WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY

Live 03 Mar 1974 (late show) version


[Spoken intro:] This is a song, uh... Around this time of night, at the carnivals, and in here, obviously, too (chuckles), is when, is when you start breaking it down to the real freaks. (chuckles) You know, really, it's like (chuckles), it's like, if you've ever had any of those little circuses or something, I guess like around 12 and 1, just before they break down and move on, it's, uh, it's the big top, that's right (chuckles). And this is some of the people that are left.

The machinist climbs his Ferris wheel like a brave
Oh, the fire eater's lyin' in the pool of sweat, victim of the heat wave
Behind the tent, the hired hand tightens his legs on the sword swallower's blade
The circus town's on the shortwave

Well, the runway lies ahead like a great false dawn
Whoa, 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 and suffers Missy Bimbo's scorn
And 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
Oh, the ringmaster gets the crowd to count along: "Ninety-five, ninety-six, ninety-seven"
A ragged suitcase in his hand, stealing silently away from the circus grounds
Oh, the highway's haunted by them carnival sounds
They dance like a great greasepaint ghost on the wind
The man in baggy pants, a lonely face, a crazy grin
He's runnin' back home to a small Ohio town
Jesus, send some good 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
Circus town's on the live wire
And the strong man, Sampson, lifts the midget, little Tiny Tim, way on his shoulders, way up
And carries him off down the midway
Past the kids, past the sailors, to his dimly lit trailer
And the Ferris wheel turns and turns and turns like it ain't ever gonna stop
And the circus boss leans over and whispers into the little boy's ear, he says, "Hey son, you wanna try the big top?"
All aboard, Nebraska's our next stop

[Spoken outro:] Thanks so much.


Info

The above lyrics are for the live 03 Mar 1974 late show performance of WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, during what is considered The Wild, The Innocent, & The E Street Shuffle Tour. The song was played in an acoustic version, with Bruce Springsteen on guitar, Danny Federici on accordion, and Garry Tallent on tuba.

The 03 Mar 1974 Late Show

Bruce Springsteen and the band played two shows at Georgetown University on 03 Mar 1974: an early show at 7:30 p.m. and a late show at 10:30 p.m. Bruce Springsteen was the headliner and Orleans were the opening act. The shows were held at the university's 750-seat Gaston Hall. There is no known audio recording from the early show, but Springsteen's late show (minus the last song) was simulcast on the University's popular radio station WGTB-FM. The broadcast now circulates on several bootlegs in excellent soundboard quality.

Promotional ad for the 03 Mar 1974 shows at Georgetown University, Washington, DC
Promotional ad for the 03 Mar 1974 shows at Georgetown University, Washington, DC
Ticket stub for the 03 Mar 1974 late show at Georgetown University, Washington, DC
Ticket stub for the 03 Mar 1974 late show at Georgetown University, Washington, DC
(Taken from Brucebase)

  1. WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY
  2. NEW YORK CITY SERENADE
  3. SPIRIT IN THE NIGHT
  4. THE E STREET SHUFFLE
  5. WALKING THE DOG
  6. 4TH OF JULY, ASBURY PARK (SANDY)
  7. IT'S HARD TO BE A SAINT IN THE CITY
  8. KITTY'S BACK
  9. FOR YOU
  10. ROSALITA (COME OUT TONIGHT)
  11. LET THE FOUR WINDS BLOW

The 03 Mar 1973 late show broadcast from Georgetown University was 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.

Springsteen -- Saint In The City - The Complete WGTB Radio Boradcast 1974
Springsteen -- Saint In The City - The Complete WGTB Radio Boradcast 1974

2xCD - Rox Vox (RV2CD1023) - UK, 2015

This release contains the 03 Mar 1974 late show broadcast from Georgetown University.
Bruce Springsteen -- Live 1974 - Washington DC
Bruce Springsteen -- Live 1974 - Washington DC

2xCD - Live Wire (LW2028) - UK, 2016

This release contains the 03 Mar 1974 late show broadcast from Georgetown University.
Bruce Springsteen -- Washington 1974
Bruce Springsteen -- Washington 1974

Digital album - Lilith Records (no catalog number) - UK, 2016

This is a download-only digital album. It contains the 03 Mar 1974 late show broadcast from Georgetown University.

Credits / References

Thanks Jake (ol'catfishinthelake at BTX and Greasy Lake) for the lyrics help.

Some of the above info about Springsteen's shows at Georgetown University is taken from Brucebase.

Available Versions

List of available versions of WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY on this website:

WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY [Album version]
WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY [Live 09 Jan 1973 version]
WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY [Live 31 Jan 1973 (early show) version]
WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY [Live 02 Mar 1973 version]
WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY [Live 24 Apr 1973 (early show) version]
WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY [Live 01 May 1973 version]
WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY [Live 31 May 1973 (WGOE-FM) version]
WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY [Live 02 Jun 1973 version]
WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY [Live 03 Mar 1974 (late show) version]
WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY [Live 09 Mar 1974 (KLOL-FM) version]
WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY [Live 09 Apr 1974 version]
WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY [Live 16 Nov 1990 version]
WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY [Live 26 Nov 1996 version]
WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY [Live 04 Dec 2001 version]
WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY [Live 19 Dec 2004 (early show) version]
WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY [Live 22 Jun 2005 version]
WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY [Live 27 Apr 2008 version]
WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY [Live 25 Sep 2009 version]
WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY [Live 07 Nov 2009 version]

Page last updated: 08 Jan 2012