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45 at 33: The Colour Field’s Windmills Of Your Mind

Despite David Bowie rubbishing it in an interview, I regard the Windmills Of Your Mind as arguably one of the prettiest songs ever written, and that’s not necessarily up for discussion. 

Originally a French chanson written by veteran composers Eddy Marnay and Michel Legrand called Les moulins de mon cœur, it was adapted into Anglais by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, who stayed on-topic and made the lyrics all about circular imagery — carousels, wheels, rings, etc..

The Bergmans won an Oscar when it was used as the theme song for the 1968 Steve McQueen-Faye Dunaway crime caper The Thomas Crown Affair, though I’ve always found that movie version sounds like it’s sung slightly wonkily by Noel Harrison.

There have been innumerable covers since then, of course, often at a slower, less giddy tempo — most famously a swoonsome recording by Dusty Springfield on her classic Atlantic era album Dusty In Memphis, from 1969. And then, thirty years later, Sting had a go for the 1999 remake of the film.

Nestled somewhere in between is a rather spiffing rendition by The Colour Field (the joined-up Colourfield modification came later), the trio one-time Specials frontman Terry Hall established after his second outfit Fun Boy Three had disbanded. Clearly, the Coventry lad was now intent on dropping his punk and 2Tone background in favour of following the light croon-pop path trod by the likes of Scott Walker and Andy Williams, using melody, harmony and lush string arrangements to get his material across.

There’s no orchestra on this acoustic version of Windmills but its sparse arrangement and Hall’s uniquely detached-yet-romantic voice perfectly complement the deeply poetic lyrics. Originally found on the flip side of their excellent Take single in July 1984.

Proving that you can’t keep a good song down, the track was upgraded to single status in Japan a couple of years later, though. An expanded 1999 reissue of the group’s debut album, Virgins And Philistines, also includes the song, as have various digital editions.

True beauty in three short minutes then. 

Steve Pafford

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