]

GREENSLADE: I… I’m sorry. I don’t what came over me.[3] It must be those elderly men’s ‘get fit’ hormones I’ve been taking.

SEAGOON: Well, just this once we’ll forget all about it. Now kindly remove that ostrich feather and get dressed.

GREENSLADE: Certainly. But first – here is the highly esteemed Goon Show.

ORCHESTRA: Thin chord. Cymbal snap.

SELLERS: (BBC 1 voice.) Ladies and Gentlemen, tonight we present a masterpiece. From the socks of Terence Rattigan,[4] we bring you a book originally scored for viola, harpsichord and E-flat Appian Way, entitled –

ORCHESTRA: Timpani roll. Hold under.

SELLERS: … “The Choking Horror.”

ORCHESTRA: Dramatic introduction.

GREENSLADE: London – the heart of a mighty empire of restrictive practices.[5] The year was M – X – M – D – C – X – X one-B one-one-one and a half. The place, nineteen thirteen. As usual England is on the verge of war with somebody or other. It is midnight.

GRAMS: Big Ben striking. Vary the speed.

FX: Urgent knocking at door.

SEAGOON: What! What? Dear listeners, at that knock I was awake instantly.

GRYTPYPE: He was sleeping in the doorway.

SEAGOON: That voice came from a tall cadaverous man wearing a watered-down, shredded bowler.

GRYTPYPE: Are you the strolling Home Office trichologist? [6]

SEAGOON: Yes, but I’ve got a puncture at the moment. [7]

MORIARTY: Sapristi, tubeless-tyre! – don’t joke.

SEAGOON: Needle nardle noo! [8]

MORIARTY: What! What! What! We’re from Scotland Yard. Are you Doctor Seajune?

SEAGOON: Yes – Seagoon, spelt with one G, two O’s and two I’s.

MORIARTY: Two I’s in ‘Seagoon?’

SEAGOON: Of course. How else could I see? (Full throated hilarity) HAHAHA! Ahem. How dare you force me to tell brilliant jokes at this time of night!

GRYTPYPE: I’m sorry sir. Here is an orchestration of an apology I’ll be sending you.

SEAGOON: Thank you, and here is a marble statue of my acceptance.[9] Now, what can I do for you gentlemen?

GRYTPYPE: Something terribly important has come up, sir.

SEAGOON: Oh?

GRYTPYPE: Yes, it could even mean war.

SEAGOON: War? Anyone we know?

GRYTPYPE: Look, I’m not allowed to divulge names sir. Now, will you come quietly – I’ve got a splitting headache.

SEAGOON: Certainly. I’ll just pack a few vital scientific instruments.

FX: Cutlery drawer shaken up.

SEAGOON: (You can’t be too careful.) Now, just a quick tune on the trampoline. Hup!...

FX: Duck whistle.

SEAGOON: Aaah! That’s better.

GRYTPYPE: Come sir, you’re wasting time and the wind’s in your favour. Now, if you’ll fall in on either side of me, I’ll follow you.

MORIARTY: And remember, you must walk backwards.[10]

SEAGOON: Why?

MORIARTY: It’s all the rage. ‘Allo!

SEAGOON: Dear listeners, I was taken to a dark car, blindfolded and left behind.

GRYTPYPE: That’s just a decoy. We follow in front in this small car with close set headlamps and a pronounced limp.

MORIARTY: Yes. Now hurry up – in you get.

SEAGOON: I can’t see with this blindfold.

MORIARTY: Don’t worry, I’ll tie your hands to the steering wheel.

SEAGOON: What! You want me to drive blindfolded?

MORIARTY: Only till we get there.

GRYTPYPE: Right Neddie, off you go. And don’t go over the traffic lights – they’re too high.

SEAGOON: Right. Hold tight!

GRAMS: Car driving off at high speed. Squeal of tyres. Huge crash, falling masonry, smashing glass, odds and ends falling.

SEAGOON: Well, here we are.

GRYTPYPE: Out you get.

SEAGOON: Just a minute! – exactly who are?

GRYTPYPE: I’m exactly Superintendent Grytpype-Thynne of Criminal Records.

SEAGOON: Got any of David Whitfield’s? [11]

GRYTPYPE: Lots. Listen…

FX: Record discs being smashed.

SEAGOON: That was beautiful.

GRYTPYPE: Yes.

SEAGOON: Thank you very much.

MORIARTY: Get off your knees. Time for fun later. Now first – do you recognise what we’re standing on?

SEAGOON: Feet!

MORIARTY: Correct! Now then monsieur, what are your feet resting on?

