Live 31 May 1973 (WGOE-FM) version
The machinist climbs his Ferris wheel like a brave
Now, the fire eater's lyin' in the pool of sweat, victim of the heat wave
Behind the tent, the leather boy tightened his legs on the sword swallower's blade
And circus town's on the shortwave
Well now, the runway lies ahead like a great false dawn
Ooh, Fat Lady, Big Mama, Missy Bimbo sits in her chair and yawns
And the man-beast lies in his cage sniffing popcorn [sniffs]
And the midget licks his fingers, suffers Missy Bimbo's scorn
And the circus town's been born
Whoa, and the press roll, drummer go, ballerina to-and-fro
Cartwheelin' up on that 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 then, a suitcase in his hand, stealing silently away from the circus grounds
As the highway's haunted by them carnival sounds
They dance like great greasepaint ghosts on the wind
A man in baggy pants, a lonely face, a crazy grin
Runnin' home to a small Ohio town
Jesus, send some sweet women to save all your clowns
And circus boy dances like a monkey on barbed wire
And now the barker romances with a junkie, she's got a flat tire
Oh, and the elephants dance real funky, and the band plays like a jungle fire
And circus town's on the live wire
And the strong man, Sampson, lifts the midget, little Tiny Tim, way up on his shoulders, way up
And carries him on down the midway
Past the kids, past the sailors, into his dimly lit trailer
And the Ferris wheel turns and turns like it ain't ever gonna stop
And the circus boss leans over and whispers into a little boy's ear, "Hey son, you wanna try the big top?"
All aboard, Nebraska's our next stop
[Spoken outro:] There we go. (chuckles) Oh! Yeah.
The above lyrics are for the live 31 May 1973 radio performance of WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY as broadcast on Richmond's WGOE-FM. The song was played in acoustic version, with Bruce Springsteen on guitar, Danny Federici on accordion, and Garry Tallent on tuba. This is the first version (among circulating ones, at least) that features lyrics similar to the album version. The only variation is the "...Behind the tent, the leather boy tightens..." line instead of "...Behind the tent, the hired hand tightens..." in the first verse.
Bruce Springsteen's 31 May 1973 radio performance was broadcast live on Richmond's WGOE-FM. The show took place at Alpha Sound Studios in Richmond, VA, and the radio station broadcasted it via remote hook-up. While all his other radio shows were merely recorded inside the DJ broadcast room, this was the only time that Springsteen ever played for a radio broadcast from an actual recording studio. Besides the WGOE DJ, the small audience heard inside the studio with the band includes Mike Appel, Jim Cretecos, and David Sancious who had yet to join the band but was employed at the studio at the time.
After the show, Mike Appel took possession of the master tape, so none of the performance was ever re-broadcast by the station. The complete radio show was taped by a listener and has since circulated among fans, but the sound quality is weak. A low generation copy of the entire original master tape first surfaced in very limited hands in the early nineties. The complete master tape in perfect sound quality finally emerged into the wider collector community in early 2007.
The 31 May 1973 WGOE-FM radio broadcast was commercially released in the UK. Since 2005 some enterprising record labels 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 the UK.
Thanks Jake (ol'catfishinthelake at BTX and Greasy Lake). Most of the above info about this radio performance is taken from Brucebase.
List of available versions of WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY on this website:WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY [Album version]