Ying Tong Song

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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 written by Spike Milligan and performed by The Goons, usually led by Harry Secombe. It is a nonsense song, consisting of small verses interspersed by a completely nonsensical chorus.

The Goons[edit]

Secombe usually spoke the lead vocals, accompanied by Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan, who would sing along as various Goon Show characters. As Harry was signed to Philips Records, he didn't sing on any of the Goons' Decca recordings of the 1950s, including this song, only speaking his words.[1]

Spike claimed that he wrote this 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).[2]

It was a hit in the UK on two occasions: its highest position was #3 in the UK charts in 1956 (the original A-side was "Bloodnok's Rock 'n' Roll Call") on Decca Records 45-F 10780, performed by The Goons featuring Major Dennis Bloodnok, Roland Rockcake And His Wholly Rollers, with The Ying Tong Song on the B side performed by The Goons with Maurice Ponke & His Orchestre Fromage. The Ying Tong Song reached a position of #9 in the UK when re-issued in 1973.[3]

It was used as the title of the Roy Smiles play about Spike Milligan and The Goon Show: Ying Tong - A Walk With The Goons which was staged in the West End in 2005 and a radio play on BBC Radio 4 in 2009.

In the fourth volume of his war memoirs (Mussolini, His Part In My Downfall, Milligan mentions that the his friend and fellow soldier Edgington was often referred to as Edge-Ying-Tong.

Later versions[edit]

In the satirical TV sketch show Spitting Image, in which news figures and celebrities were lampooned in the form of grossly-caricatured rubber puppets, it was not uncommon for Prince Charles to be seen leaving a room quietly singing the Ying-Tong song to himself. This was a reference to the fact that Prince Charles is a fan of the Goon Show.

The song gave its name to the 2008 stage show, Ying Tong: A Walk With the Goons.[4]

The Muppets also did a version of the Ying Tong Song in one of their episodes.

Jon Anderson, former lead singer for the progressive rock group Yes, recorded a short version, released in 2005 on his State of Independence EP.


  1. ^ Harry Secombe speaking at the GSPS convention in Brighton in October 1997.
  2. ^ Spike Milligan speaking at the GSPS convention in Brighton in October 1997.
  3. ^ British Hit Singles 11th Edition.  The guitar was played by the session musician Ivor Mairants
  4. ^ Washington Post: 'Ying Tong'? Why, That's English for Postwar Silliness