SEAGOON: (Sudden scouse.) The Tower Bridge.[12]

MORIARTY: (Whispers) Sapristi! He knows the name of the Tower Bridge.

GRYTPYPE: (Whispers) Well, we couldn’t keep it a secret forever. (Aloud) Doctor Seagoon, come over here by this stanchion – whatever that means.[13]

SEAGOON: Well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well?

GRYTPYPE: What is this stuff growing on the ironwork?

SEAGOON: Just hold the bridge up whilst I examine it.

CAST: (Various straining noises)

SEAGOON: Now… (Shock) GREAT SQUIRTS OF GRINGE!

ORCHESTRA: Dramatic chord.

SEAGOON: Dear listeners, through the cardboard lens of my kiddies junior microscope – (send six box-tops of ‘Footo’ the athlete’s friend,) through it I saw on the ironwork of Tower Bridge a strange follicular growth – (whatever that means.)

MORIARTY: Well, well, well, well! What does it mean?

SEAGOON: Gentlemen, I’d rather not say until I’ve made my laboratory tests on my dictionary.

GRYTPYPE: You’ll be taking away portions of the bridge then?

SEAGOON: May I?

GRYTPYPE: Have any bit you fancy.

SEAGOON: Oh right. How about that blonde policewoman sunbathing on top of the Black Maria?

GRYTPYPE: I’m sorry – she’s just for recruiting purposes.[14]

MORIARTY: I say, stop that naughty-type police joking! We must find out what this is growing on the bridge. Sergeant Yakkabakkaka, wrap up that forty-foot span and one of the towers and post it at once to Doctor Seagoon’s laboratory.

SEAGOON: I’ll post it for you – I’m going that way. I’ll let you have my report within the millennium. Farewell!

GRAMS: Pair of feet running off into distance. Gradually speed up.

ORCHESTRA: Dramatic link.

GREENSLADE: For three days Doctor Seagoon awaited the arrival of the Tower Bridge portions, during which time Max Geldray played a lead knee gavel from the crouch.

 

MAX GELDRAY – “ ‘S Wonderful” [15]

 

ORCHESTRA: Dramatic introduction.

GRAMS: Liquid bubbling in cauldron.

GREENSLADE: ‘The Choking Horror’, part two. Working through the night in his laboratory, Doctor Seagoon made a startling discovery.

SEAGOON: Good heavens! – I’ve got egg on my lapel. William, pass the salt.

WILLIUM: Right mate.

FX: Salt cellar smashing.

SEAGOON: Ooh! Thank you. Now… (Rapid eating then swallowing) Ah! What the devil can have happened to the parcel of Tower Bridge portions? I posted it to this address three days ago. I wonder what’s holding it up?

FX: Door opens.

ECCLES: Hullo.

SEAGOON: Pipe down Eccles!

ECCLES: Pipe down, my foot!

SEAGOON: That’s a funny place to keep a pipe.

ECCLES: Ha ha ha ha ha hah! Ha ha ha ha ha haom! Ha ha ha ha ha…

SEAGOON: Shut up Eccles.

ECCLES: Shut up Eccles! (Extended) Ohh, wait a minute. You can’t talk to me like that. Do you know who I am?

SEAGOON: No I don’t…

ECCLES: Shut up! I’ll have you know, I’m the financial advisor to the British Government.

SEAGOON: I thought it must be somebody like you. Now, state your business.

ECCLES: I got a parcel for you.

SEAGOON: It’s the Tower Bridge portions. Quick – unwrap it!

FX: Tearing of wrapping paper. Continue under.

BOTH: (Unwrapping parcel improv.)

FX: Pipe dropped onto hard surface.

ECCLES: Ooh! You dropped this.

SEAGOON: I’m always dropping them. Now get this girder under the microscope.

BOTH: (Straining noises)

SEAGOON: Right! Now to scrutinise it with an intense scrute. Mmmm… (Sudden horror) GREAT LEAPING CRABS!

ORCHESTRA: Dramatic chord.

SEAGOON: Dear listeners, as I examined the portions of the Tower Bridge, I observed that the strange follicular growth had increased in length.

WILLIUM: It looks like hair, mate.

SEAGOON: It feels like hair.

ECCLES: It tastes like hair.

SEAGOON: Spit that girder out at once!

FX: Metal pipe on anvil.

WILLIUM: (Pain) AWWWH! My foot, mate!

SEAGOON: Silence. Here, put on this record of a bandage.[16]

FX: Knocking at door.

SEAGOON: Eccles, for heaven’s sake answer that phone.

FX: Doorknob rattling.

ECCLES: Hallo.

GRYTPYPE: (On phone) Is that Hurl-Groin, nine-tocks yain-foon-ting?

