Mike Oldfield ft. Maggie Reilly – Moonlight Shadow
Until early May 1983, Mike Oldfield was known as an instrumentalist and composer. Certainly a pioneer of electronics and experimentation, ten years earlier he had found great notoriety thanks to the album “Tubular Bells”. That music would sound at least alternative today, but in 1973 it really opened new frontiers. Mike Oldfield was a self-made man who from a very young age had to build his life day after day, and so he had the opportunity to live very different experiences, both musically and in life. By the early 1980s he had come closer to pop music, although he had kept certain original ideas, such as filling one side of the record with a single track of more than twenty minutes (I don’t know if we can define them songs).
May 6, 1983 was another of those lucky days for 80s music, because two songs were coming out making history. One was Yazoo’s “Nobody’s Diary”, and the other was the first single from “Crises”, Mike Oldfield’s new album, which was “Moonlight Shadow”.
This song had nothing experimental: guitars, drums, a structure and evocative lyrics: it was a ballad narrated by the wonderful voice of the Scottish singer Maggie Reilly. In fact, the first singer interviewed by Oldfield for this album was another beautiful voice, who still found great success in the years to come, Irish singer Enya, the interpreter of “Orinoco flow“. Enya, however, was bound by existing contracts, and Mike moved from Ireland to Scotland and Maggie Reilly. A pure and perfect voice, she formed a long term deal with Mike Oldfield, and for him he sang also in “To France” and “Foreign Affair”, that is, in all the great successes of the English composer, and she also took part in his tours of the time.
The song is evocative, we said, and speaks of a man shot by six bullets under the moonlight at four o’clock in the morning on a Saturday night, in the middle of a crowd of exactly one hundred and five people. The woman who loved him greets him wistfully, wishing to see him again one day in heaven.
Many drew a parallel with the death of John Lennon, told in a poetic way. It was not Saturday, there was no moon,it wasn’t 4 am in the morning and there were four shots. But it’s a fact that Oldfield had just moved to New York that night and lived near the apartment building where Lennon was killed. Mike Oldfield never wanted to give too much importance to it, actually. He has never confirmed, but considers it plausible that Lennon’s murder may have unconsciously influenced him in the creation of the song. Why exactly one hundred and five people? Because it had to rhyme with “alive”.
The video is a noir masterpiece, with a duel in the blue light of the moon, a thin line between earthly and otherworldly life, and a symbolism we saw only two months earlier in Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart“: eyes that emanate light, spirits dancing between life and death. Just look at it, see if you find any similar detail.
“Moonlight shadow” was a fantastic success, and was probably the highest commercial point of Mike Oldfield’s entire career. Even today it is one of those songs that everyone loves and remembers with great affection and passion, those songs that we can not help but sing; those songs that cherish the memories of our heart.