Being Boiled Fast 4 1978 original label Side 2.jpg

Circus of Death is a song written by Oakey/Marsh/Ware and recorded by The Human League. It was originally released as their first 7" single together with Being Boiled on the Fast Product label in 1978.

There are two recorded versions of the song, the original 7" version (also known as 'Fast Version') and the album version as included on the Reproduction album, side one track two.


The song is one of the group's earliest songs and represents their narrative style which would be used in other tracks in future years. It also represents the groups' slightly tongue-in-cheek style in describing science-fiction scenarios.

Content and lyrics

The recounts the story of a mysterious ringmaster/clown belonging to the said circus, who is poisoning the whole human race with a powerful drug known as 'Dominion'. The short track 'Dominion Advertisement', a fake advertisement for the drug featuring the voice of Philip Oakey can be found on the compilation CD The Golden Hour of the Future. Early demo cassettes produced by the group feature a short 'Dominion jingle' between each track. Commissioner Steve McGarrett from the fictional TV Series Hawaii Five-O is called in to "help with the problem".  


Circus of Death (Fast version)
Circus of Death (Fast version)

Fast version: This recording of the song starts with a spoken introduction by Philip Oakey who outlines the structure of the song and describes what each verse is about. The song ends with a sound recording taken from the film Dark Star. This ending was omitted from the track when it was issued with the Reproduction CD re-issue (2003). The full original version has a timing of approx 4:47.

The Human League - Circus of Death (Reproduction Digital Remaster)
The Human League - Circus of Death (Reproduction Digital Remaster)

Reproduction version: The album version begins with a spoken introduction recorded from a TV announcement prior to the transmission of the popular 1970s series Hawaii Five-O, followed swiftly by the short 'Dominion jingle' as used by the group. on earlier demonstration tapes, also known as The Taverner Tapes. This version of Circus of Death has a timing of 3:51.

Promo video

Circus of Death (promo)
Circus of Death (promo)

Despite the track not being published as a single in its own right, a promo video was made for the album version of the song. It shows the group performing the song on stage, in a similar style to the one made for Empire State Human. The video unusually starts with a floor level close-up of a black and white cat which is then followed by the camera as it prowls around the stage where the group will perform the song.

The video has been published on all the groups VHS and DVD compilations.

Cover versions

  • The song was covered by the group Hot Gossip, produced by Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware as B.E.F., and was included on their album Geisha Boys and Temple Girls issued in 1981. Lasting almost seven minutes, the track was moved from its original final placing to the opening track position on the CD re-issue in 2007.
  • The song has been covered by Parralox and is included on their Holiday '15 album.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.