50 Songs About the Moon
On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 became the first manned spacecraft to land on the Moon. Or was it? (Nah, of course it was. We're not even going to get into those crazy-ass conspiracy theories here.)
To celebrate, we offer 50 Songs About the Moon. They're not necessarily the best songs, or even our favorites in some cases, but we think they represent that awesome astronomical body orbiting our planet in all of its various shades and influences. They also spark just about every emotion you can name: joy, fear and sadness – are all here.
And they span all the different offshoots of rock 'n' roll out there, from early pioneers and British Invasion stars to metal and indie acts. We even made room for a Frank Sinatra classic, because, really, no list of songs about the Moon is complete without that one.
Plus, you'll find the Moon represented by a galaxy of colors. Name one, and it's probably been applied to the Moon in one form or another. It's been black, blue, white, yellow, pink and lavender over the years. It's also been the source for some magical happenings and some ominous chills.
Basically, the Moon was there before people starting writing songs about it, before they landed on it and before the day they'll colonize it, as you'll see in our below list of 50 Songs About the Moon.
Pink Floyd, "Brain Damage" and "Eclipse"
Pink Floyd's epic 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon isn't actually about the Moon – it's mostly about madness and greed and fame – but the orb plays a big part in its underlying concept and, duh, gives the LP its name. "Brain Damage" and "Eclipse" are nearly inseparable and close the album on a cathartic note, drawing to an end one of the most perfect records ever made.
Ozzy Osbourne, "Bark at the Moon"
Of course the Prince of Darkness barks at the Moon. What else is he gonna do underneath it? Fall in love? Find inspiration for a new song about puppies? The Bark at the Moon LP cover and video for the title track feature Ozzy Osbourne in full monster makeup, driving home the horror theme of the song and pretty much Osbourne's career aesthetic.
Paul Simon, "Song About the Moon"
Closing out the first side of Paul Simon's 1983 album Hearts and Bones, "Song About the Moon" is a wistful look at the songwriting process as well as a meditative love song. Simon's advice for both? Keep it simple; no need to over-complicate things. Sometimes the answer is right above you. "Na na na na na na/Yeah yeah yeah," he sings. "Presto, a song about the Moon."
The Rolling Stones, "Child of the Moon"
"Moonlight Mile" may be the more popular Rolling Stones song to mention the Moon, but we prefer the B-side to "Jumpin' Jack Flash." "Child of the Moon" was recorded at the very start of the Beggars Banquet sessions and, like its flip side, ended up on a single instead. In a way, the song serves as the bridge between the hazy psychedelia of Their Satanic Majesties Request and Banquet's back-to-basics blues.
Iron Maiden, "Moonchild"
The opening track on Iron Maiden's 1988 concept album Seventh Son of a Seventh Son pretty much sets up the theme based on the old folk tale about the seventh son possessing special powers. The album has somewhat of a polarizing reputation among metal fans because of its use of keyboards, but they fit the record's proggier shift. "Moonchild" serves as an appropriate introduction.
Cat Stevens, "Moonshadow"
Unlike many of the songs on this list, Cat Stevens' "Moonshadow" was directly inspired by the Moon. The London-born singer-songwriter was in Spain and witnessed a clear night – free of streetlights and other big-city obstructions – for the first time. Seeing his shadow reflected by the glow, he wrote this Top 40 hit from 1970 that later ended up on his fifth album, Teaser and the Firecat.
Prince, "Moonbeam Levels"
"Moonbeam Levels" was recorded during the sessions for Prince's 1999 album in 1982, but it sat in his vault until after his death in 2016. It was eventually released on his first posthumous album, 4Ever, a 40-track compilation of Prince's most popular songs. It's the only new track on the 2016 collection, and a worthy addition to his catalog, a scorching ballad from the artist's peak period.
The Firm, "Midnight Moonlight"
The '80s supergroup featuring Jimmy Page and Paul Rodgers ended their self-titled 1985 debut album with this nine-minute, slow-building rocker that started life in Page's old band, Led Zeppelin. Back during the Physical Graffiti sessions it was an instrumental known as "Swan Song," but singer Rodgers worked some lyrics into it for the Firm LP and turned it into one of the album's highlights.
