Thursday, 19 January 2017

WORDS FOR THE MUSIC #9: Victoria Wood

VICTORIA WOOD, 1953 – 2016

Let's Do It
(The Ballad of Freda and Barry)
Victoria Wood's Mid-Life Christmas
BBC TV – December 2009

2009 Version

Freda and Barry sat one night
The sky was clear, the stars were bright
The wind was soft, the moon was up
Freda drained her cocoa cup
She licked her lips, she felt sublime
She switched off Gardener's Question Time
Barry cringed in fear and dread
As Freda grabbed his tie and said:

'Let's do it, let's do it, do it while the mood is right
I'm feeling appealing, I've really got an appetite
I'm on fire with desire
I could handle half the tenors in a male voice choir
Let's do it, let's do it tonight!'

But he said:
'I can't do it, I can't do it, I'm not exactly Russell Brand
You're thwarted, I'm sorted, got me evening's telly planned
It's a pity, the nitty gritty, 
I've taped eleven episodes of Holby City
Can't do it, can't do it tonight!'

So she said:
'Let's do it, let's do it, do it till our hearts go boom
Go native, creative, living in the living room
This folly is jolly
Bend me over backwards on me Hostess trolley
Let's do it, let's do it tonight!'

'Can't do it, can't do it, me heavy breathing days are gone
Niagara, Viagara, nothing really turns me on
Stop stewing, boo-hooing
I've had a good look down there and there's nothing doing
Can't do it, can't do it tonight!'

'Let's do it, let's do it, while I'm really in the mood
Three cheers, it's years since I caught you even semi-nude
Get drastic, gymnastic
Wear your baggy Y-fronts with the loose elastic
Let's do it, let's do it tonight!'

'Can't do it, can't do it, it's really not my cup of tea
I'm harassed, embarrassed, wish you hadn't picked on me
Don't choose me, don't use me
My mother sent a note to say you must excuse me
Can't do it, can't do it tonight!'

'Let's do it, let's do it, I really absolutely must
I won't exempt you, want to tempt you
Want to drive you mad with lust
No cautions, just contortions
Smear an avocado on me lower portions
Let's do it, let's do it tonight!'

'Can't do it, I can't do it, I must refuse to get unzipped
I'm tearful, I'm fearful, worried that I'm ill-equipped
Don't bully, I can't fully 
Guarantee to cope without a rope and pully
Can't do it, can't do it tonight!'

'Let's do it, let's do it, I really want to run amok
Let's wiggle, let's jiggle, let's really make the rafters rock
Be mighty, be flighty
Come and bite the buttons off me flame-proof nightie
Let's handle some scandal
Come and sip Ribena from my peep-toe sandal
Surprise me, chastise me
Let's be Fern and Phil and you can patronize me
Let's do it, let's do it tonight!'

Get festive, get restive
Dunk me in a duvet like a big digestive
Just humour a late bloomer
Stuff my Christmas stocking with your big satsuma
Not meekly, not bleakly
Beat me on the bottom with the Women's Weekly
Let's do it, let's do it tonight!'

Words & Music © 2009 Victoria Wood

The Songwriter:  The death of writer, director, composer, actress and comedian Victoria Wood on 20 April 2016 robbed Britain (and the world) of a uniquely gifted talent.  Wood was adept at taking the mundane and sometimes painful aspects of life and turning them into a kind of hilarious verbal ballet that never loses sight of the fact that our realities only very rarely match our expectationsAs she once so humorously observed:  'Life's not fair, is it?  Some of us drink champagne in the fast lane, and some of us eat our sandwiches by the loose chippings on the A597.'

Wood's most enviable gift was her finely tuned ear for spoken language and her ability to discover humour in even the dullest and most commonplace of human activities.  Her 1998-2000 BBC sitcom Dinnerladies remains, to my mind, the perfect showcase for her genius and one of the greatest comedy programs ever produced in Britain or, for that matter, anywhere else.  Set in the staff canteen of a struggling components factory in her hometown of Manchester, Dinnerladies focuses on the friendship of five female canteen workers (the 'ladies' of the title), their two male colleagues and various eccentric (but never overplayed) characters who flit in and out of their lives during the course of one eventful year.  The show –– which was twice nominated for a BAFTA for Best Comedy Series but mysteriously never won –– manages the rare feat of being consistently hilarious, sharply satirical and, at times, poignant in a way that few sitcoms ever dare to be.  It also features a stellar performance by Wood's close friend and long time associate Julie Walters as Petula –– the flatulent, alcoholic, food-and-money scrounging mother of her character Brenda whose days are spent chasing younger men and telling outlandish tales about celebrities she's never actually metAs great as Walters is, the show remains a textbook example of ensemble acting at its finest and will be a treat for anyone who's never had the pleasure of seeing it. 

Let's Do It (or The Ballad of Freda and Barry as it's also known) is based upon the same observational principle that guided Wood's best television work, taking something –– the declining libidos of long-married couples –– that, at first glance, may appear to be unpromising material for a jaunty comic song lasting more than five minutesYet Wood makes a triumph of it, juxtaposing the ordinary and the surreal, the tedious and the bizarre, as Freda's enthusiasm encroaches ever more dauntingly on the personal space of the disinterested and increasingly panicked BarryIt's less a song than a slice of life wittily set to music, served up with a very British kind of cheekiness and an infectious tune which recalls the golden days of variety and music hall while remaining completely contemporary, relevant and, best of all, laugh out loud funny.  

Click HERE to read more about the life and work of British entertainer VICTORIA WOOD.  You can also click HERE to read a 2011 interview with VICTORIA WOOD conducted by CHRISSY ILEY in the online version of The Telegraph.

This version of Let's Do It comes from the 2009 Christmas Special Victoria Wood's Mid-Life Christmas. Click HERE to view an earlier version of the song, with alternative lyrics, which was originally broadcast on the 1994 program Victoria Wood Live In Your Own Home.

You might also enjoy: 
WORDS FOR THE MUSIC #6: Dave Frishberg 
'STRIKE ME LUCKY!' Remembering Roy Rene  

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