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 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".[1]

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 Secombe was signed to Philips Records, he did not sing on any of the Goons' Decca recordings of the 1950s, including this song, only speaking his words.[2]

Milligan 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).[3]

It was a hit in the UK on two occasions: its highest position was No. 3 in the UK Singles Chart 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 and His Orchestre Fromage. "The Ying Tong Song" reached a position of No. 9 in the UK when re-issued in 1973.[4] The guitar was played by the session musician Ivor Mairants.

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 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 was the first track of the 1979 comedy album, Primeval Slime by actor Ying Tong John.[5]

The song gave its name to the 2008 stage show, Ying Tong: A Walk With the Goons.[6]

The Muppets also did a version of the "Ying Tong Song" in season 5, episode 20 of The Muppet Show.

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. ^ Obituary of Harry Edgington, Evening Post (Wellington, New Zealand), 2 December 1993
  2. ^ Harry Secombe speaking at the GSPS convention in Brighton in October 1997
  3. ^ Spike Milligan speaking at the GSPS convention in Brighton in October 1997
  4. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 232. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  5. ^ "Ying Tong John – Primeval Slime". discogs.com.
  6. ^ "'Ying Tong'? Why, That's English for Postwar Silliness". Washingtonpost.com. 2008-03-09. Retrieved 2016-08-22.