Live 09 Jan 1973 version

[Spoken intro:] (chuckles) This is kind of a behind-the-scenes adventure story. Let's see here.

Well, 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 tightens his legs on the sword swallower's blade
And circus town's on the shortwave
Da, da, da, da

Well, 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
And the midget licks his fingers and suffers Missy Bimbo's scorn
And the 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 drippin' on the ground
With a half-smile, half-frown going down
Jesus, send some sweet women to save all the clowns

And circus boy dances like a monkey on barbed wire
And the barker romances with a junkie, she 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 Sampson lifts the midget up above the liar
Hear the liar
He's outside sighin'
Hear the liar
He's inside cryin'
Hear the liar
Listenin' to the barker
Hear the liar
Watchin' the center ring
Oh, hear the liar
Oh, feel his fire
Oh, hear the liar
Oh, feel his fire
Oh, hear the liar
He's so scared of dyin'
Anybody wanna try the big top?
All aboard, Nebraska's our next stop

Page last updated: 08 Jan 2012


The above lyrics are for the live 09 Jan 1973 radio performance of WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY as broadcast on Boston's WBCN-FM. 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.

The 09 Jan 1973 WBCN-FM Radio Performance

Bruce Springsteen's first ever radio station performance took place on 09 Jan 1973 and was broadcast live on Boston's WBCN-FM. The show took place at WBCN-FM radio station in Boston, MA, and was hosted by legendary DJ Maxanne Sartori who worked the afternoon shift at WBCN in the early seventies.

Promotional ad for DJ Maxanne Sartori afternoon show on WBCN-FM in the early seventies
[Taken from Brucebase]

Springsteen performed six songs on this radio show:

In addition to band members Clarence Clemons, Danny Federici, and Garry Tallent (Vini Lopez was not present), co-manager Jim Cretecos, roadie/soundman Albee Tellone, and CBS representative Ed Hynes were in the broadcast studio; the three provided party-like background vocals on BLINDED BY THE LIGHT.

The radio show was recorded off the airways and is available in very good quality on bootleg CDs. This is the earliest circulating "live" audio with what would become the E Street Band. Unfortunately, the recording is missing nearly all of the show's last track plus some concluding discussions about Springsteen's upcoming tour plans. According to Brucebase, a complete but poor quality tape of the show was allegedly circulating in the Boston area for a brief period during the mid-seventies, but seems to have vanished from the tape trading pool.

The 09 Jan 1973 WBCN-FM radio broadcast was legally released in the UK in 2011 by Left Field Media on a CD titled Bound For Glory. The album also contains the 24 Apr 1973 WMMR-FM radio broadcast. The CD was reissed in 2014 by Parallel Lines as part of a 3-CD set titled The Spirit Of The Radio: Legendary Broadcasts From The Early 1970s that also includes two CDs containing the 05 Feb 1975 show in Bryn Mawr, PA. Though these releases are not authorized by Bruce Springsteen or his record company, they are lawful due to a legal loophole in the UK.

Available Versions

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


Thanks Jake (ol'catfishinthelake at BTX and Greasy Lake).