Random Runners-Up: ‘The Show Must Go On’, by Leo Sayer

For Part III of Random Runners-up week, we’ll be heading back to the seventies…

‘The Show Must Go On’, by Leo Sayer

#2 for 1 week, from 13th-20th Jan 1974, behind ‘You Won’t Find Another Fool Like Me’

We’re also off to the circus… This record starts with the classic Big Top theme, AKA ‘Entrance of the Gladiators’, though I suspect this might just have been the album version. When we finally get to the song proper, it’s a melancholy, rockabilly little number. It thankfully has a lot more life to it than Sayer’s later chart-topper, the snoozy ‘When I Need You’.

There’s a skiffley feel to it – banjos feature heavily – and I like the rasp in his voice. Sayer would perform the song in a pierrot costume, as in the picture above, telling a song of a trapped man: I’ve been used, I’ve been so abused… But I won’t let the show go on! Interestingly, the song’s title is reversed in the lyrics… It’s all about the singer wanting to stop the show. When Three Dog Night recorded their cover (a Top 5 hit in the US) they changed the lyrics to match the title, to Sayer’s chagrin.

I do like this one, even when he starts ooby-doobying. Leo Sayer’s seems to have been a career that covered many bases: rock, disco, pop, as well as soppy ballads. This was his very first hit, the first of ten Top 10s between 1974 and 1982 (not to mention a left-field, chart-topping comeback that will eventually be featuring in my regular countdown…)

There’s a chart-phenomenon that I’ve referred to several times before, that of the January #1. (Basically, it involves stranger than average hits sneaking a week at #1 in the post-Christmas slump, when sales are low and nobody is releasing anything new.) ‘The Show Must Go On’ was a January #2, which by this logic should be even odder than the records one place above them, and it is a strange, but catchy, little record.

5 thoughts on “Random Runners-Up: ‘The Show Must Go On’, by Leo Sayer

  1. Loved Leo’s early folky quirky hits, he was a great songwriter before he decided to go MOR and do covers more often. His best records were always his own songs. Roger Daltrey did a good cover of Giving It All Away but Three Dog Night were just generally bland jazzy covers of much better records. That said their clone cover of this was the least bad thing they did. There was no circus organ on the single intro tho. Three Dog did i seem to recall.

  2. I never heard this version…I grew up with Three Dog Night doing it. I remember it well because I saw them open for the Beach Boys and the bass player really messed up the intro to this song…they all laughed about it.
    I like this one…just a completely different take.

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