The Carnival Is Over

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"The Carnival Is Over"
single cover
Single by The Seekers
B-side"We Shall Not Be Moved"
GenreFolk rock, baroque pop
LabelColumbia DB 7711[1]
Songwriter(s)Tom Springfield (lyrics only)[1]
Producer(s)Tom Springfield[1]
The Seekers singles chronology
"A World of Our Own"
"The Carnival Is Over"
"Someday One Day"
Audio sample
"The Seekers – The Carnival Is Over"

"The Carnival Is Over" is a Russian folk song about Stenka Razin first published circa 1883, adapted with English-language lyrics, written by Tom Springfield, for the Australian folk pop group The Seekers in 1965. The song became The Seekers' signature recording, and the band have customarily closed their concerts with it ever since its success in late-1965. At its 1965 sales peak, The Seekers' single was selling 93,000 copies per day in the UK and is No.30 in the chart of the biggest-selling singles of all time in the United Kingdom, with sales of at least 1.41 million copies in the UK alone.[2] The track spent three weeks at No.1 in the UK Singles Chart in November and December 1965.[3]

The song also topped the Australian charts (for six weeks, from 4 December 1965),[4] and reached No.1 in the Irish Charts for two weeks.

Chart performance (The Seekers)[edit]

Chart (1965/1966) Peak
Australia Kent Music Report 1 [5]
Ireland IRMA 1 [6]
UK Singles Chart 1 [3]
South Africa 2 [7]
Norway VG-lista 3 [8]
Dutch Single Top 100 5 [9]
Singapore 5 [5]
Malaysia 6 [10]
New Zealand RIANZ 8 [11]
German Musikmarkt 14 [8]

The music[edit]

Razin throws his Persian lover overboard.
A 1681 illustration to Jean Struys' book

The main tune is taken from a Russian song about the Cossack ataman Stepan (also known as Stenka) Razin known as "Iz-za ostrova na strezhen" or "Volga, Volga mat' rodnaya" which became popular in Russia as early as the 1890s.[12]

There is a resemblance in the tune, tempo and emotional appeal to the iconic Welsh song Myfanwy, by Joseph Parry, written earlier, though the Russian folklore possibly predates them both.

The original lyrics of the song, written in 1883 by the poet and Povolzhye region ethnographer Dmitry Sadovnikov to a folk melody,[13] told about an episode of the 1670–1671 Russian Peasant Uprising in which Stepan Razin allegedly killed his captive, a beautiful Persian Princess, by throwing her into the water from his boat. According to the Dutch traveller Jean Jansen Struys (1630—1694), the murder was meant as a sacrifice with which Razin hoped to appease the much loved and feared Volga River.[14] Sadovnikov in his text adds another motive: Razin's gesture is addressed to his disgruntled jealous comrades who accuse him of "mellowing down" after just one night spent with a woman.[15]

The lyrics of the song were dramatized in the first Russian narrative film, Stenka Razin directed by Vladimir Romashkov in 1908. The song also gave the title to the famous 1938 Soviet musical comedy Volga-Volga. It was performed by the Osipov State Russian Folk Orchestra (balalaikas and domras) during their 1967 tour of Australia. The tune is also used in a Dutch hymn "Vol Verwachting Blijf Ik Uitzien", and a Dutch nursery rhyme "Aan de Oever van de Rotte". It is played in a cafe scene in the 1988 film The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Tom Springfield adapted the melody from the Russian folk song, and also wrote the lyrics, after a trip to Brazil, where he witnessed the Carnival in Rio.[1]

The melody is played repeatedly in an early episode of TV series "The Twilight Zone" – Season 1 Episode 3, entitled "Mr. Denton On Doomsday", first aired in 1959. It also can be heard briefly in a scene from Sam Peckinpah's film "Cross of Iron," as well as in Shirin Neshat's film "Roja".

Use in popular culture[edit]

The playing of "The Carnival Is Over", sung by The Seekers, has been sometimes used at the close of special events in Australia. It was performed at the Expo '88 closing ceremony, with Julie Anthony taking the place of Judith Durham, along with the other members of The Seekers, Athol Guy, Keith Potger and Bruce Woodley.

The song was played at the end of The Seekers' August 1968 BBC-TV finale special. In the lead-up to the song, Athol Guy announced in a choked voice "I'm afraid that tonight the carnival really is over".

The Seekers were supposed to have performed the song at the end of the closing ceremony for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney[citation needed] but the performance was cancelled after Judith Durham broke her hip. The Seekers did, however, sing the song at the conclusion of the 2000 Summer Paralympics, with Judith Durham seated in a wheelchair.

The tradition of the song's being sung at conclusion of special celebrations in Australia is so well entrenched that the cast of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation comedy series The Games, which was about the forthcoming Sydney 2000 Olympics, imitated the group singing "The Carnival Is Over" at the closing ceremony of their fictitious version of the Sydney Olympic Games.

The Russian sung tune (Stenka Razin) recurred in Season 1 (1959), Episode 3 of the TV series The Twilight Zone.[16]

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds' version[edit]

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds covered the song on their 1986 album Kicking Against The Pricks. This cover featured in the final episode and scene of the Australian TV Series Underbelly, based on the Melbourne gangland killings when Senior Constable Steve Owen arrested Carl Williams for murder.

