A Firehead Finds The Goons

Not a proper journal entry but a quick update on today’s project.

I’m getting into The Goon Show tonight after reading that the show was cited in the Firesign Theater Lexicon (a context database of every sub-sub-sub reference dropped by the surrealist comedy troupe). Here’s my favorite entry – the lone Google search result of which brought me to the Lexicon:

QUID MALMBORG IN PLANO:

A mysterious phrase which recurs in BOZOS. It was first exclaimed by the discoverer of FUDD’S LAW. No one (yet) seems to know its true origin, although it is said to have been written on a cigarette lighter that Phil PROCTOR used to have, and belonged to a person named Malmborg, who lived in Plano, Texas. This has since been confirmed by Peter BERGMAN. Another listener is convinced that he saw this pseudo-latin phrase inscribed in a drawing by Albrecht Duerer. The phrase seems to be a mixture of latin and middle-english: “Quid” may be translated from the latin root meaning “this/something/that”, and “plano” simply means “flat/horizontal/smooth”. The nearest translation of “malmborg” we are willing to conjecture is based on the Middle-English word “malm” which the OED tells us is a type of man-made chalky clay, which is often worked into “malm-bricks”, so perhaps this phrase refers to the conversion of this(quid) clay into flat (plano) bricks, as consternation turns to lucidation. The mixture of ME and latin, together with the brick reference, may indicate a Freemason influence, but this is wild conjecture on the part of the editor. Many other theories abound. For example: malborg sounds suspiciously like ‘malbolg’ (malbolgia?). Malbolgia, as read-ers of Dante may remember, are the “bad pockets” of Hell, where the corrupt and treacherous souls simmer. Here one finds thieves, hypocrites, whores and panderers. Schismatics are ripped to pieces and reconstituted in an assembly-line manner, liars are steeped in a sea of ****. It is lower than that part of the Inferno where the sensual and brutal are found, and just above the lowest part, where Judas and a coterie of betrayers sit. Dante puts several nasty folks in Malbolgia, including a few popes. Nixon probably has (had) a reservation.

For anyone not in the know, The Goon Show radio broadcasts of the 1950s featured anarchic, ludicrous comedy characterized by absurdity, manic surreality and unpredictability. The program was also highly innovative in its use of sound effect production techniques borrowed from the realm of musique concrete.

The Goon Show inspired the humor of The Firesign Theater, The Beatles, Monty Python, and Douglas Adams, among countless others, and evidently was also the inspiration for the band Ned’s Atomic Dustbin’s name, lifted from an episode in 1959.

The audio quality of the shows vary as tape was a new technology when the show premiered, but the filesharing community has assembled a complete catalog of all surviving recordings spanning 1952 to 1960 as well as the two specials in 1972 and 1991. I had to do a little work to refine the file naming, folder, and tagging structure of the library but with a few batch scripts I’ve tidied it up to an archival standard including all broadcast dates and re-broadcasts variations. (I don’t half-ass any of this stuff.) Official commercial releases are less-consistent so this will be something I’ll hold on to.

Now that I’ve done all the work, I can start listening to the stuff.

The Goon Show

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