Elvis Presley, "Blue Moon of Kentucky"
Like several artists here, Elvis Presley has more than one song about the Moon. There's "Blue Moon" and "When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again" and probably a couple of things recorded for those crappy '60s movies. But we went with "Blue Moon of Kentucky" because of its significance: The Bill Monroe cover was the B-side of the King's first-ever single, 1954's "That's All Right."
Genesis. "Dancing With the Moonlit Knight"
Genesis were just entering their peak prog period when they released their fifth album, Selling England by the Pound, in 1973. The album's epic opening track runs eight minutes and bridges ancient English history with a look at the nation in the '70s. The moonlit knight here represents a past that's bound to repeat itself in the future ... or something like that. Either way, it's a great start to a great album.
Nick Drake, "Pink Moon"
Drake's career consisted of three albums before he killed himself at age 26 in 1974. Pink Moon, from 1972, was his final LP and, like its predecessors, didn't find much of an audience. By the early '90s, his music was rediscovered and re-evaluated, to the point where Pink Moon's title song found new life in a popular Volkswagen commercial. It was by far the most exposure the long-gone Drake ever received.
Van Morrison, "Moondance"
Van Morrison's second solo LP, 1968's Astral Weeks, was a reaction against his former record company's demands for more commercial appeal. Point made with that free-form classic, he returned in 1970 with the more accessible Moondance, his only platinum-selling LP in the States. It's filled with timeless classics, including the jazz-kissed romantic title track, the song Morrison has played most often in concert.
The Waterboys, "The Whole of the Moon"
The Edinburgh-bred Waterboys have gone through several iterations over the past three decades, trying their hand at everything from folk and traditional Celtic music to post-punk and straight-up rock. "The Whole of the Moon" comes from the period when they wanted to be U2 and is their big arena-sized single from 1985's This Is the Sea album, the pinnacle of their long, and still active, career.
The Mothers of Invention, "Concentration Moon"
The Mothers of Invention's third LP, We're Only in It for the Money, continued the group's takedown of right-wing politics, the counterculture and specific pop-culture moments (the 1968 LP was a parody of Sgt. Pepper, both in its conceptual nature and with its inside artwork). "Concentration Moon" is a stitched-together audio collage featuring tape-altered vocals, found sounds and the usual Frank Zappa weirdness.
David Bowie, "Moonage Daydream"
Davis Bowie's 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars is all about outer space. Even though the song debuted a year earlier in a different version, "Moonage Daydream" plays a key role in Ziggy's concept: It's the moment where the rock-star messiah is born. It's also one of Bowie's best songs from a period where he was untouchable.
"Moonshake" is the shortest song on German krautrockers Can's excellent fifth album, Future Days, and the only one to clock in at less than nine minutes. In that sense, it's about as close to a traditional rock song as this wildly experimental band gets. There's no mention of the Moon in the 1973 song; mostly, it's just the refrain "Let me free no more, let me free no more" sung over and over.
Dennis Wilson, "Moonshine"
The late Beach Boys drummer released only one solo album before his 1983 death at age 39, 1977's Pacific Ocean Blue. It's laid-back, expertly arranged and better than anything his group was doing at the time. "Moonshine," like several of the album's songs, was co-written with Blue's producer, Gregg Jakobson, who also happened to be a prosecution witness in the Manson Family murder trials.
Radiohead, "Sail to the Moon"
Radiohead are really into the Moon. They even named their 2016 album A Moon Shaped Pool after it; 13 years earlier they sang a song all about it (and laced it with a political undercurrent). "I sail to the moon, I spoke too soon," Thom Yorke sings. "I was dropped from a moonbeam and sailed on shooting stars." Like all of Hail to the Thief's songs, this one comes with a subtitle: "Brush the Cobwebs Out of the Sky."
Janis Joplin, "Half Moon"
Janis Joplin recorded her final album up to the day she died: The a cappella "Mercedes Benz" was laid down just three days before her Oct. 4, 1970, death at age 27. Month-long sessions yielded some of her strongest work, which ended up on the Pearl LP the following January. It quickly shot to No. 1. The typically bluesy rocker "Half Moon" showcases her soaring voice.
