Written by: David Bowie, Erdal Kızılçay
Recorded: September-November 1986
Producers: David Bowie, David Richards
Released: 27 October 1986
Loving The Alien (1983-1988)
Erdal Kızılçay: guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, synthesizer, drums, drum programming, congas, strings, horns
‘When The Wind Blows’ was a single by David Bowie, written for the soundtrack of the 1986 animated film of the same name.
The song was the last movie theme song Bowie recorded in the Eighties. It followed ‘This Is Not America’ and ‘Absolute Beginners’, and the five songs he wrote and recorded for the 1986 film Labyrinth.
‘When The Wind Blows’ was composed and recorded by Bowie and Erdal Kızılçay, the talented multi-instrumentalist who had been working with Bowie since the demos for 1983’s Let’s Dance.
He knew that I was living in the French part of Switzerland and I had a little studio, just eight tracks. Over dinner he was telling me, ‘You’re really great, you can play nearly everything.’ He started coming to my place twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursdays, working in my studio. We started to co-compose; we did the film track ‘When The Wind Blows’ and ‘Girls’ and ‘Too Dizzy’ for the album Never Let Me Down.
As he was in my studio I was also making him listen to some of my stuff. I did a documentary film, which was kind of classical, a lot of French horn, strings, double basses, a symphonic orchestra. He said, ‘Can you make me a copy of this?’ When he came the next Thursday he said, ‘Listen, Erdal, I really love this song, the way you made it. Can you make the way it starts rock and explosive and it turns classical and at the end it really blows up?’ I said, ‘OK, let me try.’ He said to me that When The Wind Blows was about an atomic nuclear war, that was the reason. It was like an atomic bomb.
I played everything on the track at Mountain Studios – 32 tracks, real trombones, real violins, real trumpets… He was so happy about that; that’s why he engaged me after Iggy Pop’s Blah-Blah-Blah. He was great to work with, he’s very understanding and artistic. He always made me play a few tracks of something and say, ‘Let’s take the intro from there and the second track… Maybe we should use the middle part.’ He was editing himself – he already had some knowledge about how the song should be considered.
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)
When The Wind Blows was based on Raymond Brigg’s 1982 graphic novel. It follows an English couple, the Bloggs, who take shelter from a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union, but are exposed to radiation from the fallout.
The film was directed by Jimmy Murakami and starred Sir John Mills and Dame Peggy Ashcroft. Aside from the title track, the soundtrack was mostly written and recorded by Roger Waters, with additional songs by Hugh Cornwell, Genesis, Squeeze, and Paul Hardcastle.
Murakami also directed a promotional video for the single, which featured Bowie’s animated face and silhouette overlaid onto a montage of clips from the film. It was released on the 2007 DVD Best Of 1980/1987.
When The Wind Blows was Bowie’s second appearance in a Briggs adaptation. He had previously appeared in the introduction to the Christmas classic The Snowman in 1982.
‘When The Wind Blows’ was released as a single on 27 October 1986. It was not a commercial success, peaking at number 44 on the UK charts.
The b-side was an orchestral version of the song, titled ‘When the Wind Blows’ (Instrumental).
Bowie’s 1987 album Never Let Me Down was reissued in 1995 by Virgin Records. It contained three bonus tracks: the b-sides ‘Julie’ and ‘Girls’ (Extended Edit); and ‘When The Wind Blows’.
‘When The Wind Blows’ was also included on the versions of Best Of Bowie released Chile and in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. It also featured on the 2005 compilation The Platinum Collection.
In 2007 a digital EP was released and contained ‘When The Wind Blows’, ‘When The Wind Blows’ (Extended Mix), and ‘When The Wind Blows’ (Instrumental).
‘When The Wind Blows’ was also included on Re:Call 4 an album of remixes, rarities and non-album singles that came in the 2018 box set Loving The Alien (1983-1988).