WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY

Live 25 Sep 2009 version


[Spoken intro:] Professor Roy Bittan, gonna join me on accordion. Nils Lofgren. Nils' first record, we, uh, pictured him leaning up against a carnival tent, matter of fact. And, uh, Jon and I listened to it and, before we made Born To Run, and I think we stole everything we could, we could find off it. (chuckles) So... All right..

The machinist climbed 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 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
Fat Lady, Big Mama, Missy Bimbo sits in her chair and yawns
And the man-beast lies in his cage sniffin' popcorn
And the midget licks his fingers and suffers Missy Bimbo's scorn
The circus town's been born

Whoa, and a 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
And the ringmaster gets the crowd to count along: "Ninety-five, ninety-six, ninety-seven"
Ragged suitcase in his hand, he steals silently away from the circus grounds
And the highway's haunted by those carnival sounds
They dance like a great greasepaint ghost on the wind
A man in baggy pants, a lonely face, crazy grin
Runnin' home to some small Ohio town
Jesus, send some good women to save all the clowns

And circus boy dances like a monkey on barbed wire
And the barker romances with a junkie, she's got a flat tire
And the elephants dance real funky, and the band play like a jungle fire
The circus town's on the live wire
And the strong man, Sampson, lifts the midget, little Tiny Tim, way up, way up on his shoulders
And carries him on down the midway
Past the kids, past the sailors, to 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 in the little boy's ear, "Hey son, you wanna try the big top?"
All aboard, Nebraska's our next stop


Info

The above lyrics are for the live 25 Sep 2009 performance of WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY at Apollo Theater in New York City, NY, during the taping of "Spectacle: Elvis Costello With Bruce Springsteen". The song was played in a unique acoustic arrangement featuring Bruce Springsteen on vocals and acoustic guitar, Nils Lofgren on acoustic guitar, and Roy Bittan on accordion. The 25 Sep 2009 show was released on the Spectacle: Elvis Costello With... season 2 DVD and Blu-ray in 2011 (read below).

Bruce Springsteen performing WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY on 25 Sep 2009 at Apollo Theater, New York City, NY
Bruce Springsteen performing WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY on 25 Sep 2009 at Apollo Theater, New York City, NY

The 25 Sep 2009 Show

Spectacle: Elvis Costello With... was a television series shown on Sundance Channel in the United States, CTV in Canada, and Channel 4 (season 1) and Sky Arts (season 2) in the UK. The show features intimate interviews between the host, Elvis Costello, and various musical guests intertwined with performances by Costello, the guests, and duets between the two. Its first season consisted of 13 one-hour parts and was screened in 2008-2009. The second season consisted of 7 one-hour parts and was screened in 2009-2010.

Springsteen's episode was broadcast in two segments: the fifth and sixth in the seven-parts-long season 2. The taping took place on 25 Sep 2009 at Apollo Theater in New York City, NY, over the course of a nearly four hours. The first part of Springsteen's episode was aired on 20 Jan 2010 in the United States, 24 Apr 2010 in Canada, and 05 Sep 2011 in the UK. The second aired on 27 Jan 2010 in the United States, 01 May 2010 in Canada, and 06 Sep 2011 in the UK.

Marquee for the 25 Sep 2009 show at Apollo Theater, New York City, NY
Marquee for the 25 Sep 2009 show at Apollo Theater, New York City, NY

Springsteen and Costello were backed by The Imposters, and were joined onstage by Nils Lofgren on acoustic guitar and Roy Bittan on accordion.

  1. POINT BLANK [Elvis Costello and The Imposters]
  2. LIKE RAIN [Nils Lofgren, Elvis Costello, and The Imposters]
  3. SHE'S THE ONE [Elvis Costello, Nils Lofgren, and The Imposters]
  4. WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY [Bruce Springsteen, Nils Lofgren, and Roy Bittan]
  5. THE RIVER [Bruce Springsteen solo -- partial performance]
  6. AMERICAN SKIN (41 SHOTS) [Bruce Springsteen solo]
  7. GALVESTON BAY [Bruce Springsteen and Roy Bittan]
  8. OH PRETTY WOMAN [Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello -- partial performance]
  9. I CAN'T STAND UP FOR FALLING DOWN [all -- followed by an intermission]
  10. BLACK LADDER [Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, and Nils Lofgren]
  11. BRILLIANT DISGUISE [Elvis Costello and Bruce Springsteen]
  12. THE RISING [all]
  13. SEEDS [all]
  14. RADIO SILENCE / RADIO NOWHERE / RADIO RADIO [all]
  1. SHE'S THE ONE [Elvis Costello, Nils Lofgren, and The Imposters]
  2. WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY [Bruce Springsteen, Nils Lofgren, and Roy Bittan]
  3. THE RIVER [Bruce Springsteen solo -- partial performance]
  4. AMERICAN SKIN (41 SHOTS) [Bruce Springsteen solo]
  5. I CAN'T STAND UP FOR FALLING DOWN [all -- followed by an intermission]
  1. RADIO SILENCE / RADIO NOWHERE / RADIO RADIO [all]
  2. OH PRETTY WOMAN [Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello -- partial performance]
  3. SEEDS [all]
  4. BLACK LADDER [Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, and Nils Lofgren]
  5. GALVESTON BAY [Bruce Springsteen and Roy Bittan]
  6. THE RISING [all]

Spectacle: Elvis Costello With... (Season 2) was released from Video Services Corp on DVD and Blu-ray on 07 Jun 2011 in the USA and Canada and on 25 Jul 2011 in the UK.

Spectacle: Elvis Costello With... (Season 2) (DVD cover art)
Spectacle: Elvis Costello With... (Season 2) (DVD cover art)
Spectacle: Elvis Costello With... (Season 2) (Blu-ray cover art)
Spectacle: Elvis Costello With... (Season 2) (Blu-ray cover art)

Elvis Costello has been a fan of Springsteen since very early in his career. When asked about some demos of his early seventies band Flip City sounding like early Bruce Springsteen, the English singer-songwriter told Rolling Stone in 2004: "That's who we were copying. When Bruce came to London for 'the future of rock and roll' gigs in 1975, we were like, 'Who are these johnny-come- latelies?' We'd been digging him for years." When in 2000 Vanity Fair asked Costello to name 500 essential albums, he listed four Springsteen albums: The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle, The River, Tunnel Of Love, and The Ghost Of Tom Joad. He also covered Springsteen's BRILLIANT DISGUISE in 1996 and released it as a B-side.

Costello and Springsteen have shared the stage on several occasions. The two first played together in 1987 when they took part in the filming of the TV special Roy Orbison And Friends - A Black And White Night. Springsteen invited Costello to be part of the last of his five 2001 Asbury Park holiday shows. Then the two played The Clash's LONDON CALLING together in 2003 at the 45th Grammy Awards ceremony and Costello made a guest appearance at Springsteen's 07 Nov 2009 concert at Madison Square Garden. Springsteen was Costello's guest on a two-part episode of Spectacle: Elvis Costello With... in 2009.

Credits

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

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: 09 Jan 2012