Neil Young, "Harvest Moon"
Neil Young was on a creative roll when he released the stripped-down Harvest Moon in 1992. Originally conceived as a sorta sequel to 1972's No. 1 Harvest, the album featured many of the same country and folk musicians who played on the earlier classic. Harvest Moon's title track is one of Young's most affecting love songs, a tribute to his now-former wife and the romantic power of nature.
U2, "Hawkmoon 269"
U2's 1988 album Rattle and Hum is part concert souvenir, part continuation of the previous year's breakthrough LP The Joshua Tree. The new studio tracks are highlights, including this slow-building, moody piece inspired by a town in North Dakota. Rattle and Hum once again surveyed the U.S. landscape, as the Irish band found stories in its corners while on tour. "Hawkmoon 269" feels like the dusty Midwest.
Television, "Marquee Moon"
The centerpiece of one of punk's all-time great albums, "Marquee Moon" clocks in at 10 minutes and proved that not everyone in this new wave of bands at the end of the '70s wanted to break down rock's traditional signposts. New York quartet Television flashed guitar heroics like classic rockers, and their 1977 debut, Marquee Moon, is a taut exercise in art-punk filtered through decades-old sentiments.
King Crimson, "Moonchild"
This 12-minute epic from King Crimson's debut album, In the Court of the Crimson King, is actually made up of two pieces: "The Dream" and "The Illusion," which includes a Rodgers & Hammerstein quote by band leader and guitarist Robert Fripp. Like most of the songs on the pivotal 1969 LP, "Moonchild" features some insanely tricky instrumental performances by the group.
Drive-By Truckers, "Puttin' People on the Moon"
Space travel didn't excite everyone. In the Drive-By Truckers' 2004 character study "Puttin' People on the Moon" (from their excellent The Dirty South album), NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in an Alabama town didn't affect all citizens equally. "Double-digit unemployment, TVA be shutting soon/While over there in Huntsville, they're puttin' people on the Moon," sings Patterson Hood, barely hiding his spite.
Nilsson, "The Moonbeam Song"
Harry Nilsson was better known as a songwriter than a performer before his cover of Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'" took him into the Top 10 in 1969. Two years later, another cover, of Badfinger's "Without You," went all the way to No. 1. That hit song's album, Nilsson Schmilsson, is Nilsson's masterpiece, and features seven originals, including the wistful "The Moonbeam Song."
Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Bad Moon Rising"
Even though Creedence Clearwater Revival had a productive 1969, releasing three classic albums that year, frontman John Fogerty probably had no idea just how great it would be when the band released "Bad Moon Rising" that April (it later showed up on August's Green River LP). In fact, he was pretty sure an apocalypse was looming: "Don't go 'round tonight," he sings. "It's bound to take your life."
Thin Lizzy, "Dancing in the Moonlight"
Thin Lizzy released the celebratory "Dancing in the Moonlight," parenthetically subtitled "It's Caught Me in Its Spotlight," as a single in 1977, a couple months before it showed up on their eighth album, Bad Reputation. We personally prefer the concert version found on 1978's excellent Live and Dangerous. Years later the Smashing Pumpkins covered the song as a B-side.
Wilco, "Black Moon"
There are plenty of songs about brightly hued moons out there, but Wilco take a different route on their song from 2011's The Whole Love. "I am always one without a warning/Whole days reappear, lift away, past the gate/Desert keeps forming underneath the black moon," Jeff Tweedy somewhat cryptically sings on "Black Moon." The song's moody ambiance is reflected in its title.
Beck, "Blue Moon"
Not to be confused with that other "Blue Moon" – the standard everyone from Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra to Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan has covered – Beck's "Blue Moon" was the first single released from his 2014 album Morning Phase, a sequel of sorts to the old-school singer-songwriter turn the alt-rock smart-ass took a decade earlier on Sea Change. Things are equally stripped-down and personal here.
Grateful Dead, "Mountains of the Moon"
Aoxomoxoa is often overlooked in the Grateful Dead catalog because of its arrival between the breakthrough Anthem of the Sun and the career-defining Live/Dead (or pivotal Workingman's Dead, if you want to stick to studio works). But the Dead's third LP continues the experimental streak of its predecessor while hinting at their stripped-down future. "Mountains of the Moon" has a direct line to the band's acoustic classics.