ECCLES: Um, yeah.

GRYTPYPE: (On phone) Doctor Seagoon?

ECCLES: It’s for you.

SEAGOON: Give it to me.

FX: Doorknob rattling.

SEAGOON: Hello, Inspector? That stuff growing on Tower Bridge

GRYTPYPE: (On phone) Yes?

SEAGOON: I think it’s hair.

GRYTPYPE: (On phone) Hair? Good heavens!

SEAGOON: Hallo?

FX: Doorknob rattling urgently.

SEAGOON: Hallo? Hallo-hallo-hallo? Curse, he’s hung up.

FX: Door slams. Phone rings.

SEAGOON: (Calls out) Come in!

FX: Receiver being picked up.

MORIARTY: (Approaching) Ah, now then – what’s this we hear about hair?

GRYTPYPE: It’s true, isn’t it Doctor?

SEAGOON: Well, I’m not so sure, but I know the very man to consult. Bring that girder and FOLLOW ME!

GRAMS: Boots running off at speed. Fade into distance.

ORCHESTRA: Dramatic link.

FX: Scissors snipping.

CRUN: (Approaching) Oh dear, dear, dear. Oh dear… ‘The Choking Horror’ part three.

BANNISTER: Never you mind about that Henry. Concentrate on the vital hair-cutting type customer, Henry.

CRUN: Mmk. Mmk…[17] Don’t get a paddy on Min.[18]

BANNISTER: I’m not getting in a paddy.

CRUN: Now don’t start that, just hand me the curling tongs.

BANNISTER: Ok. Here they are.

CRUN: (Agonised scream) ARGHH! (Normal) Thank you Min. Now, some more kiss-curls here… And another one there… A blonde streak in the front… Now I’ll just tie it in a horses tail at the back. There, Min! – how do you like that?

BANNISTER: It doesn’t suit you, Henry.

CRUN: It’s no good Min. Let’s face it – business is bad, you know. There’s no power.[19] Three customers this morning and two of them were bald.

BANNISTER: Two out of three isn’t bad, Henry.

CRUN: They were women, though. We’d have lost money if it weren’t for them needing a shave, you know. I’ll tell you Min, you… (his attention wanders) oiye oiye oowah… Min, Minnie – stop that sinful Marilyn-Monroe-type walking.

BANNISTER: I’m missing you already Larry. Get this crazy melody, Crun.

     (Singing and stomping) Yim bunda dippatta pon yim di pa pahl,

Yi dum pappah doh! (She raves and stomps in rhythm.)

CRUN: (Overheating) Stop that sinful modern singing Min! You’re driving Meese mad with that sensuous valeta you’re doing.

BANNISTER: You’re corny, buddy!

                  (singing) Red hot rhythm,

          Red hot rhythm,

          Yia brr-yiaah, brown power![20]

FX: Door opens.

SEAGOON: Mister Crun, back to your own bed! Miss Bannister, remove that feather duster and get dressed.

MORIARTY: Let me do the talking. Mister Crun, you see this girder? Tell us, what is this peculiar growth on it?

CRUN: Oh, that is… um, hair.

SEAGOON: Nonsense! It’s hair.

GRYTPYPE: (Close) Moriarty, come over here behind this horse. Not that end…

MORIARTY: Oo! Too late. Now, what is it?

GRYTPYPE: What is it? My dear fellow, the chemical composition of Tower Bridge is such that it can grow hair.

MORIARTY: Well?

GRYTPYPE: Well don’t you see? – if we only grind Tower Bridge into a paste, pack it into handy two-ounce jars, we could make a fortune selling it to…

MORIARTY: Bald headed men.

GRYTPYPE: There’s a clever idiot.

MORIARTY: Yes, that’s it! Bald headed men will do. Oh, earn me something. The money – the money! (Frenzied) Ooow, the money – money-money-money-money-money! (Raves)

GRYTPYPE: Stop that filling-in-time type dialogue. Now, tonight I’ve arranged for Tower Bridge to be secretly removed and replaced by a life sized photograph.

MORIARTY: Brilliant! They’ll never notice the difference.

GRYTPYPE: Of course.

MORIARTY & GRYTPYPE: (In a fiscal frenzy) The moolah! The brown moolah! &c

MORIARTY: The Tower Bridge nut-paste company for bald headed men!

ORCHESTRA: Badly played music hall link. Cymbal snap on end.

GREENSLADE: Thank you. And now, here is a record of Wallace Greenslade.

GRAMS: Needle on gramophone. Hiss of surface noise.

GREENSLADE: (Over, with desk reverb) Good evening. “The Choking Horror”, part four. Three months have passed…

MORIARTY: Take that record off at once!

