10 ALBUMS, 10 DAYS: THE HISTORIES OF PLINY THE ELDER

Goon Show

This is the album that started it all. The writing career, the comedy work, the cartooning. The desire to perform, to amuse, to cast off the mantle of ordinariness and stand outside.

Eight years old, I received my first science fiction book. And deep in the back of my parents’ record collection, I discovered an oddity given to them as an emigration present by friends I don’t recall ever having met. This album. Not even music. Strange voices, spouting nonsense at a million miles an hour. By the time the Britons challenged the invading Romans to a game of football (“And another thing. You’re only allowed 11 men. I’ve counted 693 on my own so far!” “All right, I’ll send one off.”) I was intrigued. By the time Caesar ruled Briton with an iron fist, then with a wooden leg, and finally, with a piece of string, I was hooked. By the time the escaped slaves made their way to the hidden sewers beneath the Via Appia, known in the army as the famous Appia Pipe, I was addicted.

I turned the record over, and listened to the hunt for the terrible batter pudding hurler that terrified Britain (“We’ve tracked him to North Africa.” “We’ve got him cornered!”). Turned it back again. And again. Got told to play something else. Played it again, and again, and again over the years.

When my parents’ marriage imploded, and they separated, I hid the album. It was mine, now. The hell with them. I was the one who loved it. I collected more, studiously scouring through second-hand LP shops until I found each increasingly-rare prize. It kicked off a long-term hobby– collecting comedy albums on LP (never cassette, or CD, only LP)– that continued right up until the point I no longer had a player to play them on. I bought books on the Goons; copied scripts; followed their individual careers obsessively; hurried home on Saturday mornings to lie in bed at noon with my boom box turned to Radio National to catch the re-broadcasts that had been going since the 1950s, fingers hovering over the play and record buttons on the tape deck; practiced the voices; stole the jokes; performed scripts to a tape recorder with like-minded friends….. in short, the Goon Show became a cornerstone of my life. It still is.

At my very first Swancon, at my very first Swancon dinner, I made a pair of lifetime pals, sitting at the end of the table, telling each other that he fallen in de water and it must be hell in dere (Waves: Hi, Jay! Hi, Todd!). A couple of years later, I co-wrote a fan production, The Goon, Goon Hills of Earth, with the multi-talented Dave Luckett and performed it with a cast at another Swancon. 40 years later, I still listen, still laugh until tears come, still think they are the greatest comedy ensemble to ever walk the Earth. Because of this album, when I was eight.

 

Love at first sight. It exists.

 

 

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