Good Bad But Beautiful LP side 1Send In The Clowns
Written by Stephen Sondheim.

Released on the 1975 album Good, Bad But Beautiful. Another recording not quite as good as the original is on the 1984 album I Am What I Am. Live recordings have been released on the album Live In Japan ’77, and on the video You Ain’t Heard Nothing Yet. Additionally Shirley Bassey has performed this song live in some TV shows 1975/76, and again in the 1980’s.

This song is taken from Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical “A Little Night Music”. The premiere was on February 25, 1973, and it ran for two years in New York with 601 performances, plus 406 performances in England. The whole musical is roughly based on a film of Ingmar Bergman from 1955 “Smiles of a Summer Night, a Little Night Music” (Sommarnattens Leende) and as a whole set to 3/4-time (waltz). In 1978 it was made into an unsuccessful film with Elizabeth Taylor as Desiree.

The story, as often with Stephen Sondheim, is about complicated relationships and set in Sweden around just before 1900 (fin de siécle). To cut the storyline really short: old and new lovers and unfaithful married people meet each other and fall in and out love which each other.

“Send In The Clowns” is sung by two former lovers who have split up again. A widowed lawyer, Frederik, who recently married a very young girl (who after months of marriage is still a virgin) meets up with his old lover, an actress called Desiree. She hopes to regain the love of the lawyer but he rejects her. She sings “send in the clowns…”, a phrase used in the circus if anything goes wrong and things must be covered up (if somebody drops from the trapeze or has been bitten by a lion, it’s time for the clowns to entertain). Then, after Frederik discovers that his virgin bride has eloped with his own son, and a dangerous game of Russian roulette, he finds himself once again in the arms of Desiree, and together they sing a reprise of “Send In The Clowns” and decide to stay together.

Stephen Sondheim (born 1930) is a Broadway show composer and lyricist, described not only as the greatest of his generation but as the only great one of his generation. He’s well known and loved for his quite complicated and not so accessible, but beautiful writing. He got his first big break when he was hired to write lyrics to Leonard Bernstein’s score for “West Side Story”.

Shirley Bassey has performed songs also from other Sondheim musicals: “West Side Story” (1957), “Gypsy” (1959) and “Follies” (1971).

“Send in the Clowns” has been performed by many singers. It was a hit for Judy Collins in 1975; she reached position number 36 in the US Billboard.

The lyrics of “Send in the Clowns” were extended with extra lines at the request of Barbra Streisand for her “The Broadway Album by Stephen Sondheim”. Shirley Bassey didn’t need that, she sang the original lines.

Here an excerpt of a “Billboard” review of a 1976 “Greatest Hits” album: …”Send In The Clowns,” which incidentally is one of the best emotional readings the song has achieved. The majesty of her powerful voice is matched by the sweep of the large orchestras which give her support, with superb charts by Arthur Greenslade…
If one has seen Bassey onstage, one can appreciate how she supplements these readings with dramatic movements. Best cuts: “Send In The Clowns,” “Goldfinger,” “What I Did For Love,” “Where Do I Begin,” “Ballad Of The Sad Young Men.”
Dealers: A top recapitulation package which will draw customers once displayed.

Special thanks to John D. for sending additional information.

Sheet Music 1975 Send In The Clowns


Isn’t it rich?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground
And you in mid-air
Send in the clowns

Isn’t it bliss?
Don’t you approve?
One who keeps tearing around
One who can’t move
Where are the clowns?
Send in the clowns

Just when I stopped
Opening doors
Finally knowing the one
That I wanted was yours
Making my entrance again
With my usual flair
Sure of my lines
No one is there

Don’t you love farce?
My fault, I fear
I thought that you want what I want
Sorry, my dear
But where are the clowns?
Quick, send in the clowns
Don’t bother
They’re here

Isn’t it rich?
Isn’t it queer?
Losing my timing this late
In my career?
And where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns
Well maybe
Next year

(Transcribed by Roman)

4 thoughts on “FROM THE ARCHIVE 327 -1975-”

  1. Thanks Pieter for all the time and effort you must put in to bring all this continuing archive material to us; you are a wealth of information. I for one am truly grateful to you.


    Liked by 1 person

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