GRAMS: Hiss stops.

MORIARTY: Did you hear what he said? Three months have passed!

FX: Door opens.

SEAGOON: Gentlemen! – amazing news…

MORIARTY: It’s a gentlemen with amazing news.

GRYTPYPE: Doctor Seagoon! What’s up?

SEAGOON: (Panting) …I’m exhausted.

MORIARTY: Here – have a chair.

SEAGOON: (Swallows. Frantic chewing) Ah, that’s better! Now listen – London is in the grip of a choking horror. Hair is starting to grow on monuments and buildings.

MORIARTY: What? Sapristi-choking-horror-part-six!

SEAGOON: Thank you, part-hair. We must inform Parliament of this choking horror, pausing only to hear Ray Ellington strumming E-flat Appian Way with coelacanth ear-mute.[21]

 

RAY ELLINGTON QUARTET “Cloudburst” [22]

 

ORCHESTRA: Dramatic introduction.

OMNES: (Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb &c)

SEAGOON: (Addressing Parliament) Yes, Honourable Members of Parliament – well may you murmur rhubarb in “Choking Horror” part six, but it doesn’t alter the fact that in the past ten months the following buildings have also been declared hairy; The National Gallery; Saint Paul’s; Nelson’s Column; The Windmill Theatre!

OMNES: (Pandemonium – rhubarb and custard.)

SPRIGGS: I tell you – please Honourable Members, (silence please) – we must take action AT ONCE!

BLOODNOK: I agree. I agree! The Albert Hall is a dreadful sight. Its hair is hanging down its back.[23]

BANNISTER: That’s nothing. Graham Sutherland’s portrait of Sir Winston Churchill is completely hidden.[24]

CHURCHILL: Thank heaven’s for that.

SEAGOON: Have no fear. I have taken action. I’m commencing by having the Albert Hall’s hair cut with Mister Crun supervising.

CRUN: Yes – I’m going to give it a real military haircut.

SPRIGGS: Military? The Albert Hall is a civilian, sir.

CRUN: What?

SPRIGGS: It’s a civilian. Its hair should be parted in the middle, well greased and brushed down on either side.

CRUN: No, no! That style is much too young for the Albert Hall.

(They argue)

FX: Quick series of loud gavels on bench.

MP: (Indian war-whoops.)

SEAGOON: Silence! The Honourable Minister for War is trying to attract attention.

NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN: [25] Yes, yes. I’m… I’m sorry to interrupt, but I’ve had a letter from Berlin I think you all should hear. Er… (reads) “Gasometer reads…” Oh no, that’s not it. “Dear England. As from midnight tonight, nineteen-fourteen, a state of war exists between us. Yours sincerely, Germany.” Yes – I think that’s right.

(Slight pause.)

SEAGOON: (Disinterested) Yes. Now, about this hair style for the Albert Hall. How about a fringe?

BANNISTER: No, no buddy! It wouldn’t be able to see where it was going – and… Oooh! Did you say we were at war, young man?

CHAMBERLIAN: Er, yes.

BANNISTER: I’d better go and get the smalls in at once.[26]

CHURCHILL: Better not let Antony see you doing that.[27]

OMNES: Murmurings.

GREENSLADE: Three weeks passed, and the House was informed of startling-type news.

CRUN: (Approaching) Honourable Members, startling type news of the hairy situation. SAINT PAUL’S IS GOING BALD!

BLOODNOK: This is terrible! We can’t have Saint Paul’s going round with a bald head.

SEAGOON: I concur. The solution is obvious – it must be fitted with a wig.

CRUN: Never! A wig on England’s finest dome? No sir, never! St. Paul’s will have to wear a trilby, sir.

SEAGOON: Of course – a hat. What size does it take?

SPRIGGS: (Distant) A hundred and four and three eighths.

BLOODNOK: Wickets!

ORCHESTRA: Patriotic link.

GREENSLADE: The war passed into its second year.

ECCLES & CAST: (Singing) “Happy birthday to you,

                           Happy birthday to…”

GREENSLADE: Would you shut up, Eccles!

ECCLES: Shut up!

CAST: (Improv. on ‘Shut up Eccles!’) [28]

GREENSLADE: The war passed into its second year and a sad state of affairs existed.

SEAGOON: Yes, one by one the hairy buildings have gone prematurely grey.

GRYTPYPE: Obviously it’s the worry of these naughty zeppelin raids by that fiend Count Zeppelin.[29]

SEAGOON: Exactly. For that reason we have called in Lance Captain Hugh Jampton.

JAMPTON:[30] Thank you sir. (Just hold this globe of England.) Gentlemen, the secret service has discovered the reason for our hairy buildings. Just before the war, German saboteurs painted them with a secret hair-growing paint which turns silver-grey.

