Song of the Day #2,663: ‘Wild Billy’s Circus Story’ – Bruce Springsteen

springsteen_wild_innocentBruce Springsteen has released 18 studio albums, many of them classics. But his sophomore record, released 42 years ago, may well remain his most ambitious.

The Wild, The Innocent & the E Street Shuffle runs just seven songs long, but each of them is a sprawling left-field masterpiece. Best-known are ‘Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)’ and ‘4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy),’ tracks that (like the whole album) perfectly capture the adolescent yearning of Springsteen’s New Jersey.

‘Wild Billy’s Circus Story’ paints a vivid, charming portrait of a traveling circus that passed through Springsteen’s home town when he was a boy. As much a short story as a song, this is one of Bruce’s best.

[Verse 1]
The machinist climbs his ferris wheel like a brave
And the fire eater’s lying in a pool of sweat, victim of the heatwave
Behind the tent the hired hand tightens his legs on the sword swallower’s blade
And circus town’s on the shortwave

[Verse 2]
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 sniffing popcorn
As the midget licks his fingers and suffers Missy Bimbo’s scorn
Circus town’s been born

[Verse 3]
Whoa, and a press roll drummer go, ballerina to and fro
Cartwheeling up on that tightrope with a cannon blast lighting flash
Moving 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”

[Verse 4]
A ragged suitcase in his hand, he steals silently away from the circus grounds
And the highway’s haunted by the carnival sounds
They dance like a great greasepaint ghost on the wind
A man in baggy pants, a lonely face, a crazy grin
Running home to some small Ohio town
Jesus send some good women to save all your clowns

[Verse 5]
And circus boy dances like a monkey on barbed wire
And the barker romances with a junkie, she’s got a flat tire
And now 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 up on his shoulders, way up

[Verse 6]
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, whispers into the little boy’s ear “Hey son, you want to try the big top?”
All aboard, Nebraska’s our next stop


2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #2,663: ‘Wild Billy’s Circus Story’ – Bruce Springsteen

  1. Dana says:

    This song is less familiar to me than the others on the album, but it’s a good one.

  2. Peg says:

    Sorry I missed this yesterday cause I do love the “Boss” 🙂 He sounds so young here, I think he just gets better with age

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