How God Helped Echo & The Bunnymen Write “The Killing Moon”
Echo & The Bunnymen are the essence of 1980s post-punk cool. Throughout this decade the Liverpool band have released albums like their 1980 debut. Crocodiles, Heaven here, and the disc which won the general public success of the group, the years 1983 Porcupine.
The group combined Leonard Cohen’s poetic sensibility with the gobbling angst of punk to create a powerful mix of new-wave and in so doing left an indelible mark on British music – and thinking they were almost called each other “The Daz Men ‘.
It was Liverpool’s flourishing music scene in the 1970s and 1980s that served as the launching pad for Echo & The Bunnymen. McCulloch, Julian Cope and Pete Wylie, all singers, began performing together as The Crucial Three in 1977. However, Wylie resigned to form The Mighty Wah! and McCulloch and Cope then formed A Shallow Madness, which was an early incarnation of The Teardrop Explodes. A groupless McCulloch bonded with Will Sergeant and Sergeant’s school pal Les Pattinson. With drummer Pete de Freitas in the mix, the band’s formation was complete and they then released their debut album in the first year of the 1980s.
Fast forward to 1983, and Echo & the Bunnymen were at their peak, releasing their most important album Ocean rain the following year, 1984. Much of the album was recorded in Paris, and it features an orchestra of 35 musicians. Of the album, Will Sargent said, “We wanted to do something conceptual with lush orchestration; not Mantovani, something with a twist. Everything is quite dark. ‘Thorn of Crowns’ is based on an eastern scale. The whole atmosphere is very windy: European pirates, a little Ben Gunn; dark and stormy driving rain; all that.”
And the song that epitomizes the album’s dark heart is its lead single, ‘The Killing Moon’. It’s an iconic track, receiving the big screen treatment in the 2001’s opening scene. Donnie Darko. Asked about the inspiration behind the song, Ian McCulloch gave a cryptic response, saying, “I never really tell people what all songs mean because it surely ruins their trip. When they listen to something like “The Killing Moon” there are so many different ideas about what it is. For me it’s like to be or not to be moments.
However, the song, at the time of writing, clearly had a profound effect on McCulloch, who spoke about the song in almost spiritual terms. he said, “I have been on the moon which is ‘The Killing Moon’. No one else has really been to this moon because I sing it the way I wrote it. It’s my moon now. Not that of the sky, but “The Killing Moon” is my moon – I know all about it. I feel it day by day, but it changes all the time ”
McCulloch added, “Every once in a while and I’m like ‘Wow! It was like kind of writing for me, this song. That’s not to say it’s about God, but it’s my parable that I had to write for myself first, but it seems a lot of people see ‘The Killing Moon’ as a special song.
Listen to ‘The Killing Moon’ below.