‘Like A Circle In A Spiral . . .’

On one of the cable channels a while back, I caught the 1999 version of The Thomas Crown Affair, a remake of a 1968 film that starred Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. The remake placed Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo in those roles, and I have to say I was underwhelmed. Unfortunately, I’ve not seen the original film, so I can’t make a final judgment, but the original is currently at the top of my Netflix queue, and once it arrives, I expect the McQueen-Dunaway team to easily outpoint the Brosnan-Russo pairing.

One area in which the 1999 version will earn a victory, however, comes in the vocal performance of the very familiar theme. Titled “The Windmills of Your Mind,” the sinuous and lovely tune was – like “The Theme From The Summer of ’42” – a collaboration between French composer Michel Legrand and American lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman. (The song’s French lyrics, under the title of “Les Moulins de Mon Coeur,” were by Eddy Marnay.)

In the 1968 film (or at least on the soundtrack), the vocal version was performed by Noel Harrison, son of British actor Rex Harrison. The younger Harrison had reached the Billboard Hot 100 in 1965 with the overly dramatic “A Young Girl” (No. 51) and in 1967 with a cover of Leonard Cohen’s cryptic “Suzanne” (No. 56). In 1969, a year after The Thomas Crown Affair was released, Harrison’s rendition of “The Windmills of Your Mind” went to No. 9 on the British charts. I don’t know if it was released as a single here in the U.S., but if it was, it failed to make the charts.

Maybe I just don’t care for Noel Harrison’s voice, but – like his 1966 album that included “A Young Girl” and his 1967 version of “Suzanne” – I find his version of “The Windmills of Your Mind” to be thin and not all that interesting. The version used in the 1999 remake of the film had vocals from Sting, and although it’s altogether too easy to have too much of Sting, his version of the classic theme is better than Harrison’s, if only by a little bit.

We’ll close today’s exercise with Legrand’s instrumental version from the 1968 film. Later this week, I’ll offer the French version of the tune that seems to have been the most popular, and we’ll take a look at a few of the many, many covers through the years of “The Windmills of Your Mind.” Here’s the original instrumental from the 1968 soundtrack.

Tags: , ,

4 Responses to “‘Like A Circle In A Spiral . . .’”

  1. Steve E. says:

    For me, the song belongs to Dusty Springfield. Her version got a lot of airplay in Southern California in summer 1969, and I love both her vocal and the arrangement.

  2. Marie says:

    I have to agree with Steve; I’ve always associated the song with Dusty Springfield. Here in Toronto, I’m ashamed to say, Noel Harrison’s ‘Suzanne’ inexplicably made it to # 5 on the CHUM 1050 Radio chart.

  3. David Lenander says:

    If you decide to look at/listen to versions of “Suzanne,” don’t overlook Fairport Convention’s early take on it, released on HEYDAY, much later, with Iain Matthews’ & Sandy Denny’s vocals and the fun drum arrangement by their original drummer–it’s not like anybody else’s cover. Can’t think of drummer’s name, just now.

  4. […] Echoes In The Wind Hear that music in the distance? So do I. « ‘Like A Circle In A Spiral . . .’ […]

Leave a Reply