Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Conway Twitty, “The Clown”

“The Clown”

Conway Twitty

Written by Brenda Barnett, Wayne Carson, Charlie Chalmers, and Sandra Rhodes

Radio & Records

#1 (3 weeks)

March 19 – April 2, 1982


#1 (1 week)

April 17, 1982

Conway Twitty’s “The Clown” demonstrates the power of restraint.

It would’ve been all too easy to incorporate circus sounds throughout this record, but we just hear a slow piano outro at the end which borrows from “Entry of the Gladiators,” the standard circus theme for clown performances.

Rather than make this record try to replicate the disguise he wears, Twitty lays bare what’s going on under all of the makeup.  He is a broken man who is fully aware that he’s being used and abused, but he’ll paint a smile on and bear the pain, just to buy a little more time before the curtain falls on this one-sided romance. After all, the woman he love so unconditionally doesn’t love him.  She just loves the havoc she’s created:

I’ll do tricks for you, just like you want me toI’ll do anything it takes just to hang aroundI’ll paint a smile for you to cover up my frown‘Cause you love the circus, but you don’t love the clown

I find it fascinating that a singer who usually emoted so expressively choose to deliver this song with such a somber and delicate reading. 

Twitty could have used his usual dramatic flair and it still would have been a great record.  But his choice to hold back actually heightens the impact of the lyric.   What a beautiful record.

“The Clown” gets an A,

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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1 Comment

  1. I just purchased a used vinyl copy of Twitty’s “Southern Comfort” album from Kops Records in the east end of Toronto on the Danforth.

    It cost me the princely sum of $4.99 CAD.

    The album has a great cover of Lee Greenwood’s debut single “It Turns Me Inside Out.”

    The title-track was written by Jaime O’Hara. Kieran Kane had a co-write on the Oak’s “Bobbie Sue” album. I point this out because the two will come together to record some amazing albums later in the decade.

    Right now, Conway is king. This song is something special that hovers just above being a true recitation. It is all elegant restraint from an artist who was no stranger to bombast. No suprise that Jimmy Bowen is the producer here again. It certainly is a beautiful performance.

    My motley trinity of circus songs include this one along with Travis Tritt’s “Circus Leaving Town” and Shirley Bassey’s “Send in the Clowns.”

    Look at the variety in sound and style from Twitty’s Chart-toppers alone so far this decade.

    The ’80s continue to surprise!

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