This started off as a completely different song. Al Stewart originally wrote the lyrics after seeing
The performance by the British comedian Tony Hancock that inspired the first version of this song took place in Bournemouth, England in 1966. Hancock was very depressed, and the show was a disaster, with the comedian going to the front of the stage and addressing the audience directly and pouring out his soul. In Al Stewart: The True Life Adventures of a Folk Rock Troubadour
, Stewart is quoted: "He came on stage and he said 'I don't want to be here. I'm just totally pissed off with my life. I'm a complete loser, this is stupid. I don't know why I don't just end it all right here.' And they all laughed, because is was the character he played... this sort of down-and-out character. And I looked at him and I thought, Oh my god, He means it. This is for real."
Hancock killed himself in 1968 with a drug overdose. Many of Stewart's songs have alternate lyrics, and he wasn't happy with the Hancock-inspired words, as he didn't want to take advantage of the man's tragedy, and besides, no one in America knew who Hancock was.