Los Lobos, "Kiko and the Lavender Moon"
By the time they made their ninth album in 1992, Los Lobos had evolved from spirited roots rockers to art-pop adventurers. Kiko is the pinnacle of this experimental period, layered with instrumental textures and haunted soundscapes courtesy of co-producer Mitchell Froom. The sorta title track, "Kiko and the Lavender Moon," is a highlight of the LP. The band later showed up on Sesame Street to perform the song with Elmo.
The Doors, "Moonlight Drive"
One of the first songs written by Jim Morrison, and included on their original demo tape even though it didn't appear until their second album, Strange Days, "Moonlight Drive," in its earliest lyrical form, reportedly inspired keyboardist Ray Manzarek to start a band with the budding poet and singer. Like many of the Doors' first songs, "Moonlight Drive" is blues-based, though spiked with some of Strange Days' wooziness.
Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, "Moonlight on Vermont"
We're not going to pretend Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band's 1969 masterpiece Trout Mask Replica is an easy listen. It isn't. And we're not totally sure we'd call "Moonlight on Vermont" its most accessible song. Still, the track remains one of Beefheart's greatest works, an abstract blues siphoned through a singular form of art-rock that still sounds decades ahead of its time.
The Beatles, "Mr. Moonlight"
The Beatles' fourth album, Beatles for Sale, is marked by its arrival in late 1964 during the height of Beatlemania. They were rushed back into the studio, even though they didn't have too many new songs written. So they filled out the record with covers, including Roy Lee Johnson's "Mr. Moonlight," a staple of the Beatles' early live sets. Paul McCartney provides an odd organ solo; otherwise, it's pretty forgettable.
Echo and the Bunnymen, "The Killing Moon"
Like much of Echo and the Bunymen's work, "The Killing Moon" is a bit on the vague side. Singer Ian McCulloch has said the song was inspired by both a dream and a childhood fascination with space. Plus, the chords are cribbed from David Bowie's "Space Oddity," but played backward. The result is the post-punk band's greatest song and one of the era's most defining tracks.
Soft Machine, "Moon in June"
The U.K. band's third album in 1970 marked its transition from psychedelic and prog music to jazzier elements. The 19-minute "Moon in June" filled out the third side of the four-track, double LP, and stands as a highlight of the period. The song is noteworthy for being the last Soft Machine song to include lyrics. From here on out they were strictly an instrumental ensemble, abandoning their progressive tones for fusion.
The Police, "Walking on the Moon"
Years before Katrina and the Waves walked on sunshine, the Police were getting their Neil Armstrong on. Released as the second single from their second album, 1979's Reggatta de Blanc, "Walking on the Moon" is a love song written by Sting about that otherworldly feeling one gets from a blissful relationship. He wrote it while drunk in a Munich hotel room, which inspired the original lyrics: "Walking round the room."
The Black Crowes, "Black Moon Creeping"
The Black Crowes' second album, and only No. 1, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, stands as their greatest LP. The slithering "Black Moon Creeping" sounds exactly like you'd expect it to, all fuzzy guitars and menacing tone, right down to the talk box that oozes throughout the song. "What you got buried in your backyard? What secret do you sleep with when the black moon come?" Chris Robinson asks.
Talking Heads, "Moon Rocks"
"Moon Rocks" tends to get lost among the other songs on Talking Heads' 1983 album, Speaking in Tongues. "Burning Down the House" is on there, and gave the band its only Top 10 hit. And other tracks became showpieces on the tour that resulted in the Stop Making Sense movie and soundtrack. But "Moon Rocks" features the same sinewy blend of slinky New Wave and elastic funk as other songs on the classic LP.
The White Stripes, "White Moon"
The Moon comes in all sorts of colors: blue, pink, yellow, lavender. And on their 2005 album Get Behind Me Satan, the White Stripes, appropriately, added "white" to the list. And like many of the songs on that transitional LP, "White Moon" is a sparse ballad that plays down the duo's garage-rock past and replaces the guitars with pianos and other unplugged instruments.
