Tuesday, July 29, 2008

25 versions of Windmills of Your Mind

Ever have a tune keep playing over and over in your brain?
That's 'cause...there are WINDMILLS in your mind. Really. And they respond especially well to catchy kitsch.
Seemingly put together as a homework assignment for Similes 101, "Windmills of Your Mind" offered spooky psychedelia via the French version of Mancini, Mr. Michel Legrand, and English words supplied by middle-aged hack lyricists Alan & Marilyn Bergman. They toss snowballs down a mountain and think the world is "like an apple whirling silently in space."

First line sets our theme:
The lyrics get so numbing Jazz singer Carmen Lundy mistakenly sings of a "clock whose hands are SLEEPING" past the minutes of its face.
The song seems to be saying that as endless as the world is, life isn't and love isn't.
Actual lyric variation: you have a choice of "when you knew that it was over you were suddenly aware that the autumn leaves were turning to the color of her hair," OR, "when you knew that it was over in the autumn of goodbyes, for the moment you could not recall the color of his eyes." The latter is represented here by Ms Lefeber.
Years ago, comedian Frank Fay made a living satirizing the lyrics of pop tunes like "Tea for Two." It's a cruel trick. A cheap trick. So we'll surrender any further impulse to insult a song that keeps saying "like" over and over, and mentioning "things that are round" like a bad game of $25,000 Pyramid.
Fact is, the song's circles and spirals and wheels are kind of mesmerizing, they are "words that jangle in your head" (a nod to Bob's Tambourine Man perhaps). Like some Dylan tunes, notably "Lenny Bruce," there are some good lines jammed against bad ones. In Bob's case, in that song, it was "they stamped him and they labeled him, like they do with pants and shirts" followed by the good "he fought a war on a battlefield where every victory hurts." Here, a cliche about lovers leaving footprints in the sand is followed by: "Is the sound of distant drumming just the fingers of your hand?" Not too shabby. There are also some effective and eerie images: "Like a tunnel that you follow to a tunnel of its own..." or "Like a door that keeps revolving in a half-forgotten dream." Like, you gotta like that.
Like, listen for yourself. Over and over.

You get 25 different versions (five are French, known as Les Moulins de mon Coeur) including Legrand, Frida Boccara, Dorothy Ashby, Mathilde Santing, Paul Muriat, James Galway and of special interest, the top 10:
1. Psychedelic and slow: Vanilla Fudge
2. Eerie border colic: Baja Marimba Band
3. Oliver Twists: Trinity Boys Choir
4. Disco Dizziness: Sally Anne Marsh
5. A gargle of goo: Jim Nabors
6. Swanky swinging: Judith Lefeber
7. Vintage French Fluff: Vicky Leandros
8. Scat with Scuffy Grapelli-style Violin: Carmen Lundy
9. Accapella Angst: The Lettermen
10. How Elton Might've Done It: Jose Feliciano



Anonymous said...


I would like to add that Vicky Leandros recorded the song not just in French, but in English, Greek (I mikri mas istoria) and German (Wie sich Mühlen dreh'n im Wind) as well.

Klaus Munro, who wrote the German lyrics, won the Textdichter-preis.

Kind regards, Paul Aijtink

Anonymous said...

there is also an Itlaian version: "I mulini dei ricordi" sung by Enzo Jannacci

Anonymous said...

sorry, "Italian", of course