Song Lyric Sunday – Windmills of Your Mind

Song Lyric Sunday prompts for this week are Circle, Polygon, Square and Triangle. The first song that popped into my mind was Windmills of Your Mind by Noel Harrison. I have included his video lower down on this post. I chose not to feature it as his words were so rushed. The lyrics of this song are so beautiful and should be savored so I went with Sting’s version from the 1999 remake of the movie, The Thomas Crown Affair, featuring Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo. It is much slower and dreamier. I hope you enjoy it.

 

The song was first featured in the 1968 Steve McQueen movie The Thomas Crown Affair. Director Norman Jewison wanted a song that sounded like The Beatles “Strawberry Fields Forever” for a scene where McQueen’s character is flying a glider. The song provided a contrast to the visual: McQueen appeared firmly in control, but the music made viewers feel the trepidation going through his mind.

Songwriters Michel Legrand and Marilyn and Alan Bergman wrote this. It took them a while to come up with the title, which they chose because they thought it was interesting.

This won the 1969 Oscar for Best Song From A Film.
Harrison was the son of the British actor Rex Harrison. He is best known in the US for co-starring with Stefanie Powers in the popular ’60s TV spy series The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.

Dusty Springfield recorded a popular version of this song on her 1969 album Dusty In Memphis. >>

Marilyn Bergman recalled to the ASCAP Extended Songwriters’ Workshop how this song came about: “That was an assignment, for a picture called The Thomas Crown Affair. It was a picture about a very wealthy playboy who has been everywhere and done everything, and for a thrill, plans a very complicated bank heist. There was a scene in which he is flying a glider for pleasure while he’s planning the bank heist, and the director shot six- or seven-minutes of him circling in the glider — which is a dream for a songwriter: no dialogue, no sound effects, just a little shoosh of wind. Norman Jewison, the director, wanted a song that exposed no character, that didn’t tell any plot – he just wanted the restlessness and uneasiness of the character underlined. Michel wrote six or seven full melodies, and when we work with him, we write to his melodies, because even though he expresses himself perfectly in English, his French accent is such that things can come out sounding a little like calypso songs! He played us these wonderful melodies, and we agreed to sleep on it. The next morning all three of us had independently chosen this oddball melody, almost baroque in feel. It was the opposite of what we had thought we would have chosen the night before.”
Alan Bergman added: “I think we chose it because it’s kind of a ribbon, a circular melody that reflected the flight of a glider very well.”

Noel Harrison once said of this song: “It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time. I went to the studio one afternoon, sang it and pretty much forgot about it. I didn’t realize until later what a timeless, beautiful piece Michel Legrand and the Bergmans had written. It turned out to be my most notable piece of work.”

In the 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, this song appears twice: first by Chico O’Farrill and His Orchestra, then by Sting over the closing credits.

Harrison had trouble with the lyric, “Like a tunnel that you follow to a tunnel of its own, down a hollow to a cavern where the sun has never shone.” Marilyn Bergman recalled: “In Britain, they don’t say ‘shone’ in the past tense. They say ‘shon,’ rhyming with ‘upon.’ The sun ‘shon’ yesterday. He started to sing the song and he sang ‘tunnel of its own… where the sun has never shon.’ We said ‘No, it’s shone.’ And he said ‘No, it’s our language!’ And we said, ‘Yes, but it’s our song.’ So reluctantly, he sang ‘shone’ and our rhyme was intact.”

Lyrics

Round like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning on an ever spinning reel
Like a snowball down a mountain, or a carnival balloon
Like a carousel that's turning running rings around the moon
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping past the minutes of its face
And the world is like an apple whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind!

Like a tunnel that you follow to a tunnel of its own
Down a hollow to a cavern where the sun has never shone
Like a door that keeps revolving in a half forgotten dream
Or the ripples from a pebble someone tosses in a stream
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping past the minutes of its face
And the world is like an apple whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind!

Keys that jingle in your pocket, words that jangle in your head
Why did summer go so quickly, was it something that you said?
Lovers walking along a shore and leave their footprints in the sand
Is the sound of distant drumming just the fingers of your hand?
Pictures hanging in a hallway and the fragment of a song
Half remembered names and faces, but to whom do they belong?
When you knew that it was over you were suddenly aware
That the autumn leaves were turning to the color of her hair!
Like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning on an ever spinning reel
As the images unwind, like the circles that you find 
In the windmills of your mind!

