Live 31 Jan 1973 (early show) version
[Spoken intro:] Can you give me some highs on this guitar so I don't... Or turn it down, or something. Here's a song about, uh, the carnivals that come around here, part, uh, grammar schools. When you're, uh, pretty much any age, and set up in a parking lot. Let's go.
The machinist climbs his Ferris wheel like a brave
The fire eater's lyin' in a pool of sweat, victim of the heat wave
Behind the tent, the leather boy tightened his legs on the sword swallower's blade
The circus town's on the shortwave
Oh, and the runway lies ahead like a great false dawn
Oh, Fat Lady, Big Mama, Missy Bimbo sits in her chair and yawns
The man-beast lies in his cage sniffin' popcorn [sniffs]
The midget licks his fingers and suffers Missy Bimbo's scorn
Circus town's been born
Oh, and a press roll, drummer go, ballerina to-and-fro
Cartwheelin' up on the tightrope with a cannon blast, lightin' flash
Movin' fast, through the tent, Mars bent, he's gonna miss his fall
Oh, God save the human cannonball
And the flying Zambinis watch Margarita do her neck twist
The ringmaster gets the crowd to count along: "ninety-five, ninety-six, ninety-seven"
And behind the tent, half bent, money spent, with his wet makeup dripping on the ground
Well, there's a half-smile, half-frown going down
Jesus, send some good women to save all the clowns
And circus boy dances like a monkey 'cross barbed wire
The barker romances with a junkie, she's got a flat tire
Yes, and the elephants dance real funky, and the band plays like a jungle fire
Circus town's on the live wire
The strong man lifts the midget on his shoulders, up, up, up above the liar
Hear the liar
He's outside sighin'
Hear the liar
Whisperin' to the barker
Hear the liar
Checkin' out the center ring
Hear the liar
Feel his fire
Hear the liar
He's so scared of dyin'
Well, anybody wanna try the big top?
All aboard, Nebraska's our next stop
The above lyrics are for the live 31 Jan 1973 (early show) performance of WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY at Max's Kansas City in New York City, NY, during what is considered the Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. Tour. The song was played in acoustic version, with Bruce Springsteen on guitar, Danny Federici on accordion, and Garry Tallent on tuba. Early versions of the song, including this one, feature some lyrics different from the album version, especially in the third and fourth verses.
Bruce Springsteen opened for headliner Biff Rose in 1973 during a 6-night stand (from 31 January to 05 February, two shows each night) at Max's Kansas City in New York City, NY.
Soundboard recordings of both shows from the first night are in circulation among collectors. The recording from the early show consists of eight songs (two solo and six with the band) and is believed to be the complete show. The recording from the late show consists of only the first two songs of the show (the solo segment). The remaining setlist for the first night's late show (the band segment), as well as the setlists for the remaining ten shows from this six-night residency, are unknown. In the 17 Feb 1973 issue of Billboard magazine, Jim Melanson wrote a review on one of twelve shows Max's Kansas City mentioning five songs performed by Springsteen. The review could be for any of the twelve shows in the stand, but is more likely from one of the latter ones considering the late publication of the review.
The soundboard recordings from the 31 Jan 1973 shows were commercially released in Europe. Since 2005 some enterprising record labels in Europe (mostly in the UK) have been releasing Bruce Springsteen radio and TV broadcasts (and some soundboard recordings) from the seventies, eighties, and nineties. Though these releases are not authorized by Bruce Springsteen or his record company, they are lawful due to a legal loophole in Europe.
By prior arrangement with Columbia Records and Springsteen's then-manager Mike Appel, the D.I.R. Broadcasting Corp. (New York City, NY) recorded Bruce Springsteen's 31 Jan 1973 early and late shows at Max's Kansas City for use on its upcoming new weekly syndicated radio program called "King Biscuit Flower Hour". The D.I.R. Broadcasting engineers had been in Buffalo two days earlier recording the Mahavishnu Orchestra and the week before that in Dallas recording a Blood Sweat & Tears concert. The radio show used a two to four weeks delayed broadcast formula and made its debut on 18 Feb 1973. The debut episode featured mostly Blood Sweat & Tears who were major stars at this time, only one track by Mahavishnu Orchestra, and only one track by Bruce Springsteen (BISHOP DANCED). D.I.R. Broadcasting still retains in its archives a master tape of the entire 31 Jan 1973 early show and the solo segment from the late show. There are conflicting reports as to whether the company also has any of the band segment from the night's late show.
The company has repeatedly sought and been declined permission to commercially release its recording of the Springsteen show as part of its ongoing King Biscuit Flower Hour archive CD reissue series. The radio show ended in 2007, although new programming ceased in 1993 and previous shows were repeated from that point. During its prime time, the program was carried by more than 300 radio stations throughout the United States. In 2006, the King Biscuit Flower Hour tape archives were acquired by Wolfgang's Vault which began streaming concerts online, including Springsteen's original King Biscuit Flower Hour recording from 31 Jan 1973. Streaming of the Springsteen recording started in February 2008, and is considered to be a considerable improvement in sound quality over what has been circulating on bootlegs.
Thanks Jake (ol'catfishinthelake at BTX and Greasy Lake) for the lyrics help.
Some of the above info about the 31 Jan 1973 shows is taken from Brucebase.
List of available versions of WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY on this website:WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY [Album version]