I’d like to speak to you today about clown songs. Not normal clown songs, like Send in the Clowns, but songs where the boyfriend (always it was the boy, never the girl) laments being a ‘clown’. This was a short time geologically, perhaps the 1960’s through the 1980’s.
It began, I believe, with the Everly Brothers Kathy’s Clown in 1960, continued through Gary Lewis and the Playboys Everybody Loves a Clown in 1964. The thrust of the songs is that the boy singing is a ‘clown’ for his girl. It’s never made clear what this entails, but it is obviously not a condition he desires. I was a teenager and young adult during this period and I never, not once, called or heard any boy be called a girls clown. I was part of a population of normally rowdy and cruel kids and it never happened.
So how did the songwriters get the idea that there were girls out there turning boys into clowns? And what was in it for the girls? A Clown doesn’t buy more gifts, doesn’t give the girl money. It would certainly not enhance the girl’s appeal to have a clown hanging around her. Did she use the boy as a clown weapon, sending him out to throw confetti from a bucket on rivals or squeeze the bulb of a loud horn to irritate them? I never saw anything like that, and I was an Observer.
This clown thing reached its zenith when P.J. Proby covered the song Clown Shoes, I believe it 1987. Johnny Burnette wrote it in 1962. It is one of the most bizarre songs ever about a boy being a clown for a girl. I won’t put them here, but if you want to be entertained, find the lyrics, or better yet, the song, and listen to it.
But none of this explain why it is that the girl wants a clown, whether she deliberately created one or it was an unhappy accident, and what exactly is so disturbing to be one. I know everyone hates and fears clowns, and cross the street to avoid them. But is that the only reason? I wonder.