MORIARTY: Sapristi, Kenneth Horne! [31] So that’s why the zeppelins have been able to bomb them in the dark!

JAMPTON: Exactly. But we foiled their little plan with an ingenious counter-move. Gentlemen, every grey haired building is now wearing a bowler hat.

SEAGOON: Brilliant! I must inspect these bowlers at once. Captain, get in your car and follow me.

GRAMS: Pair of boots running away at speed. Car starts off while boots speed up into the distance.

GRYTPYPE: Wait! Silly boy, he’s left his E-flat Appian way behind.

MORIARTY: Never mind. He’s got the band parts of the great North Road.

FX: Phone ringing.

MORIARTY: That phone ringing! Hand me a gun…

GRYTPYPE: Why?

MORIARTY: It’s ringing in German!

FX: Phone up.

MORIARTY: Hands up, in German.

EIDELBURGER: (On phone) Drop that gun, in English. Now listen, I am Justin Eidelburger.

MORIARTY: The famous German spy?

EIDELBURGER: (On phone) Thank you for telling the listeners. Now, remove that ostrich feather from behind your ear-hole and listen. Ten thousand Polynesian roubles or a statue of Diana Dors in cash, if you remove those bowler hats tonight.[32]

MORIARTY: No, no! But I tell you what – we’ll do it for a thousand gallons of that secret hair growing paint of yours.

EIDELBURGER: (On phone) Agreed. You’ll find a large thousand gallon tank of it hidden under a bush on the Air Ministry roof.

MORIARTY: Done!

EIDELBURGER: (On phone) You certainly have been.

MORIARTY: Now listen, I promise we’ll remove every bowler hat from the grey haired buildings immediately.

EIDELBURGER: (On phone) Excellent, geblungen. These are the ones we bomb tonight!

ORCHESTRA: Dramatic Wehrmacht link.

GREENSLADE: ‘The Choking Horror’, part the plinge. The Air Ministry roof.

GRAMS: Gradually fade in distant zeppelin engines.

SEAGOON: We’ll watch the raid from here. How do you like being a fire watcher?

BLUEBOTTLE: It’s a smashing game, Captain. I will defend England till the last tram goes. Sucks peppermint.

GRAMS: Swell noise of zeppelins.

BLUEBOTTLE: ‘Ere, what is that sound?

SEAGOON: They’re zeppelins coming to destroy London.

BLUEBOTTLE: I don’t like this game. I’m frightened – look, my legs have gone green.

SEAGOON: Fear not, little defender. You’ll be safe in that thousand-gallon tank over there.

BLUEBOTTLE: Ooo! Thank you.

GRAMS: Running footsteps. Pause – splash.

BLUEBOTTLE: You rotten swine you! It’s full of smelly type drowning paint. I’ll get into trouble – I got my mum’s best bloomers on.

SEAGOON: Good heavens! Eccles, open that stop-cock.

ECCLES: Right cock.

GRAMS: Liquid going down drainpipes.

SEAGOON: Ah, there! That’ll drain it all out. Bluebottle, grab my hand – quickly!

CAST: (Straining noises)

BLUEBOTTLE: Oh, thank you. Ohhh – look! I’ve got dirty great long grey hairs growing all over me. I’m getting all hairy!

SEAGOON: Think of the girls…

(Singing) “They’ll be wild about hairy…”[33]

BLUEBOTTLE: Look, it’s growing longer.

ECCLES: Oh – here, here, here! And this grey hair, it’s growing all over the building too.

BLUEBOTTLE: Copycat building!

SEAGOON: Wait… Grey hair growing on the building? RUN FOR IT!

GRAMS: Three fast whooshes. Swell recording of zeppelins.

FX: Creaky trapdoor opening. Falls into place.

GRYTPYPE: Come, frog-eater – up through this trap-door.

MORIARTY & GRYTPYPE: (Straining)

MORIARTY: Look! There’s the thousand gallon tank. We’re going to be rich!

MORIARTY & GRYTPYPE: (Joint fiscal hysteria.)

MORIARTY: Wait – ooh ooh oohw! Look, this building is covered in… grey hair, and there’s a zeppelin right overhead.

GRYTPYPE: And we haven’t removed the bowler hats from the other buildings, have we?

MORIARTY: (Small) No.

GRAMS: Whistle of falling bombs. String it out under dialogue.

GRYTPYPE: Then Moriarty, we’re standing on the only grey haired building visible from the air.

MORIARTY: (In tears) Yes.

GRYTPYPE: Shall we dance?

