Moonlight Shadow

Moonlight Shadow
"Moonlight Shadow"
Single by Mike Oldfield & Maggie Reilly
from the album Crises
B-side "Rite of Man"
Released 6 May 1983 (1983-05-06)
Format 7-inch vinyl
12-inch vinyl
Genre Pop rock
Length 3:37
Label Virgin Records
Writer(s) Mike Oldfield
Producer Mike Oldfield
Simon Phillips[1]
Mike Oldfield chronology
"Moonlight Shadow"
"Shadow on the Wall"
Music sample
Moonlight Shadow
1993 reissue artwork
Reissued in promotion for Elements
Mike Oldfield chronology
"The Bell"
"Moonlight Shadow" (reissue)
"In Dulci Jubilo" (reissue)

"Moonlight Shadow" is a pop song written and performed by English multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield, released as a single in May 1983 and included in the album Crises of the same year.[2] The vocals were performed by Scottish vocalist Maggie Reilly, who had joined Mike Oldfield in 1980. It is Oldfield's most successful single to date.


The single peaked at number 4 in the British charts, making it Oldfield's second highest ranked single after "Portsmouth", which reached number 3 in 1976. "Moonlight Shadow" was successful throughout Europe. It reached number 1 in countries, including Brazil for two weeks, Italy, Austria, Switzerland for four weeks and Norway for six weeks. It spent four weeks at number 2 in Germany and also hit number 6 in Australia. It was re-released as a maxi-CD single in 1993 to promote Oldfield's Elements box set, charting at number 52.

A 12" single (later reissued on a 3" CD single) featured an extended version of the song with an extra verse, and the single B-side was "Rite of Man", which was a rare instance of Oldfield singing lead vocal. The extended mix also appears on his compilation album The Platinum Collection.

In 1991 the song was re-released in France, and in 1993 it was featured on promos for Elements in France and Spain.

Live performances

Maggie Reilly sang "Moonlight Shadow" live when she toured with Oldfield in the 1980s. However since then, other singers have performed the song live with Oldfield including, Anita Hegerland (during the late 1980s), Pepsi Demacque (at the Tubular Bells III premiere and at the Live Then & Now '99 tour), Miriam Stockley (at the Millennium concert) and Rosa Cedrón (at Nokia Night of the Proms).


The original cover art is an enlargement of the lower right corner of the Crises album cover by UK artist Terry Ilott. This shows a man with his foot on a ledge with the sea and sky in the background. The moon, the tower and its shadow from the album cover cannot be seen on the single cover.

The artwork for the 1993 reissue followed the style of the Elements artwork in most countries.


An early version of the song was entitled "Midnight Passion" with vocals by British singer Hazel O'Connor.[3] Along with Maggie Reilly, a girlfriend of one of the roadies when Oldfield was on tour, Oldfield used a rhyming dictionary and recorded many of the lyrics word by word.[4] According to Oldfield, Virgin Records were immediately happy with the song and wanted more pieces similar to it. Reilly also sang on "Foreign Affair" on Crises.

Oldfield later sampled the drums from "Moonlight Shadow" for the song "Man in the Rain" on his 1998 album, Tubular Bells III.[5]

Lyrical content

It has been suggested that the lyrics of the song are a reference to the murder of John Lennon despite the fact that the events in the song do not correspond with those of Lennon's murder.[6][7] Lennon was shot four times just before 11pm, whereas in the song the time is 4am and the number of shots is six. When asked if Moonlight Shadow is a reference to John Lennon's murder in a 1995 interview, Oldfield responded:

Not really... well, perhaps, when I look back on it, maybe it was. I actually arrived in New York that awful evening when he was shot and I was staying at the Virgin Records house in Perry Street, which was just a few blocks down the road from the Dakota Building where it happened, so it probably sank into my subconscious. It was originally inspired by a film I loved - 'Houdini', starring Tony Curtis, which was about attempts to contact Houdini after he'd died, through spiritualism... it was originally a song influenced by that, but a lot of other things must have crept in there without me realizing it.


There are two versions of the video, the full-length original, and a shorter one which omits a verse - the reason for the shorter version was for the requirements of some TV broadcasters, and the way both versions are edited suggests that Oldfield's touring guitarist "Ant" (Anthony Glynne) performed the second, overdriven half of the guitar solo, which is not the case. Also in the video is Oldfield's touring drummer, Pierre Moerlen, miming the part played by Simon Phillips on the recording.

Track listing

7-inch vinyl

  1. "Moonlight Shadow" (7" mix) – 3:37
  2. "Rite of Man" – 2:21

12-inch vinyl

  1. "Moonlight Shadow" (Extended version) – 5:18
  2. "Rite of Man" – 2:21

German vinyl

  1. "Moonlight Shadow" – 3:37
  2. "Moonlight Shadow" (Extended version) – 5:18
  3. "Rite of Man" – 2:21
  4. "To France" – 4:43
  5. "Jungle Gardenia" – 2:45 (Mike Oldfield)
  6. "Taurus 3" – 2:25

1988 CD

  1. "Moonlight Shadow" (Extended version) – 5:18
  2. "Rite of Man" – 2:21
  3. "To France" – 4:44
  4. "Jungle Gardenia" – 2:44

1993 CD

  1. "Moonlight Shadow" – 3:35
  2. "Moonlight Shadow" (Extended version) – 5:18
  3. "In the Pool" – 3:40
  4. "Bones" – 3:19

Chart positions

The song performed particularly well in European charts, reaching number one in countries such as Norway, Sweden, Italy, Switzerland and Austria.