Robbie Robertson, "Sonny Got Caught in the Moonlight"
More than 10 years after the Band said goodbye with The Last Waltz, the group's main songwriter finally released his first solo album. Robbie Robertson brought in others for help (Peter Gabriel, members of U2 and some of his old bandmates all show up), but unlike his Band years, where he rarely sang, he stepped up to the mic throughout Robbie Robertson. This brooding song includes backing vocals by old pal Rick Danko.
AC/DC, "What's Next to the Moon"
AC/DC aren't known for their subtlety. You can pretty much guess what songs like "Given the Dog a Bone" and "Let Me Put My Love Into You" are about from their titles. "What's Next to the Moon," from 1978's Powerage, is something different. Is Bon Scott singing about killing his woman? Or is he longing for her, lamenting he can't give her everything she deserves? We're really not sure. But it sure does rock.
Bob Dylan, "Moonlight"
The second album in Bob Dylan's late-career comeback continues some of the themes found in its predecessor, Time Out of a Mind. But Love and Theft is a more musically diverse record, with songs like "Moonlight" adapting the wistful, nostalgic tone of the lyrics: "The seasons they are turnin’ and my sad heart is yearnin’/To hear again the songbird’s sweet melodious tone/Won’t you meet me out in the moonlight alone?"
Sting, "Moon Over Bourbon Street"
Sting is already on this list for the Police song "Walking on the Moon." Six years later he wrote another Moon song, this one for his debut solo album, 1985's The Dream of the Blue Turtles. Partly inspired by the book Interview With the Vampire, and partly inspired by the region in New Orleans that's home to many bars, the song takes a dark and somewhat foreboding tone. Also keeping with the theme, it's rooted in jazz.
Tom Waits, "Drunk on the Moon"
Leave it to Tom Waits to find something intoxicating in our favorite little orbiter. Not that other artists haven't uncovered other elements about the Moon that leave them dizzy, but Waits sounds truly fall-on-your-ass drunk on this track from his excellent 1974 album The Heart of Saturday Night. He sounds pretty much like this throughout the LP, but this jazzy ballad is all last-call romanticism at its booziest.
Chuck Berry, "Havana Moon"
One of Chuck Berry's earliest forays into music other than the rock, R&B and blues that made him one of rock 'n' roll's first stars, "Havana Moon" was penned during the Latin music boom of the early '50s. You can hear its influence throughout the simple track, which ended up on the B-side of the "You Can't Catch Me" single. Not at all representative of Berry's pioneering music, but a pleasant detour all the same.
R.E.M., "Man on the Moon"
Fittingly, R.E.M.'s tribute to the late Andy Kaufman is all about sleight-of-hand tricks: "If you believed they put a man on the Moon/If you believe there's nothing up his sleeve, then nothing is cool." Kaufman's entire act steered closer to performance art than straight-up comedy, and this highlight from 1992's excellent Automatic for the People finds a conspiratorial link between the Moon landing and Kaufman's death.
Fleetwood Mac, "Sisters of the Moon"
Tusk is often viewed as Lindsey Buckingham's crowning mad-genius moment with Fleetwood Mac, a result of long stretches of studio isolation and track tweaking. Stevie Nicks' "Sisters of the Moon" comes from a different place – an actual band song that came out of a rare group jam at the time. It was released as the album's fourth and final single. Nicks has said she has no idea what the song is about: "Perfect for this record."
Big Star, "Blue Moon"
This "Blue Moon" has nothing to do with the 1934 standard that's been covered by everyone from Billie Holiday and Elvis Presley to Rod Stewart and the doo-wop group the Marcels, who had a No. 1 hit with it in 1961. Instead, Big Star's original song is found on the power-pop legends' downer third album, Sister Lovers, which sat around for years before its official release.
Frank Sinatra, "Fly Me to the Moon"
Ol' Blue Eyes was begging for a trip to the Moon five years before Apollo 11 got there; the song goes back even earlier, to 1954, when Bart Howard's composition was recorded by Kaye Ballard (when it was still known as "In Other Words"). But Frank Sinatra took it to whole other level with band leader Count Basie and arranger Quincy Jones. Buzz Aldrin played the recording on cassette after he walked on the Moon.