GRAMS: Cut in recording of Victor Silvester foxtrot – Oscar Grasso on violin solo.[34]

GRYTPYPE: Do you come here often?

MORIARTY: Only during air-raids.

GRAMS: Bring up sound of falling bombs. Enormous explosion. Falling rubble.

SEAGOON: And so perish all enemies of the King!

ORCHESTRA: Chord in C.

GREENSLADE: Of course, that was forty years ago. Those years of wearing tight bowlers caused premature baldness in the buildings, and if you don’t believe us, go and see St. Pauls today – it hasn’t got a hair on its head. Goodnight.

ORCHESTRA: End theme.

GREENSLADE: That was the Goon Show, a BBC recorded programme featuring Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan, with the Ray Ellington Quartet and Max Geldray. The Orchestra was conducted by Bruce Campbell,[35] script by Spike Milligan and Larry Stephens, announcer Wallace Greenslade. The programme produced by Pat Dixon.

ORCHESTRA: Playout.

 

YTI



[1] On a particularly cold, damp Friday in December 1952, a band of high pressure settled over London, trapping the freezing, pollution soaked air beneath and holding it in place throughout the city. Londoners immediately stoked up their fires with household grade coal, an inferior product, heavy with dust. With the thousands of tonnes of smoke belching from domestic fireplaces was added a lethal mixture of smog from coal-fired factories, diesel fumes from vehicles and clouds of pollution from industries further along the Thames. The result was a sticky, viscous, pea-soup fog of carbon dioxide, hydrochloric acid, sulphuric acid and sulphur dioxide which killed 4,000 inhabitants before the month was out. Gradually the metropolis shut down; visibility went down to less than 1 foot; public transport stopped running; children walked to school in crocodile-lines holding onto one another’s waists; the city was reduced to an eerie silence. Then the accidents started. Motor vehicles collided; buses stopped mid-street; pedestrians were killed; suffocating citizens presented themselves at emergency departments, their lips blue from  lack of oxygen. Londoners described the fog as hanging in great tendrils from buildings, gathering in swirls around corners, and muffling the landmarks in great choking coats of an unhealthy moist, oily, dark orange.

The sight of monuments and buildings draped in dank, foggy tendrils seems to have been the inspiration for Spike’s script regarding long hair on buildings. Like “Forog” (13/5th) he plays the story as a fiendish scheme by secret agents – a typical device of the paranoid, cold-war obsessed ‘50’s.
The British Government, reticent at first to act, was propelled into action by threats from  its backbenchers and during the coming year passed the first truly environmental act of Parliament – “The Clean Air Act”.

 

[2] John Derrick Mordaunt Snagge OBE (1904-1996), a long time BBC newsreader and commentator. He played a major role in persuading the Corporation to take an interest in the Goon Show, and was an ardent – and very necessary supporter of the show behind the scenes during Milligan’s frequent clashes with the Broadcaster.

 

[3] Secombe interjects “Where?”

 

[4] Terence Rattigan (1911-1977), British dramatist. His latest play, “Separate Tables” had premiered at the St James’ Theatre in 1954. Rattigan was connected to Milligan through his friendship with a junior officer in Spike’s regiment, Lieutenant Tony Goldsmith, who was killed in fighting in North Africa. Milligan’s emotional reaction to his death is described on p.170 of “Rommel? Gunner Who?” (1974)

 

[5] This was current affairs. The Lord Chancellor, Viscount Kilmuir, had recently established a senior court of record to control monopolistic agreements and foster competition through enforcement of the new Restrictive Trade Practices Act 1956.

 

[6] Trichology is the study of hair and its diseases.

 

[7] This gag, which doesn’t quite make its effect, is a play on the first syllable of both ‘trichologist’ and ‘tricycle’.

 

[8]Needle nardle noo” is one of many catch phrases that Milligan tried out in the Goon Show. Strangely, it is not often realised in how few series this line was actually used. Spike used the phrase mostly in the 6th series (22 episodes out of  27) and in the 7th series, (in 8 episodes out of 25.) The phrase makes one more appearance in the 8th series:

                              MILLIGAN: A message has just come through for you on the gramophone.
BLOODNOK: Then play it on this needle nardle noo.
(“The White Neddie Trade” 919/8th)

 

[9] Transference of value. Orchestration is a tricky art; an apology is a tricky art – therefore, because the values are the same, the objects are interchangeable. A statue is a gracious, enduring, artistic expression, festooned with filaments of modesty; the acceptance of  an apology is a gracious, enduring, artistic expression, festooned with filaments of modesty  – therefore the objects can be interchanged.

