Starring: Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe

Written by Spike Milligan and Eric Sykes

Produced by Peter Elton

Reviewed by Ceri Laing


One of BBC Radio’s most influential shows, The Goon Show, ran for ten series during the 1950s. It featured the talents of Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe, and charted the adventures of Neddie Seagoon, Bluebottle, Eccles, Major Bloodnok, Henry and Minnie, Moriatry and Grytpype-Thynne and a whole host of other characters.

BBC Audiobooks (and its predecessors) have had regular releases of the show since the 1970s, usually of unrelated episodes. But this CD box set sees the beginning of an ongoing series of releases to form a Goon Show Compendium of episodes in as fully-restored quality as possible, and in broadcast order.

The set features the first thirteen episodes, which form the first half of the fifth series, originally broadcast between September and December 1954. Presumably this point has been picked to launch the Compendium as it is the earliest series where all its episodes exist in some form or other. But not only that, it features some of the most widely remembered episodes of the show's entire run. Over the course of these episodes you encounter the delights of the Dreaded Batter Pudding Hurler of Bexhill-on-Sea, reportage on Clapham’s last tram, the solving of the mystery of the Marie Celeste and (most infamously) the ravages of Lurgi on a unsuspecting British public.
All the episodes on the set are written by Spike Milligan, with Eric Sykes joining him on scripting duties on eight of the shows. Announcer extraordinaire Wallace Greenslade is in attendance throughout all the episodes making his regular contributions to the chaos, together with Max Geldray and Ray Ellington and his quartet providing the music breaks and additional mayhem. In addition 'The Man in Black', Valentine Dyall, makes one of his irregular guest appearances in one episode


The thirteen episodes are split over seven discs (two episodes per disc). Held in two double-CD jewel cases (4 discs in the first and 3 in the second), which are housed in a thin outer card covering. This is a distinct improvement in the completely card packaging of previous BBC Audiobooks series releases, such as Hancock’s Half Hour and Round the Horne.

All the episodes have been cleaned and restored as fully as possible by Ted Kendall. If anyone has caught the broadcasts on BBC7 the versions of the episodes included in the set differ though the restoration: improved sound quality (with background hiss and other imperfections removed) and more material. The episodes feature all the material available (more than previous releases) including run-outs, sourced from Broadcasting House recordings, BBC Sound Archives holdings, and Transcription Service issues. The episodes in the set and their runtimes (in minutes and seconds) are as follows:

1: The Whistling Spy Enigma   30:55

2: The Lost Gold Mine (of Charlotte)   31:37

3: The Dreaded Batter-Pudding Hurler (of Bexhill-on-Sea)   30:17

4: The Phantom Head Shaver (of Brighton)   31:44

5: The Affair of the Lone Banana  32:54

6: The Canal   30:55

7: Lurgi Strikes Britain! (a.k.a. Lurgi Strikes Again)   30:59

8: The Mystery of the Marie Celeste (Solved)   30:04

9: The Last Tram (from Clapham)   31:21

10: The Booted Gorilla (found?) [sic]   30:41

11: The Spanish Suitcase   30:29

12: Dishonoured or The Fall of Neddie Seagoon   30:40

13: Forog   30:20

All episodes are up Ted Kendall’s usual restoration standard, sounding clear and fine.
Disc 7 of the set also features some bonus features:

Me and My Shadows: Peter Sellers - originally broadcast in March 1954, is a starring piece for Peter Sellers in full Bluebottle mode taken from a domestic recording (so, not as sonically clear as it could be, but wonderful to have it existing and included in the box set). Runtime: 15:28

BBC 7 Eric Sykes Introductions – originally broadcast in 2005, a compilation of introductions by Sykes to four of his co-scripted episodes included on this set. Runtime: 5:06

Out-takes – taken from two episodes, where a dub of the original unedited episode exists. The Phantom Head Shaver (of Brighton) 2 items: 38(seconds), 10s and The Affair of the Lone Banana 3 items: 10s, 12s, 24s.

As if all that wasn’t enough there are two booklets included in the set. Andrew Pixley has provided detailed production notes in the first booklet and detailed episode information (including recording details, first broadcast and repeat details, ratings and Reaction Index data, full episode synopses taken from the scripts, and Max Geldray and Ray Ellington Quartet music details) in the second. Andrew’s work in this field is second to none and he doesn’t disappoint. Not only that but Ted Kendall has provided a Who’s Who of people referenced in the episodes whom modern listeners may not know, and also Technical Notes for the restoration detailing the source information for each episode and the bonus material. These are particularly interesting for the hardened Goon Show fan, or anyone interested in Ted’s restoration, and are a very welcome addition – long may they continue! The booklets are also illustrated with photographs and Radio Times episode listings and features. There is a fantastic wealth of information included here and really good that BBC Audiobooks recognise the value of including it by providing two booklets for the sets as opposed to the single one that has been the case for similar box set releases in the past.


So who will be interested in purchasing this set? Well, I would recommend this set to anyone with a passing interest in radio comedy or comedy in general. The Goon Show is a programme of great historical importance. It has bequeathed a legacy which has influenced every successive generation of comedy writers and performers since it was first broadcast fifty years ago. Not only that, this box set begins with the hundredth episode, by which time the show had become well-established and the characters had found their feet. Some of the funniest episodes of the entire run of the show are included; there are hours of entertainment in this set.

But what of the more serious Goon Show fan? This box set has been a long time coming, and many of the episodes included in the set have already been released on CD in recent years. For a fan like myself who bought the cassette releases in the late 80s and early 90s, but not the recent CD re-issues, this release is what I have been waiting for. Why should those fans that have been purchasing CD releases (which are now up to Volume 25) get this set? Well, the episodes have had further restoration done on them; they sound the best they have ever done, and feature more material. In addition there are episodes which haven’t been commercially released so far. Together with the bonus material - Goon Show out-takes! - and extensive production and episode details this is a very good package. There is very little more I would want.

This is a very good start to The Goon Show Compendium. As ever, Andrew Pixley, Ted Kendall and BBC Audiobooks deserve a lot of praise for this release. All the effort of everyone involved is clear in all aspects of the release, from the restoration of the episodes; the bonus material and the information contained within the booklets. I look forward to a completed Goon Show Compendium!

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