Tag Archives: Parkinson

January 24th 1973

“Allen lent me a useless recording of the Goon Show + Parkinson” / “Listened to Moving Waves again – FUKIN  FANTASTIC” / “2nd (Day) Aniv of finding ‘istry book”

Poor old Allen. Does his best in lending me a recorded cassette of the show I spoke of a few weeks ago, and I pooh-pooh it.

Not, I suspect, because the contents were poor, more likely that the quality was sub-par, failing to meet my exacting criteria for recordings taken from a TV speaker!

Add that disappointment to another useless aside about my history book and a bad-spelled swear word and it all sums up what, on the face of it, feels like a very negative day for this particular teenager?


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December 30th 1972

Not much dun all day as car broke down on way to Dick Emery” / “Watched the Goons on Parkinson”

Looks like my folks had a torrid time getting to that show last night?

I did wonder if a diary entry would throw up the opportunity to write about The Goons?!

The Goon Show was a BBC radio comedy programme which entertained the UK  for most of the 50’s. However, its influence continues to pervade well over half a century later.

Created by (the world’s GREATEST comedian EVER) Spike Milligan, The Goon Show featured anarchic surreal comedy decades before anarchic surreal comedy became fashionable. Spike’s eccentric scripts – acted out by Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike himself – were ludicrous to the extreme, combining obtuse plots, puns, silly voices and daft sound effects.

The shows were VERY much the precursor to – and the primary influence behind – the likes of Peter Cook, Monty Python, The Firesign Theatre, The Young Ones… in fact almost all alternative comedy.

Spike created characters like Neddy Seagoon, Eccles, Bluebottle. Moriarty and more, whilst single-handedly inventing (IMHO) the “catchphrase”. Radio listeners would sit and wait for their favourite characterto utter things like “I ‘ave been deaded“, “You rotten swine you“, “We’ll all be murdered in our Beds” or (my favourite) “He’s fallen in the wah-ter

From 1951 until 1960, Spike and the gang banged out over 260 episodes. However, the pressure of writing, and then having to perform, all this material took its toll on Milligan who suffered from (what later came to be called) bipolar disorder. Thus consigning Spike to the seemingly never-ending list of “tortured comics” (see “Lenny Bruce“, “Bill Hicks” or “Mitch Hedberg“). Indeed, Spike was absent from the show for several months in 1954 after he attempted to murder Peter Sellers….. with a potato peeler!

The Goon Show ceased to be in 1960, but was repeated constantly on BBC radio. (Indeed, it is STILL repeated on BBC’s Radio 7!).

In 1972, to celebrate the BBC’s 50th anniversary, the troupe were persuaded to get back together for “The Last Goon Show of All“. Although far from the tightest or funniest of Millgan’s scripts it nevertheless serves as a suitable tribute to how bizarre The Goons were, even outside of their heyday. It was simulcasted as a BBC TV documentary… here seen in 5 segments (the funniest, I think, being Part 3)

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

As per my diary entry, the Goons obviously got together to promote the show on Michael Parkinson‘s popular TV chat show, although I can find no footage to substantiate that.

Years later – in 2001 to be precise – I had the extraordinary pleasure of meeting Spike in person. He was nearing the end of his time, very frail and weak, but still willing to travel the country to do instore meet & greets to promote his latest book “Treasure Island“.

I dutifully queued in line at the Southampton Waterstones to meet him and have him sign my copy of the book. When it was my turn to at the desk I told him “Mr Milligan, I’d like to shake your hand” and held mine out. He looked me in the eye and said “You don’t have anything do you” (referring to sicknesses or illnesses). I shook my head at which point he grabbed my hand with both of his – in a genuine friendly grasp – to which I simply mumbled “Thank you sincerely for all the laughter you’ve given me over the years”. He smiled. I smiled. I walked away.

I’m not normally phased by ‘stardom’ – always reminding myself that these people are just “people” – but on this occasion I felt genuinely starstruck and in awe of the presence I was in.

There are a million and one online sites dedicated to The Goons, but this one seems to be pretty comprehensive.

Finally, here’s the Goons’ novelty hit single “The Ying Tong Song” from 1956!…

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November 5th 1972

“not much dun at all. didn’t go to TIBS. watched royal command performance. rod hull + emu – ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha”

Man, my life was just PACKED with worldy experiences and excitement wasn’t it?

I’ve even started writing about the stuff I didn’t do. Jeez!

If my life was bad though, you have to feel far more sorry for the Queen Mother that day.

The Royal Command Performance, (or the Royal Variety Show) was a theatre tradition started back in 1912. King George V said he would happily attend a ‘commoners’ variety show once a year if all the monetary proceeds went to a charity fund he supported. It caught on. Back then the very cream of music hall acts lined up to perform in front of royalty.

By 1972, TV was the ‘entertainment’ king, resulting in HRH (this particular year, the Queen Mum) having to sit through (according to my research) Carol Channing, Los Diablos Del Bombo, Ken Dodd, The Jackson Five, Elton John, Jack Jones, Danny La Rue, Liberace, the cast from Till Death Us Do Part, Mike Yarwood and….. Rod Hull & Emu.

How do I describe Rod Hull & Emu to those who nothing about this *ahem* class act?

Hull was a cabaret artist who appeared with a silent arm-puppet of an aggressive emu. This emu would then attack other people in the audience or on stage. So, basically, our Rod would use the mouth of the emu to squeeze women’s breasts, punch men in the privates and strangle/choke people. (“Oh, how we laughed”)

Apparently this Royal Variety show performance was the very one that catapulted Rod Hull & Emu towards greater fame and success. The ‘pair’ of them eventually ended up appearing on Michael Parkinson’s chat show (the UK equivalent of The Johnny Carson Show) where this very famous attack on the host took place. Maybe that gives you an idea of what the ‘act’ was all about?

Thankfully Hull & Emu eventually fell off the public radar, until Hull went bankrupt and was again back in the news.

He went on the road again to disover he had a whole new set of fans(?) despite peddling exactly the same moronic act.

Channel 4’s “pop culture” show in the 1990’s, “The Word“, brought Rod Hull back to UK TV screens, daring to pair him and his arm-puppet on the same sofa as … Snoop Dogg.

Now, I’m sure Snoop has experienced some VERY weird things in his time – and imagined a whole lot more – but had his excesses truly prepared him for Emu?

You decide…..

I remain embarrassed and extremely apologetic that I (evidently) found Rod Hull & Emu funny when I was a 14 year old nipper. I consider myself these days to be a fan and aficionado of comedy. In retrospect therefore I can safely state that Rod Hull & Emu was really about as funny as a toothache.

There’s a certain irony to the fact that Rod Hull died in humorously tragic circumstances. He was up on the roof of his house attempting to adjust his TV aerial, trying to get a better picture of a Manchester United European quarter final tie against Inter Milan. He slipped and fell off the roof.

His death brought with it perhaps his finest contribution to the world of comedy. Namely, a succession of sick jokes by other comedians. The best of which is:-
Q: “What has 4 legs, sits in the corner and goes Sssshhhhhhhhhhhh?”
A: Rod Hull’s TV.


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