“The Killing Moon” by Echo & the Bunnymen

Ian McCulloch (Echo & the Bunnymen’s frontman) is the primary writer behind “The Killing Moon”. And he has gone out of his way to state that this song does not have a definitive interpretation. Rather it is up to listeners to derive their own understanding from the track.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Echo & the Bunnymen's The Killing Moon at Lyrics.org.

Moreover, he has gone further to insinuate that its true meaning is something which only he may understand. Or more specifically, McCulloch has stated that “no one else has really been on that moon”, and “The Killing Moon is my moon”. Additionally, considering that the lyrics depend heavily on elaborate metaphors, even if he hadn’t made such statements, the song would still be challenging to understand.

But in an attempt to try to read into it as simply as possible, it would seem the track is somehow based on the idea of “fate” being “against” an individual’s will. That is the age-old concept of a person’s freewill being at odds with his or her destiny, i.e. what that individual feels he or she was put on earth to do, even if it requires self-sacrifice. But even this explanation is to be taken with a grain of salt. And why? After “25 years” McCulloch eventually came to the realize that it was “not only… about pre-destiny, it was about everything”.

Religious Element in “The Killing Moon”

But as the lyrics imply, there is definitely a religious element to this song.  Indeed Mr. McCulloch regards its original conception, with key lyrics coming to him just as he had arisen from bed one morning, as being tantamount to a divine experience. And once again, the wording generally leads to the idea of a person’s calling being at odds with his or her free will. 

But considering the overall ambiguity of the track, even in that regard, some have postulated that it may actually be about subjects as far-ranging as the inevitability of the singer’s death at the hands of a murderer. 

So as with Ian McCulloch, we recommend that you derive your own meaning from “The Killing Moon”. For if one were to look at the song from a certain perspective(s), the lyrics indeed appear to be profound and perhaps even containing some sort of universal lesson therein.

Lyrics of "The Killing Moon"

Release Date of “The Killing Moon”

The track was released on 20 May 1984. It was the lead single from Echo & the Bunnymen’s album “Ocean Rain”.

Chart Performance

“The Killing Moon” performed well internationally. It charted in Australia, Ireland and New Zealand. Additionally, it peaked at number nine in Britain (i.e. the UK Singles Chart).

United Kingdom#9

Appearance in “Donnie Darko”

“The Killing Moon” was featured on the 2001 movie “Donnie Darko”. And in staying true to his character, Ian McCulloch has actually stated that the entire movie is actually based on the song.

This science fiction psychological thriller Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Donnie Darko, who sleepwalks outside and comes across a figure named “Frank” who tells him the end of the world is coming in 28 days.

Writing Credits

Ian McCulloch wrote this song alongside his fellow Echo & the Bunnymen band members. Below is the full list of writers:

  • Ian McCulloch
  • Pete de Freitas
  • Les Pattinson
  • Will Sergeant

The band’s guitarist, Sergeant, has stated that the instrumental to this track was partially inspired by a trip he and Pattinson took to Russia.

“The Killing Moon” was produced by David Lord.

Notable Usage

This track has been widely featured/associated with many movies and TV shows such as the following:

  • Black comedy crime movie “Grosse Pointe Black”
  • Biographical drama movie “Gia”
  • Rom-com movie “The Girl Next Door”
  • Fantasy-horror movie “Blood and Chocolate”
  • Black comedy slasher TV show “Scream Queens” (Season 2, Episode 3). In the said episode titled “Handidates”, “The Killing Moon” accompanies a flashback moment of the slaughtered bodies found in the hospital.
  • Drama TV show “The Deuce” (Season 3, Episode 1 titled “The Camera Loves You”).
  • TV drama “Billions”, (Season 3, Episode 5 titled “Flaw in the Death Star”).
  • SyFy’s “Deadly Class”, Season 1, Episode 1 (“Reagan Youth”). The track is played when Marcus (Benjamin Wadsworth) gets dressed up for school.
  • HBO’s comedy miniseries “Mrs. Fletcher”, (Season 1, Episode 7 titled “Welcome Back”).
  • DC Universe’s “Titans”, Season 2, Episode 5. The episode, “Deathstroke”, featured the song in the end credits.
  • Black comedy TV show “I Am Not Okay with This” on Netflix. The track accompanied the scene where Sydney (Sophia Lillis) accidentally kills Bradley (Richard Ellis) and flees the crime scene.
  • Teen drama TV show “13 Reasons Why”. “The Killing Moon” was featured in multiple episodes of the show.

The “Ocean Rain” Album

Echo & the Bunnymen, a rock band from the English city of Liverpool released “Ocean Rain” on the 4th of May, 1984 as their 4th studio album. The album was released on cassette on the said date and on CD on 24th of August, the same year. The album shares the same title with its 9th track, “Ocean Rain”.

With the help of a 35-piece orchestra, Echo & the Bunnymen recorded “Ocean Rain” in a number of recording studios in France and England. In France, recording took place in two recording studios in the country’s capital, namely Studio des Dames and Studio Davout. In their home country England, they recorded in Liverpool and Bath at the Amazon Studios and Crescent Studio respectively.

Production and release

Echo & the Bunnymen, French sound engineer and record producer, Henri Loustau as well as English record producer, Gil Norton have been credited with the album’s production.

Korova, a London based record label, was responsible for the official release of “Ocean Rain” on cassette as an LP while American record label, Sire Records, a subsidiary of Warner Music Group released its CD version.

In all three singles, including “The Killing Moon” were released from “Ocean Rain”. “Silver” and “Seven Seas” are the other two singles from the album.


The album’s release was met with positive response. It peaked at No. 87 on the Billboard 200 in the United States and No. 4 on the UK Albums Chart where it spent a total of 26 weeks. It was placed at No. 276 on NME’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list of 2013. With over 100,000 copies sold in the UK alone, “Ocean Rain” has received a gold certification from the British Phonographic Industry.

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