On this day in history….30th June 1956

On this day in history : 30th June 1956 – ‘I’m Walking Backwards for Christmas’ by the Goons enters the British music charts – six months after Christmas….

The Goons – Fair use

During the 1950s the BBC was one of the biggest employers of musicians – but it also played contemporary music in the form of records…. At the same time new technology had arrived making it possible to pre-record programmes, rather than everything going out live…. In early 1956 negotiations began between the BBC, the copyright licensing organisation Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) and the Musicians’ Union – who wanted restricted recorded music…. However, talks broke down resulting in the 1956 Musicians’ Strike….

Radio comedy shows of the time, of which the Goon Show was one, had their roots in the old music hall performances – and so their format was expected to have musical breaks…. One episode of the Goon Show that was recorded during the Musicians’ Strike was episode 13 of series 6, ‘The Great Tuscan Salami Scandal’ in February 1956…. The plot involved Ned Seagoon attempting to prevent a war with the other side of the Spaghetti Curtain by tracking down the missing breeding pair of ground-to-ground salami missiles that had been fitted with war heads….

With no professional musicians available something had to be done to fill the void that should have contained a musical interlude…. So to prevent radio-silence Spike Milligan quickly composed a song, which he then performed accompanied by Peter Sellars….

The original song was only about 50 seconds long but proved extremely popular with the audience and the Goon team realised they could be on to something….

Image : Pinterest

After signing with Decca in the Spring of 1956 the song was revamped and added to – and then quickly released so it could be got into the shops…. It reached No.4 in the UK charts – and was also released in the States – but was not received with the same enthusiasm (not everyone gets British humour)….

I’m walking backwards for Christmas,
Across the Irish Sea,
I’m walking backwards for Christmas,
It’s the only thing for me....

Ive tried walking sideways,
And walking to the front,
But people just look at me,
And say it’s a publicity stunt....

I’m walking backwards for Christmas,
To prove that I love you....

On this day in history….11th April 2001

On this day in history : 11th April 2001 – The death of much loved Welsh-English actor, comedian, writer and singer Sir Harry Secombe….

Harry Secombe – Fair use

Harry Donald Secombe was born in St. Thomas, Swansea on the 8th of September 1921; he was the son of a shop manageress and a grocer…. He went to a state grammar school from the age of 11…. Being a religious family (his brother, Fred, was to become a clergyman) Harry attended Church regularly and sang in the church choir…. On leaving school he considered a career as an opera singer….however, in 1937 he became a pay clerk in a shop….

He was to join the Territorial Army – and then during world War 2 he served in the North African Campaign, Sicily and Italy, as a Lance Bombardier with No.132 Field Regiment…. It was whilst in North Africa that he was first to meet Spike Milligan….

Harry joined the concert party in Sicily, performing comedy routines to entertain the troops….and after the War he was to team up with Spike as a comedy duo…. In 1946 he became one of the comics at London’s Windmill Theatre…. His radio break came when he was made resident comedian on the BBC Welsh programme ‘Welsh Rarebit’ – and he went on to make regular contributions to the popular show ‘Educating Archie’….

He was to meet fellow comedian Michael Bentine and along with Spike they were introduced to Peter Sellers…. This was to lead to a collaboration for a radio comedy programme entitled ’Crazy People’….which changed its name after the first series to become ‘The Goon Show’…. A hugely successful series which ran for a total of 238 half hour episodes and 12 specials between 1951 to 1960….

Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe – Fair use

The Goon Show team made several films to accompany the radio show, including ‘Down Among the Z Men’ in 1952…. Harry, now enjoying success as a comedian, began a tandem career as a singer and had a number of best selling albums…. He appeared in various stage musicals, including ‘Pickwick’ (based on Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers) in 1963, from which came his single ‘If I Ruled the World’, which reached No.18 in the UK charts – and was later to become his signature tune…. His most successful chart topping song was ‘This is My Song’, which reached No.2….

His film work included numerous films, such as ‘Jet Storm’ and ‘Davy’ (about a music hall performer) in 1958, ‘Oliver’ (in which he played Mr. Bumble) in 1968, ‘The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins’ in 1971 and ‘Starstruck’ in 1972….

In 1968 he was given his own TV show – ‘The Harry Secombe Show’ – which was first aired on BBC1 on Christmas Day 1968 and ran until 1973….

In 1963 he was awarded a CBE and knighted in 1981….

His later career saw a more serious Harry Secombe…. His rotund appearance having disappeared, after losing 5 stone in weight following a severe attack of peritonitis in 1980…. In 1983 he became the host of the religious TV programme ‘Highway’….

Ill health began to mar his life…. He suffered a stroke in 1997 and was diagnosed with prostate cancer in September 1998…. A second stroke in 1999 forced Harry to give up his TV career…. He also suffered from diabetes….

Harry died in hospital in Guildford of prostate cancer on the 11th of April 2001…. His ashes were interred in the churchyard of Shamley Green Parish Church… His tombstone reads “To know him was to love him”….

He left behind his wife Myra, whom he had married in 1948 and their four children….