Written by Michel Legrand and Marilyn and Alan Bergman

Courtesy of Songfacts

  33 comments for “Song Lyric Sunday – Windmills of Your Mind

  1. December 23, 2020 at 9:27 am

    Hi Christine check out this version by Dorothy Ashby https://youtu.be/IaQ-c4QhJnk

    • Christine Bolton
      December 23, 2020 at 1:01 pm

      What a beautiful version of it played on the Harp! Thanks for sharing that Bernadette. It sounded so pretty 🥰

  2. December 21, 2020 at 1:52 pm

    I was alive when the first version came out -pretentious flower-power rubbish. And so pretentious !

    • Christine Bolton
      December 21, 2020 at 9:51 pm

      How I interesting you’d say that Ian. I never looked at it that way. I much prefer Sting’s lovely slow version of it. Thanks for visiting ☺️

  3. December 20, 2020 at 4:38 pm

    Having seen the original movie with Steve McQueen and Faye Dunnaway, I liked the Sting version and remember the Pierce Brosnan film too! Good choice.

    • Christine Bolton
      December 21, 2020 at 12:42 pm

      Yes Di, I loved the first movie. Interestingly Faye Dunaway cameoed in the remake. I don’t remember that but you caught a glimpse of her in that video. I loved the lyrics to the song ☺️

      • December 21, 2020 at 1:00 pm

        Yes, she played the psychiatrist in the remake.

      • December 21, 2020 at 5:53 pm

        Great post, great movie. I loved the remake!
        Another great collaboration with the same composer and lyricists was in the Summer of ’42 – song -The Summer knows! Filmed in Mendocino I got to see them shooting a scene in the summer of 1970. So Cool! I love your Song Lyric Sunday.
        😊💕💖🌹✨

      • Christine Bolton
        December 21, 2020 at 9:47 pm

        Thanks Chuck. You’re so sweet to share. I remember that movie the Summer of 42. It was lovely ☺️

    • Christine Bolton
      December 21, 2020 at 9:32 pm

      Oh that’s right, the psychiatrist! Thanks Di ☺️

      • December 22, 2020 at 9:29 am

        You’re welcome Christine.

  4. December 20, 2020 at 12:58 pm

    I always liked Dusty Springfield’s cover of this. It’s a great song…

    • Christine Bolton
      December 20, 2020 at 1:17 pm

      Yes John. I listened to it before I went with Sting and the video. She had such a soulful voice. Another artist that went too soon 😢

      • December 20, 2020 at 1:42 pm

        I loved her voice, and she really stretched to do as many kinds of music as there were.

  5. December 20, 2020 at 9:35 am

    New to me and I like it. Thanks for sharing

    • Christine Bolton
      December 20, 2020 at 12:47 pm

      Thanks Jilly. You’ll have to watch the movie now ☺️

  6. December 20, 2020 at 9:16 am

    I used to watch The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. and I thought it was a good song. That is such a British thing to say, “No, it’s our language!” Nice music Christine.

    • Christine Bolton
      December 20, 2020 at 12:45 pm

      Thanks Jim. I liked all the versions Peter found. I just remember the Noel Harrison one. It was just so rushed. Oh and yes …. it is our language. You just speak it with a funny accent! Lol 🤣

  7. Christine Bolton
    December 20, 2020 at 8:40 am

    Yes indeed. Great song and I loved that you included more versions! ☺️

  8. December 20, 2020 at 6:51 am

    Great minds! It really is a beautiful song and both films were great, although I think I prefer the original version.

    • Christine Bolton
      December 20, 2020 at 12:47 pm

      Yes indeed. Great song and I loved that you included more versions! ☺️

  9. December 20, 2020 at 12:32 am

    Great choice!!!!! I love this song!!! Thankyou!

    • December 20, 2020 at 4:12 am

      Great choice, I love both versions, but prefer the Sting version for what reason I can’t put my finger on 💜

      • Christine Bolton
        December 20, 2020 at 8:39 am

        Thanks Willow! I do too ☺️

      • December 20, 2020 at 10:32 am

        Me too, I think maybe it’s how the drums are being played … great choice though!

      • Christine Bolton
        December 20, 2020 at 12:47 pm

        Thanks Laura. It’s a great song a d fabulous lyrics

      • December 20, 2020 at 8:41 pm

        Could be 💜

      • December 20, 2020 at 1:15 pm

        Any version, would be great for me!

      • December 20, 2020 at 8:36 pm

        💜💜

      • December 20, 2020 at 8:46 pm

        💜🙂💜

    • Christine Bolton
      December 20, 2020 at 8:38 am

      Thanks Jen, I’m happy you liked it ☺️

      • December 20, 2020 at 1:16 pm

        I sure did! Thanks again! 😊

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