 

[10]I’m Walking Backwards For Christmas” (Milligan 1955) was first performed on Seller’s edition of ‘The Listening Room’ (Dec 1955) and first fully performed in the ‘Goon Show’ in ‘The Great Tuscan Salami Scandal’ (Feb 1956).  It was recorded three months later in May of 1956. The recording was eventually released in the following August for Decca (DECCA F. 10756 – along with ‘The Bluebottle Blues.’)

 

[11] David Whitfield, (1925-1980) popular British vocalist. The first UK male vocalist to earn a gold disc, and the first British artist to sell over one million records in the USA, his musical style was a mixture of popular and classic. He was in direct competition with Secombe as they mostly sang the same material.

[12] The Tower Bridge – often mistakenly called London Bridge, was one of the last of London’s famous landmarks to be built. Due to the dramatic growth in cross Thames traffic and river shipping during the 19th century, petitions were brought before the government to commission the building of a new bridge in the 1870’s.

 

[13] To be clear about it, a stanchion is an upright bar, post or rod, providing support for some other object.

 

[14] At the time of this broadcast the Metropolitan Police Service was suffering serious understaffing problems, with the force, consisting of only 16,000,  needing at least 4,000 more constables to carry out its duties. In March of 1955 the Government announced that every effort was being made to encourage recruitment – advertising was conducted on a substantial scale, lectures were giving about the Police Service at schools, Military Depots and youth societies, and the building of flats for Police families pressed forward.

 

[15]’S Wonderful” was written by George and Ira Gershwin for the show ‘Funny Face’ which opened on Broadway in 1927. Gene Kelly sang a version of the song in the film “An American in Paris” in 1951, while the song itself was frequently covered by such names as Sarah Vaughan, Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald etc.

 

[16] This line, and the following exchange involving a door and a phone, are examples of Milligan’s comic invention ‘transference of utility’, one of three ‘transference’ techniques he used in the Goon Show. The technique simply meant transferring the action of one mechanism to another, and having the cast use the latter mechanism in the same way they would normally use the former. The reason transference works as a concept is that Milligan was careful to use mechanisms which had a link in common – Milligan’s ‘assumed commonality’ factor. Here, Milligan conceives the idea that if the rattle of a machine announces a caller, therefore any version of this is sufficient – so the rattle of a door knob and the rattle of a telephone bell are exchanged.

 

[17] Milligan appears to add, “You nicked him,” while Sellers starts the next part of his line.

 

[18] A ‘paddy” is a fit of temper.

 

[19] Milligan developed a fixation with the word ‘brown’ around this period of the 6th series. It has all the appearance of being either an ‘in’ joke with the cast, or code for something. Some of the other strange uses of it are:

BANNISTER: Oh! What room are we going to put them in, Crun?

CRUN: What about the power room?

&

DR LONGDONGLE: Needle nardle noo! (Self-fade) More brown power!

&

MORIARTY: (Distant - screaming) Aaaw yeiooror, brown power…

(“The House of Teeth” – 20/6th)

 

 

 

[20] Despite Minnie’s less-than-perfect rendition, it seems that she is performing the title song of the 1929 movie “Red Hot Rhythm.” The songs by Walter O’Keefe and Robert (Bobby) Dolan, were reviewed as “weak” and the dancing of the chorus girls dressed as human flames, was labelled “of no value.” 

[21] Secombe slightly tangles himself at the end of the line and says “ear-moot.” A Coelacanth was big news at the time. Believed extinct since the Cretaceous period, living specimens were discovered off the coast of East Africa in 1938. In searching for a second specimen in 1952, the South Africans and French almost ignited an international incident, but the crucial specimen was finally located in December of that year. A book describing the search – “Old Fourlegs” was published in 1956.

 

[22] Written by Hendricks and Ross sometime in 1955. They went on to form the jazz vocalist group ‘Lambert, Hendricks & Ross’ active between 1957 – 1960. The premier jazz vocal act of all time, the group revolutionized vocal music during the late '50s and early '60s by turning away from the increasingly crossover slant of the pop world to embrace the sheer musicianship inherent in vocal jazz. Applying the concepts of bop harmonies to swinging vocal music, the trio transformed dozens of instrumental jazz classics into their own songs, taking scat solos and trading off licks and riffs in precisely the same fashion as their favorite improvising musicians. Vocal arranger Dave Lambert wrote dense clusters of vocal lines, Jon Hendricks wrote clever, witty lyrics to jazz standards like "Summertime," "Moanin'," and "Twisted," while Annie Ross proved to be one of the strongest, most dexterous female voices in the history of jazz vocals. Together ‘Lambert, Hendricks & Ross’ paved the way for vocal groups like ‘Manhattan Transfer’ while earning respect from vocalists and jazz musicians alike.

