Step Right Up

Step right up, step right up, step right up
Everyone's a winner, bargains galore
That's right, you too can be the proud owner
Of the quality goes in before the name goes on
One-tenth of a dollar, one-tenth of a dollar, we got service after sales
You need perfume? we got perfume, how 'bout an engagement ring?
Something for the little lady, something for the little lady
Something for the little lady, hmm
Three for a dollar
We got a year-end clearance, we got a white sale
And a smoke-damaged furniture, you can drive it away today
Act now, act now, and receive as our gift, our gift to you
They come in all colors, one size fits all
No muss, no fuss, no spills, you're tired of kitchen drudgery
Everything must go, going out of business, going out of business
Going out of business sale
Fifty percent off original retail price, skip the middle man
Don't settle for less
How do we do it? how do we do it? volume, volume, turn up the volume
Now you've heard it advertised, don't hesitate
Don't be caught with your drawers down
Don't be caught with your drawers down
You can step right up, step right up
That's right, it filets, it chops, it dices, slices
Never stops, lasts a lifetime, mows your lawn
And it mows your lawn and it picks up the kids from school
It gets rid of unwanted facial hair
it gets rid of embarrassing age spots
It delivers a pizza, and it lengthens, and it strengthens
And it finds that slipper that's been at large under the chaise lounge(2) for several weeks
And it plays a mean Rhythm Master
It makes excuses for unwanted lipstick on your collar
And it's only a dollar, step right up, it's only a dollar, step right up
'Cause it forges your signature
If not completely satisfied, mail back unused portion of product
For complete refund of price of purchase
Step right up
Please allow thirty days for delivery, don't be fooled by cheap imitations
You can live in it, live in it, laugh in it, love in it
Swim in it, sleep in it
Live in it, swim in it, laugh in it, love in it
Removes embarrassing stains from contour sheets, that's right
And it entertains visiting relatives, it turns a sandwich into a banquet
Tired of being the life of the party?
Change your shorts, change your life, change your life
Change into a nine-year-old Hindu boy, get rid of your wife
And it walks your dog, and it doubles on sax
Doubles on sax, you can jump back Jack, see you later alligator
See you later alligator
And it steals your car
It gets rid of your gambling debts, it quits smoking
It's a friend, and it's a companion
And it's the only product you will ever need
Follow these easy assembly instructions it never needs ironing
Well it takes weights off hips, bust, thighs, chin, midriff
Gives you dandruff, and it finds you a job, it is a job
And it strips the phone company free take ten for five exchange
And it gives you denture breath
And you know it's a friend, and it's a companion
And it gets rid of your traveler's checks
It's new, it's improved, it's old-fashioned
Well it takes care of business, never needs winding
Never needs winding, never needs winding
Gets rid of blackheads, the heartbreak of Psoriasis(3)
Christ, you don't know the meaning of heartbreak, buddy
C'mon, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon
'Cause it's effective, it's defective, it creates household odors
It disinfects, it sanitizes for your protection
It gives you an erection, it wins the election
Why put up with painful corns any longer?
It's a redeemable coupon, no obligation, no salesman will visit your home
We got a jackpot, jackpot, jackpot, prizes, prizes, prizes, all work guaranteed
How do we do it, how do we do it, how do we do it, how do we do it
We need your business, we're going out of business
We'll give you the business(4)
Get on the business end of our going-out-of-business sale
Receive our free brochure, free brochure
Read the easy-to-follow assembly instructions, batteries not included
Send before midnight tomorrow, terms available
Step right up, step right up, step right up
You got it buddy: the large print giveth, and the small print taketh away
Step right up, you can step right up, you can step right up
C'mon step right up
(Get away from me kid, you bother me...)
Step right up, step right up, step right up, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon
Step right up, you can step right up, c'mon and step right up
C'mon and step right up

Written by: Tom Waits
Published by: Fifth Floor Music (ASCAP), 1976
Official release: Small Change, Elektra/ Asylum Records, 1976(5)

Known covers:
Step Right Up (The Songs Of Tom Waits). Various artists. November, 1995. Manifesto Records. Performed by The Violent Femmes

Waits performing "Step Right Up". With: Frank Vicari (tenor saxophone), Fitz Jenkins (upright bass), Chip White (drums). Taken from Rockpalast, WDR television concert documentary. WDR Studio's/ Studio-L. Cologne/ Germany (aired April 18, 1977).


