Ian McCulloch spoke with much aplomb about what he feels is the rightful place in musical history for this standout track from the Ocean Rain album. "'The Killing Moon' is more than a song, it's about everything," the Echo & the Bunnymen frontman told Rolling Stone. "It's up there with 'Suzanne,' by Leonard Cohen, 'Blowin' in the Wind,' 'In My Life.' Every time I sing it I feel like, 'Whoa, something just happened there.'" McCulloch maintains that the rest of the Bunnymen shared this feeling about the song. "It's hard enough to get a band to agree and say, 'That's the one.' But with 'The Killing Moon,' everyone gets it" -- especially younger generations who discovered the baleful tune after it appeared in the 2001 cult classic film Donnie Darko.
This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”