Let’s do it. Let’s have a look at The Ballad of Barry and Frida, and watch how Victoria Wood developed the song over time, changing the contemporary references.
Here’s the song as it appeared in 1986 on an episode of As Seen On TV.
She said of the song, ‘A joy to write, a sod to learn, and I daren’t finish a show without it. The first time I performed it, a woman at the stage door asked, ‘How long have you been cross-eyed?’.
The bit that interests me at the moment is the verse about Jimmy Carter.
“I can’t do it, I can’t do it,
It’s really not my cup of tea;
I wish you hadn’t picked on me.
No barter —
I feel about as sensuous as Jimmy Carter.
Compare it to this performance of the song, from An Audience With … in 1988.
That verse has been changed to:
Give me my pyjamas;
The only girl I’m mad about is Judith Chalmers.
Which I think is a better joke, and a better bit of writing. I imagine she changed the verse because the Carter reference was becoming dated, and the fact this show was on ITV may have factored into it. Or maybe it developed as she toured between 86 and 88.
It’s this Chalmers version that is immortalised in print in the book Lucky Bag: The Victoria Wood Song Book (2nd Edition). If you have the first edition, does it have the Carter version?
Come 2009, and the Christmas special Victoria Wood’s Mid Life Christmas, and the ballad has evolved into this.
I can’t imagine how difficult doing a new version as different as this must have been after over 20 years of performing it.