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Mike Oldfield ft. Maggie Reilly - Moonlight Shadow (1983)

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  • 80's Score80's Score80's Score 80's score: 2.58
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“Moonlight Shadow” is a song written and performed by English multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield, released as a ...

“Moonlight Shadow” is a song written and performed by English multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield, released as a single in May 1983 by Virgin Records, and included in the album Crises of the same year. The vocals were performed by Scottish vocalist Maggie Reilly, who had collaborated with Mike Oldfield since 1980. It is Oldfield’s most successful single, reaching number one on a number of charts around Europe.


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 many countries, including Italy, Austria, Switzerland for four weeks and Norway for six weeks. It spent four weeks at number 2 in West Germany, hit number 6 in Australia, and peaked at number 3 in New Zealand and France. It was re-released as a maxi-CD single in 1993 to promote Oldfield’s Elements box set, charting at number 52.

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. Lennon was shot four times just before 11 pm, whereas in the song the time is 4 am and the number of shots is six. Also, the night Lennon was shot (8 December 1980) was a new moon, so there was no moonlight, and in the song, it is Saturday night while Lennon was killed on a Monday night. 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 realising it.

— Mike Oldfield


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) performs 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. The music video was directed by Keith McMillan and shot on location at Hatfield House and Brocket Hall in Hertfordshire, England (the band are seen performing in Brocket Hall’s ballroom and the girl runs in through the door and up the staircase in Brocket’s hallway).

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