The Windmills of Your Mind (1968)

 
The song which made Noel Harrison a legend. From the 1968 Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway film The Thomas Crown Affair.

The song entered the UK chart on March 1, 1969. It peaked at number eight and spent 14 weeks in the charts. It also won the 1969 Oscar for best original song in a film.

It did not feature on any of Noel's albums at the time, but was the stand-out track of the Thomas Crown Affair soundtrack. It is now available on the compilation, Life is a Dream.
 

 
The making of The Windmills of Your Mind

In 2003, Noel Harrison had this to say about his most famous song:

"Marilyn and AIan Bergman’s lyric, like a series of mantras, plus Michel LeGrand‘s soaring string arrangement and contrapuntal rhythms made this a classic.

"It was recorded live on a huge sound stage at Paramount, with the accompanying film clips running on a giant screen and Michel blowing kisses to the orchestra.

"I’ve never tired of this song, it seems to grow with the years. I was invited to sing it at the Academy Awards in I968, where it won an Oscar for Best Original Song, but I was making a movie in England at the time, and the producer (who didn’t like me) refused to let me go.

"Jose Feliciano sang it instead. A wonderful musician and compelling singer, he made much too free with the beautiful melody, in my humble opinion. But that’s jazz."

The track was recorded because the director of the Thomas Crown Affair, Norman Jewison, wanted a song that sounded like The Beatles track Strawberry Fields Forever to go with a scene where Steve McQueen's character is flying a glider in the film.
 
He asked legendary lyricists Marilyn and Allen Bergman to come up with the song.
 
Speaking in 2006, Marilyn Bergman said: "The lyric we wrote was stream-of-consciousness.

"We felt that the song had to be a mind-trip of some kind.

"I think we were thinking… you know when you try to fall asleep at night and you can't turn your brain off and thoughts and memories tumble."

 


Watch The Windmills of Your Mind
 
 
Noel Harrison on the BBC chart show, Top of the Pops, performing a live version of The Windmills of Your Mind.
The performance was broadcast on March 27, 1969.
 

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 walk 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 or 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 colour of her hair,

A circle in a spiral, 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.

 


 
Versions of the single

Windmills was released all over the world in a number of different versions. Released in July 1968 by Reprise the song reached number eight in the British charts. It was released two months after the Santa Monica Pier album and did not feature on 1969's The Great Electric Experiment is OverIt was however included on the Thomas Crown Affair soundtrack along with an instrumental version.


Pictured here is the French version of the single.


The Spanish version of the single, featured Ring Around the Rosie Rag from Santa Monica Pier as the B side. The B side for most versions of the single was Leitch on the Beach, a song written by Noel about the singer Donovan. It was also taken from Santa Monica Pier.

The colourful Italian version of the single also featured Leitch on the Beach as the B-side.


The German version of the single strangely featured cover art taken from the album Collage, which was released a year before the Windmills of Your Mind. 

The Argentinian version of the single featured a moody black and white picture from the Thomas Crown Affair on the cover.

A version of the single featuring text in Hebrew.




 
 
 
   
The Japanese single featured cover art lifted directly from Santa Monica Pier.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In Australia, the song was released as part of an EP in 1970, with the tracks Highway in the Wind, So Long, Marianne and Leitch on the Beach. The cover art, and the three extra tracks, were all taken from the album Santa Monica Pier which came out in 1968.

A 1980 reissue of the single on the Old Gold Label, still featuring Leitch on The Beach as the B side.

Another UK reissue of the single, this time from 1981 and in a fairly unimpressive cover.




Windmills video

This video was made for The Windmills of Your Mind's original release.

Despite the film being made, it is not believed that it was ever broadcast and the footage is now very rare.

The style of the video bears some similarities to the Thomas Crown Affair film, which the song was recorded for.

 



Windmills Live

Watch Noel singing a live version of the song in 2008 and discussing how it was recorded.




Windmills at Glastonbury


Noel was recorded by the BBC at the Glastonbury music festival in 2011, performing The Windmills of Your Mind.




Adverts

The Windmills of Your Mind has been used for a number of television adverts in the UK, including one for Channel 5's digital TV service and another for BT's digital service.

BT Digital advert

 

Demand Five advert