We gave the British the blues; they gave us this in return

Long before Monty Python’s Flying Circus was mining laughs from dead parrots and the word ni, another buttoned-down-but-half-mad British troupe had shown them how to spin comedy out of falsetto voices and nonsense syllables. Performing as the Goons, Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers, and Harry Secombe (along with sometime member Michael Bentine) created a Rosetta Stone for the decades’ worth of anarchic pop culture that would follow their 1950s heyday.

On Unchained Melodies, a compilation of songs spanning the Goons’ 25-year career, you can hear the next half-century of comedy history fall into place: Their darkly satirical “Whistle Your Cares Away” is a blueprint for Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” and “A Russian Love Song” is both a send-up of Cold War paranoia and a dry run for Peter Sellers’s multiple Dr. Strangelove personas. Perhaps more important, the Goons’ sonic experiments would turn on another goofy quartet of English lads – the Beatles – assuring their rebellious sensibility, if not their actual comedy, a most unexpected immortality.

“>HEAR the Goons perform “The Ying Tong Song”

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We gave the British the blues; they gave us this in return