My mini-outbreak of musical mayhem continues with Spike Jones’s transatlantic legacy – one Terence Alan Patrick Sean Milligan who, disliking his first name, began to call himself Spike after hearing the City Slickers on Radio Luxemburg.
Further unacknowledged Wikipedia borrowings below, folks!
The “Ying Tong Song” (also known by its refrain, which is variously either “Ying Tong Diddle I Po” or “Ying Tong Yiddle I Po” rather than the oft-quoted but apparently absent “Ying Tong Iddle I Po”) was a novelty song performed by the Goons, usually led by Harry Secombe. Spike claimed he wrote the song as a bet with his brother that he could not get a song into the hit parade that had only two chords (in this case G and D7).
It is a nonsense song, consisting of small verses interspersed by a completely nonsensical chorus. The origin of the title is said to have come from Harry Secombe’s mispronunciation of the name of Milligan’s war-time friend and fellow jazz musician, Harry Edgington. When Secombe repeatedly called him “Edgerton”, Milligan replied, “it’s Edgington, Edgington” and emphasized the point by saying “Yington, Yington” Elsewhere, Milligan mentions that Edgington was often referred to as Edge-Ying-Tong.
Secombe spoke the lead vocals, accompanied by Spike and Peter Sellers who sang along as various Goon show characters – Bluebottle and Major Bloodnok, to name but two. Secombe had a glorious tenor voice but, as he was signed to Philips Records, did not sing on any of the Goons’ Decca recordings of the 1950s – including this song – only speaking his words. Their producer was one George Martin, whose work with the Goons was a massive attraction to the Beatles when they came to sign with him in 1962 …
Ah, these wheels within wheels of time! It’s hard to describe why all of this makes me feel so happy, though I suspect such feelings are shared by many other Brits of my generation. We grew up listening to this stuff, lying on the floor beside our Dansette record players and flipping the 45s – or were they 78s? – over and over. As I recall, the other side was “Bloodnok’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Call” with special guest appearance from the Major’s ‘childhood sweetheart, spotty Minnie Bannister’ …
Warning: if you play these songs back-to-back, you may require medical assistance!