The Killing Moon

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"The Killing Moon"
Single by Echo & the Bunnymen
from the album Ocean Rain
B-side"Do It Clean"
Released20 January 1984 (1984-01-20)
RecordedDecember 1983
Producer(s)David Lord
Echo & the Bunnymen singles chronology
"Never Stop"
"The Killing Moon"
"The Sound of Echo"
Music video
"The Killing Moon" on YouTube

"The Killing Moon" is a song by the English rock band Echo & the Bunnymen. It was released on 20 January 1984[2] as the lead single from their fourth studio album, Ocean Rain (1984). It is one of the band's highest-charting hits, reaching number 9 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."[3] 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."[4]

The song appeared on the soundtrack to the 2001 science fiction film Donnie Darko.


According to the liner notes of Echo & the Bunnymen's box set Crystal Days: 1979–1999 (2001), 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.[5]


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 producer David Lord. The strings on the track are a combination of Adam Peters' cello and keyboards played by the producer.[6] The song is in Aeolian dominant.

Track listing[edit]

  • 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


Weekly charts[edit]

Weekly chart performance for "The Killing Moon"
Chart (1984) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[7] 96
Irish Singles Chart[8] 7
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[9] 12
UK Singles Chart[10] 9

Year-end charts[edit]

1984 year-end chart performance for "The Killing Moon"
Chart (1984) Peak
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[11] 46


Certifications and sales for "The Killing Moon"
Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[12] Gold 400,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Other media and cover versions[edit]

"The Killing Moon" was featured in the 2001 film Donnie Darko, setting the tone for the opening scene as Donnie enters the town. For the director's cut of the film in 2004, Richard Kelly was unable to secure the rights to "The Killing Moon" a second time, and instead substituted "Never Tear Us Apart" by INXS. The Digital Fix film review opined that the Bunnymen song worked much better in the scene.[13] Artists that have covered the song include notable versions by Pavement[14] and Chvrches.[15]


  1. ^ a b Bates, Theunis (2015). "Echo & The Bunnymen - "The Killing Moon". In Dimery, Robert (ed.). 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die. New York: Universe. p. 541.
  2. ^ "Record News". NME. London, England: IPC Media: 29. 14 January 1984.
  3. ^ Harrison, Andrew (12 April 2003). "This much I know". The Observer. London. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
  4. ^ Mason, Stuart. "The Killing Moon: Song Review by Stewart Mason". AllMusic. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
  5. ^ Simpson, Dave (7 April 2015). "Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant: how we made The Killing Moon". Retrieved 14 April 2015.
  6. ^ Simpson, Interviews by Dave (7 April 2015). "Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant: how we made The Killing Moon". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  7. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  8. ^ "The Irish Charts - All You Need To Know". IRMA. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  9. ^ "". Hung Medien. Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  10. ^ "ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN | full Official Chart History". Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  11. ^ "End of Year Charts 1984". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved 17 May 2022.
  12. ^ "British single certifications – Echo & the Bunnymen – The Killing Moon". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 17 November 2023.
  13. ^ Day, Matt (10 August 2004). "Donnie Darko: Director's Cut". The Digital Fix. Archived from the original on 8 October 2016. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  14. ^ "Take Cover! Pavement Vs. Echo & The Bunnymen". 4 November 2009. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  15. ^ "Listen to Chvrches' cover of Echo And The Bunnymen's 'The Killing Moon'". 13 August 2021. Retrieved 24 February 2022.

External links[edit]