Boney M. version[edit]

"The Carnival Is Over" /
"Going Back West"
Boney M. - The Carnival Is Over (1982 single).jpg
Single by Boney M.
ReleasedJune 1982
GenrePop, Euro disco
LabelHansa Records (West Germany)
Songwriter(s)Tom Springfield (lyrics only)
Producer(s)Frank Farian
Boney M. singles chronology
"Little Drummer Boy / 6 Years of Boney M. Hits"
""The Carnival Is Over" / "Going Back West""
"Zion's Daughter"

"The Carnival Is Over (Goodbye True Lover)" / "Going Back West" is a double A-side single by German band Boney M.. It replaced a cancelled third single release of a re-recording of the song "Jimmy" from the group's fifth studio album Boonoonoonoos. "The Carnival Is Over" was the first single release after dancer Bobby Farrell's departure and introduced new male singer Reggie Tsiboe in the line-up. Despite reaching #11 in the Swiss charts, the single was widely considered Boney M.'s first flop. After a string of 16 consecutive Top 20 singles in Germany, the single only climbed to #41 after a second pressing with a remix of "Going Back West" as the main A-side was sent out. "Going Back West", however, would become a hit single in South Africa where the group's popularity remained high in the early 1980s. Boney M. would use the double A-side format in this period, typically with the A1 being the song intended for radio and A2 being more squarely aimed at discos. The sides would usually be switched on the accompanying 12" single.

The Carnival Is Over (Goodbye True Lover)[edit]

Boney M.'s version of The Seekers' song was done in a low-key ballad arrangement and featured Liz Mitchell on lead vocal. An original verse by producer Frank Farian and lyricist Catherine Courage was added to introduce Reggie Tsiboe as a vocalist. In the early mix of the single, Liz Mitchell sings the answer-back line "Kiss me again" as opposed to the final mix where she sings "Our love is true". An edit was released in the UK and Japan where a part of the intro had been cut out. "The Carnival Is Over" was never included in any studio album by Boney M. and didn't appear on a compilation until 2000 when it was included on 25 Jaar Na Daddy Cool. The single edit was added as a bonus track to the remastered 2007 edition of Ten Thousand Lightyears.

Going Back West[edit]

The first song with new member Reggie Tsiboe on lead vocals was an uptempo cover version of a Jimmy Cliff track. An early mix had only vocal group La Mama (Cathy Bartney, Patricia Shockley, Madeleine Davis) on backing vocals. Several later mixes were released with Liz Mitchell's vocals added to the backing vocals and also producer Frank Farian singing a couple of lines. The 12" version was coupled with an edit of the track "Silly Confusion" from Boonoonoonoos.


7" Singles

  • "The Carnival Is Over (Goodbye True Lover)" – 4:49 / "Going Back West" (Early mix) – 4:05 (Hansa 104 475–100, Germany)
  • "Going Back West" (Remix) – 4:15 / "The Carnival Is Over" – 4:49 (Hansa 104 475–100, Germany)
  • "The Carnival Is Over (Goodbye True Lover)" (edit) – 4:20 / "Going Back West" (Remix) – 4:15 (Atlantic A 9973, UK)
  • "Going Back West" (Remix) – 4:15 / "The Carnival Is Over" (edit) – 4:20 (Atlantic P-1693, Japan)

12" Singles

  • A1 "Going Back West" – 5:00 / A2 "Silly Confusion" (Farian, Kawohl, Björklund, Baierl, Courage) – 4:05 / B "The Carnival Is Over" – 4:52 (Hansa 600 633–213, Germany)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 97. ISBN 0-85112-250-7.
  2. ^ Ami Sedghi (4 November 2012). "UK's million-selling singles: the full list". Guardian. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  3. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 185. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  4. ^ "Australian Number One Hits 1960s". World Charts. Archived from the original on 31 July 2013. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Billboard Magazine, December, 1965". Billboard. 25 December 1965.
  6. ^ "Billboard Magazine, January 1, 1966". Billboard. January 1966.
  7. ^ "Billboard Magazine, February 5, 1966". Billboard. 5 February 1966.
  8. ^ a b "German Charts".
  9. ^ "Norwegian Charts".
  10. ^ "Dutch Single Top 100". Single Top 100.
  11. ^ "Billboard Magazine, April 23, 1966". Billboard. 23 April 1966.
  12. ^ "Russian Folk Songs. Notes and Lyrics". Retrieved 6 April 2014.
  13. ^ Rozanov, Ivan. From Book to Folklore. How poems become folk songs. Literaturny Kritik. No.4, 1935 // От книги в фольклор. Какие стихи становятся популярной песней. // "Литературный критик 4 (1935). Pp. 2–3.
  14. ^ Les voyages de Jean Struys, en Moscovie, en Tartarie, en Perse, aux Indes, & en plusieurs Autres païs étrangers. Amsterdam, La veuve J. van Meurs, 1681 // Translated into Russian by E.Borodina as Three Journeys of Jan Struys. Moscow, 1935
  15. ^ Позади их слышен ропот / "Нас на бабу променял, / Только ночь с ней провожался, / Сам на утро бабой стал".
  16. ^ "he Twilight Zone (TV Series) : Mr. Denton on Doomsday (1959) : Soundtracks". Retrieved 28 September 2016.

External links[edit]