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