Chart (1983) Peak
Norwegian Singles Chart[8] 1
Italian Singles Chart 1
Swedish Singles Chart[8] 1
Dutch Singles Chart[8] 2
Eurochart Hot 100 1
Irish Singles Chart 1
Swiss Singles Chart[8] 1
South African Singles Chart 7
German Singles Chart 2
Spanish Singles Chart 1
New Zealand Singles Chart 3
French Singles Chart 3
Austrian Singles Chart[8] 1
UK Singles Chart[9] 4
Belgian Singles Chart 1
Australian Singles Chart 6
Polish Singles Chart 1
Preceded by
"Flashdance... What a Feeling" by Irene Cara
Swiss Singles Chart number-one single
7 August 1983 – 14 August 1983 (2 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Vamos a la playa" by Righeira
Preceded by
"Codo" by Tauchen Prokopetz
Ö3 Austria Top 40 number-one single
15 August 1983 – 15 September 1983 (6 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Africa (Voodoo Master)" by Rose Laurens
Preceded by
"Vamos a la playa" by Righeira
Swiss Singles Chart number-one single
4 September 1983 – 11 September 1983 (2 weeks)
Succeeded by
"I Like Chopin" by Gazebo


Appearances and influence in other media

The song has been used in other media, such as:

  • It appeared on the soundtrack of the Italian comedy Vacanze di Natale (1983).[10]
  • It is the theme song for Dave Angel, Eco-Warrior, a character in the BBC TV comedy series The Fast Show.
  • The French television station Direct 8 used a guitar-based instrumental cover version of "Moonlight Shadow" as its main jingle in 2005.
  • A portion of the song is used in the 2006 DVD of the live stage show The League of Gentlemen Are Behind You.
  • Banana Yoshimoto's novella, Kitchen, has a story called "Moonlight Shadow", which is influenced by this song.

Cover versions

Numerous cover versions of "Moonlight Shadow" have been performed over the years, including by Groove Coverage and The Shadows (a band whom Oldfield was influenced by) on their 1986 album Moonlight Shadows. Notably Oldfield had also covered a Shadows song, "Wonderful Land".

Other versions over the years have included:

  • In 1989, Annie Haslam formerly of Renaissance covered the song on her self-titled third solo album produced by Larry Fast.[11]
  • In 1990, as part of their Plays Synthesizer World Hits album the Italian spacesynth band Koto covered a instrumental version of "Moonlight Shadow" using electronic synthesizers.
  • In 1997, a dance version of the song was produced by Missing Heart. A techno remix of the Missing Heart cover was later released by DJ Mystik.
  • Austrian band 'Code 7' covered the track.
  • In 2001, Serbian punk rock band KBO! recorded a version on their 2001 cover album (Ne) Menjajte Stanicu ((Do Not) Change the Station).
  • In 2002, the band 1000 Years covered "Moonlight Shadow" on the compilation Crazy Mix 2002.
  • In 2002, Japanese artist Kokia included a cover version on her 7th single, "Ningen-tte Sonna Mono ne".
  • In 2002, child singer Aselin Debison covered it on her Sweet Is the Melody album.
  • In 2003, German band X-Perience covered "Moonlight Shadow" as a planned single (including remixes by DJs@Work) for 2006, but their record label changed this plan and this version remain unreleased.
  • In 2004, German gothic rock band Elane recorded a ballad version on their album The Fire of Glenvore.
  • In 2005, Italian power metal band Skylark covered the song on their album Fairytales.
  • In 2005, Frédérique covered the track on their Irish Ties album.
  • In 2005, an Italian house remix of the song was featured in Disco Tanz, a compilation album by Gigi D'Agostino.
  • In 2005, a cover of the song appeared as a hidden track on the album Command to Charge by German melodic death metal band Suidakra.
  • In 2007, hardcore group Noize Incorporated also covered the song for their 2007 album Mutilation.
  • In 2007, the track appeared as a B-side on the single "Y Ahora Voy a Salir (Ranxeira)" by Spanish folk metal band Mägo de Oz.
  • In 2008, on his album Recollection French pop singer Laurent Voulzy covered "Moonlight Shadow" in the medley track "Jukebox".
  • In 2009, Finnish heavy metal band Deathlike Silence covered the song for their album Saturday Night Evil.
  • In 2009, the original singer, Maggie Reilly recorded another version of the song for her album Looking Back Moving Forward.
  • In 2011, French singer Nolwenn Leroy recorded a cover, included as a track on the re-release of her album Bretonne

Non-English cover versions

Foreign language covers of "Moonlight Shadow" include:

  • Greek singer Stelios Rokos reseased a Greek-language version of the song, titled "Mia fotia stin ammo" (Gr:Μια φωτιά στην άμμο) which translates as "A fire on the sand/beach".
  • Juliane Werding released a German-language version of the song, titled "Nacht voll Schatten".
  • In 2004, Icelandic singer Margrét Eir released an Icelandic-language version of the song, titled "Í næturhúmi".[12]
  • In 2006, Russian power metal band Miriada included a Russian language cover version on their album Иллюзия Любви (Illusion of Love) entitled "В Свете Лунной Тени" (Literally "In light of the lunar shadow").
  • In 2009, Argentinian singer and composer Marcela Morelo adapted the lyrics to Spanish and recorded it for her album Otro Plan.