 

[23] Suspected edit here. The audience laughter occurs unusually promptly as if the end of the line has been truncated.

 

[24] Graham Sutherland (1903-1980) – not ‘Sunderland’ as Minnie pronounces it, painted a portrait of Sir Winston Churchill in 1954. He gifted the painting to the Churchill family. Lady Clementine hated the work intensely, and eventually had it destroyed. Studies for the original still exist.

[25] I admit that my naming of this character is an assumption, but based on the following gently naďve speech, I think it is reasonable to conjecture that Spike had this famous figure in mind when he wrote these lines. The voice Peter uses is remarkably similar to Chamberlain’s in the 1939 newsreel of the Berlin Peace announcement – almost school boyish, medially pitched and innocently enthusiastic. Sellers must have rather liked it, as he used it again the following week for the manager of the London Zoo in “The Tuscan Salami Scandal.” (23/6th)  What also makes this speech poignant, and further evidence of an intentional spoof on Neville Chamberlain, is that it contains a line that Spike (along with the whole of the Commonwealth) had heard him pronounce on September 3rd 1939, when he haltingly announced to the world that Britain was at war with Germany.

 

[26] This line appeared 14 years later on the first page of ‘The War Memoirs’ Book 1, as part of Milligan’s description of his mothers reaction to the declaration of war. It is both a comic, memorable and a poignantly resonant line, tying the Goon Show firmly to the War Memoirs. Further, it indicates that there was a strong resemblance between Minnie and Henry, and Spike’s mother and father. The Goon Show was, for Milligan, a preparatory study for the revelations of the War Memoirs.

For foreign readers, ‘smalls’ is the English word for the unmentionable small pieces of washing which hang on a laundry line - like undergarments.

 

[27] This odd line is one of two times that Milligan makes mention of the Prime Minister’s washing. (The other is in ‘The Great British Revolution’ - 12/8th. “Come on out Mr. Prime Minister. We know you’re in there! We’ve seen your washing on the line.”)  The incident it refers to involves Lady Avon, (the wife of the Prime Minister Antony Eden,) who had requested a cottager on the estate of Chequers (the Prime Ministerial country estate) to hang her washing out of view of estate visitors. The story was taken up by the Daily Mirror in January 1956, and was reported as an example of Lady Avon’s (and by association Eden himself) alleged high handedness. The escalating Suez crisis eventually proved the journalists right as Eden’s own political dirty washing was soon to be dragged out, putting him on the nose with the electorate – an electorate which had recently voted him and the conservative party, back into power with the biggest majority in post-war history.

 

[28] Milligan finishes off by saying, “Go on, go and tell John Snagge!”

 

[29] A frequent Milligan fixation was zeppelins. Zeppelins were hydrogen filled, rigid airships developed at the beginning of the 20th Century by the German inventor Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin. The Germans deployed their technology during WWI against the British, commencing with raids on mainland Britain in 1915 and continued sporadically until the end of the war. They caused much terror but did little damage. They were a prelude to the vicious bombing raids on England by the Luftwaffe in WWII, through which most members of the audience had lived.

 

[30] Sellers. Hugh Jampton is rhyming slang for a penis. (Hugh Jampton = Huge Hampton = Hampton wick  = dick.)

 

[31] Kenneth Horne, (1907-1969) - an English comedian and businessman. He was famously bald.

[32] Diana Mary Fluck (1931-1984) was a British actress known as the British ‘Marilyn Monroe.’ Her assets were fully appreciated by a generation of men in the 1950’s and her fitful career included a 1960 LP entitled ‘Swinging Dors’ conducted by Wally Stott.

[33]I’m Just Wild About Harry” (Sissle and Blake – 1921) was the most popular number in the first African-American show on Broadway “Shuffle Along”. Sinking into obscurity thereafter, the number was resurrected by the Presidential nominee Harry S. Truman in 1948 as his campaign song, and recorded soon after by Al Jolson, shooting it again to fame. Secombe considered it his signature tune, singing it many times, and using it as an introduction to his stage act.

 

[34] Victor Silvester (1900-1978) was an English bandleader, and one of the most significant figures in the development of ballroom dancing during the first half of the 20th century. His vacuous, unadventurous style was much loved by the establishment, but loathed as insipid and twee by the newly “with-it” hip generation of post-war Britain.

 

[35] Campbell was a Trombonist. He played for many of the big bands of the ‘30’s and 40’s, often with George Chisholm. He did a stint in the Jack Hylton band for a while. Around the time of this programme he took over leadership of the R.A.F. band (The Squadronaires) after Jimmy Miller left. Wally Stott was a regular arranger for the band.