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"The Killing Moon"
Song by Echo & the Bunnymen
from the album Ocean Rain
B-side"Do It Clean"
Released20 January 1984
RecordedCrescent Studio in Bath, Amazon Studios in Liverpool
Songwriter(s)Will Sergeant, Ian McCulloch, Les Pattinson, Pete de Freitas
Producer(s)The Bunnymen

"The Killing Moon" is a song by the band Echo & the Bunnymen. It was released on 20 January 1984[1] as the lead single from their 1984 album, Ocean Rain. It is one of the band's highest-charting hits, reaching number nine in the UK Singles Chart, and often cited as the band's greatest song. Ian McCulloch has said: "When I sing "The Killing Moon", I know there isn't a band in the world who's got a song anywhere near that".[2] In a retrospective review of the song, Allmusic journalist Stewart Mason wrote: "The smart use of strings amplifies the elegance of the tune, bringing both a musical richness and a sense of quiet dignity to the tune".[3]


According to the liner notes of Echo and the Bunnymen's Crystal Days box set, Ian McCulloch woke up one morning with the phrase "fate up against your will" in mind. In a 2015 interview McCulloch said: "I love (the song) all the more because I didn’t pore over it for days on end. One morning, I just sat bolt upright in bed with this line in my head: 'Fate up against your will. Through the thick and thin. He will wait until you give yourself to him.' You don’t dream things like that and remember them. That’s why I’ve always half credited the lyric to God. It’s never happened before or since". McCulloch attributed the use of astronomical imagery in the song to a childhood interest in space.[4]


The chords of the song were based on David Bowie's "Space Oddity", played backwards. The arrangement of the song was partially inspired by balalaika music that Les Pattinson and Will Sergeant had heard in Russia. The guitar solo had been recorded separately by Sergeant whilst tuning up and was inserted in the song at the suggestion of the producer. The strings which can be heard on the track are a combination of Adam Peters' cello and keyboards played by the producer.[5]

Track listing[]

  • UK 12"
  1. "The Killing Moon" (All Night Version) – 9:11
  2. "The Killing Moon" – 5:50
  3. "Do It Clean" (Recorded live at the Royal Albert Hall London 18 July 1983) – 6:36

Cover versions[]

Cover versions of "The Killing Moon"[6] include:

  • 1997: Pavement recorded the song on their January 1997 BBC Radio 1 Evening Session, later included on their final EP, Major Leagues.
  • 2001: The Quakes covered the song on their album, Last of Human Beings.
  • 2006: Nouvelle Vague's bossa nova version opened their Bande à Part album.
  • 2006: Grant-Lee Phillips featured the song on his covers album, Nineteeneighties.
  • 2007: The Distants covered the song for the Blood & Chocolate soundtrack.
  • 2009: Greg Laswell recorded a version on his Covers EP.

In pop culture[]

  • "The Killing Moon" was featured in the original theatrical version of the opening sequence of the cult film Donnie Darko, however, in the director's cut version of the film, the song is replaced by INXS's "Never Tear Us Apart".[7]
  • The song also appeared in the films Gia and The Girl Next Door, in the TV series Dead of Summer and in addition to the video game Rock Band 3.
  • The song was included on the soundtrack for Grosse Pointe Blank.


  1. "Record News". NME. London, England: IPC Media: 29. 14 January 1984.
  2. Harrison, Andrew (12 April 2003). "This much I know". The Observer. London. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
  3. Mason, Stuart. "The Killing Moon: Song Review by Stewart Mason". AllMusic. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
  4. Simpson, Dave (7 April 2015). "Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant: how we made The Killing Moon". Retrieved 14 April 2015.
  6. "The Ultimate Echo and the Bunnymen Resource". Villiers Retrieved 21 May 2008.
  7. Day, Matt (10 August 2004). "Donnie Darko: Director's Cut". The Digital Fix.

External links[]

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