Live cover performances

Live covers of "Moonlight Shadow" include:

  • In 1998, Ukrainian singer Ruslana covered the song for a live radio performance.
  • In 2002, British band Renaissance covered the song on the live album In the Land of the Rising Sun continuing an affinity for the tune first covered solo by vocalist Annie Haslam (see above).

Groove Coverage cover version

"Moonlight Shadow"
Single by Groove Coverage
from the album Covergirl
Released 2002
Format 12" single
CD Single,
Genre Eurodance
Label Zeitgeist (Universal)
Groove Coverage singles chronology
"Are U Ready"
"Moonlight Shadow"
"God is a Girl"

In 2002 a dance version of "Moonlight Shadow" by Groove Coverage reached the German Top 10 (simultaneously, a similar version of Oldfield's "To France" by Novaspace was in the German Top 30). "Moonlight Shadow" appeared on Groove Coverage's debut album, Covergirl. The vocals are by Melanie Munch, who is known by her stage name Mell. Aside from the single remixes, the album also contains a piano version, featuring piano by Verena Rehm.

Track listings

CD single
  1. "Moonlight Shadow" (Radio version) – 2:52
  2. "Moonlight Shadow" (Original radio edit) – 2:54
  3. "Moonlight Shadow" (Extended version) – 6:56
  4. "Moonlight Shadow" (Rocco remix) – 6:58
  5. "Moonlight Shadow" (Warp Brothers remix) – 7:37
  6. "Moonlight Shadow" (Video) – 2:53
Maxi single
  1. "Moonlight Shadow" (Radio version) – 2:52
  2. "Moonlight Shadow" (Original radio edit) – 2:59
  3. "Moonlight Shadow" (Extended version) – 6:58
  4. "Moonlight Shadow" (Rocco remix) – 6:58
  5. "Beat Just Goes" – 3:53
Remix single


  1. "Moonlight Shadow" (Extended version)


  1. "Moonlight Shadow" (Club version)
  2. "Beat Just Goes" (Club mix)
US maxi single
  1. "Moonlight Shadow" (Josh Harris Radio Edit) – 3:46
  2. "Moonlight Shadow" (Josh Harris Club Mix) – 7:21
  3. "Moonlight Shadow" (Josh Harris Dub) – 6:39
  4. "Moonlight Shadow" (French Club Mix) – 6:36
  5. "Moonlight Shadow" (French Short Cut) – 3:05
  6. "Moonlight Shadow" (Plastic Men UK Mix) – 6:16
  7. "Moonlight Shadow" (Warp Brothers Remix) – 7:36
  8. "Moonlight Shadow" (North Starz Remix) – 6:57
  9. "Moonlight Shadow" (Alternate Radio Version) – 2:51
  10. "Moonlight Shadow" (Original Mix) – 2:53
  11. "Moonlight Shadow" (Extended Mix) – 6:54
  12. "Moonlight Shadow" (Rocco Remix) – 6:56
  13. "Moonlight Shadow" (A cappella) – 1:50
  14. "Moonlight Shadow" (Pure & Direct Version) – 4:17

Chart positions

Chart (2002) Peak
German Singles Chart 3
Austrian Singles Chart 5
Europe Singles Chart 12
Australian Singles Chart 39
Swiss Singles Chart 52


  1. ^ "Singles". Amadian. Retrieved 2009-03-01. 
  2. ^ "Information about the single". Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  3. ^ "Oldfield albums part 2". Toucan Solutions. Archived from the original on 2008-02-15. Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  4. ^ "Archiv Sendung vom 02.04.2008, kulturplatz, Mike Oldfield video interview". SF 1. 2 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-08. 
  5. ^ "Rare Tracks". Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  6. ^ "Is Moonlight Shadow about the murder of John Lennon?". Retrieved 2011-07-03. 
  7. ^ "Mike Oldfield - - FAQ". Retrieved 2011-07-03. 
  8. ^ a b c d e "Moonlight Shadow". Swiss Charts. Retrieved 2009-03-02. 
  9. ^ ""Moonlight Shadow" - Mike Oldfield". ChartStats. Retrieved 2011-03-18. 
  10. ^ "Vacanze di Natale". Retrieved 2011-10-17. 
  11. ^ "Disco - Annie Haslam". Annie Haslam. Retrieved 2010-11-05. 
  12. ^ "Discography". Margrét Eir. Retrieved 2010-04-07. 

External links

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