(1) Tom Waits (1977): "I'm learning about stuff, too. Through the songs I'm writing now I'm changing my attitude towards things. I'm becoming a little more shrewd, a little more ..." DG: Cynical? TW: "Yeah. I don't take things at face value like I used to. So I dispelled some things in these songs that I had substantiated before. I'm trying to show something to myself, plus get some things off my chest. 'Step Right Up' - all that jargon we hear in the music business is just like what you hear in the restaurant or casket business." (Source: "Smelling like a brewery, lookin' like a tramp". Rolling Stone: David McGee. 1977)
- Song might be inspired or referring to "Little Egypt" (The Coasters, 1961). Intro and theme certainly seem similar: "Step right up folks, and see Little Egypt do her famous dance of the pyramids, she walks, she talks, she crawls on her belly like a reptile; just one dime, one tenth of a dollar. Step right up folks! - I went and bought myself a ticket and I sat down in the very first row, wo wo. They pulled the curtain but then when they turned the spotlight way down low, wo wo, little Egypt came out strotting, wearing nothing but a button and a bow, wo wo, singing, "Yeah yeah! Yeah yeah! Yeah yeah! Yeah yeah''. She had a ruby on her tummy and a diamond big as Texas on her toe, wo wo. She let her hair down and she did the hoochie koochie real slow, wo wo, When she did her special number on a zebra skin, I thought she'd stop the show, wo wo, singing, "Yeah yeah! Yeah yeah! Yeah yeah! Yeah yeah!". She did a triple somersault and when she hit the ground, she winked at the audience and then she turned around. She had a picture of a cowboy tattooed on her spine, saying Phoenix, Arizona, nineteen forty-nine. Yeah, but let me tell you people, little Egypt doesn't dance there anymore, wo wo. She's too busy mopping and a taking care of shopping at the store, wo wo. 'Cause we got seven kids and all day long they crawl around the floor, wo wo, singing, "Yeah yeah! Yeah yeah! Yeah yeah! Yeah yeah!" (Thanks to Floris Cooman, 2005 for submitting lyrics)

(2) Chaise lounge: "Many visitors to the US are surprised to find that the name for the article of furniture is not only still known (in Britain, for example, it is now virtually obsolete outside historical contexts), but is indeed often called a chaise lounge (though by no means all Americans describe it thus). This spelling and pronunciation appears in dictionaries of American English and is now so established that no amount of remonstration, condemnation or ridicule will affect its status one jot. The original form, chaise longue, is French, meaning "long chair". Though the chaise lounge form is a classic example of folk etymology's changing an odd foreign word into something more meaningful, in one way it's hard to criticise-it is, after all, a seat that one lounges on. And it's an old error-I've found examples in American literature back into the 1850s. In the issue of Scribners Monthly for April 1876 appears this sentence, which suggests the confusion had even by then become common enough to need noting: "This particular 'chaise longue', or lounge, is said to be the one on which George Fox slept". (Source: World Wide Words is copyright Michael Quinion, 1996-2004) 

(3) Heartbreak of Psoriasis: quoted from a very popular US 1970's Tegrin shampoo commercial

(4) Business, give (someone) the: Rough treatment; murder; a beating; a bawling out; planned rudeness (Source: Dictionary Of American Slang, Wentworth/ Flexner) 

(5) Linernotes to "Step Right Up": "For the lyrics to "Step Right Up" send by prepaid mail a photo of yourself, two dead creeping charlies, and a self addressed stamped envelope to: the Tropicana Motor Hotel, Hollywood, California c/o Young Tom Waits"
- Creeping Charlie: Tom Waits (1980): "Ah yeah, well it's like a houseplant that you have to murder primar to sending it. And eh, what you do is eh you commit like first degree murder on your houseplant and you put it in an envelope and eh I would like send the lyrics to that particular selection. And eh I received a lot of enthusiasm over there. The offer has been discontinued so eh.." (Source: Interview for: "Radio-Radio" on W-PIX102 FM. New York. February 17, 1980)