Under The Milky Way

Album: Starfish (1988)
Charted: 24
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • This haunting song was by far the biggest hit by the Australian new wave band, although they've had a long career. Steve Kilbey, the band's frontman, co-wrote this song with bassist and then-girlfriend Karin Jansson. The pair was visiting Kilbey's mother in New South Wales when an after-dinner smoke (a "special musicians' jazz cigarette") under a blanket of stars inspired the ethereal tune.

    As for the song's meaning, "It's not about anything," Kilbey told the Guardian Australia. "Like all my songs, it's a portal into your own mind where I give you a guided meditation. It's a blank, abstract canvas for people to lose themselves in."
  • Kilbey wrote the song near the end of the recording sessions for Starfish, and the rest of the band didn't like it. Fortunately, the band's manager sensed its hit potential and insisted they record it. His hunch was proven correct when Arista head Clive Davis praised the song during a listening session. Kilbey recalled to Elsewhere: "All his henchmen shook my hand and said, 'It's a hit' and they made it a hit."
  • The success of the single proved to be a blessing and a curse for the band. "It changed everything in our lives, it put me on a new level of temptation and opened more doors that maybe shouldn't have been opened... and made a lot of money and so we did a lot of touring," Kilbey told Elsewhere. "But saying that, the guys in the band all hated each other and they all hated me. Instead of being grateful that I'd written this song which had dragged them into the spotlight they were sort of envious and miserable about it as well."
  • Tired of playing "Under The Milky Way" gigs, where fans would leave after the band played their big hit, The Church refused to perform the tune for awhile in the early 2000s.
  • Sia recorded this for a Lincoln MKT commercial in 2009. Her version was released as a single in 2010 but failed to chart. It's also been covered by Jimmy Little, Rick Springfield, Grant Lee Phillips, Josh Pyke, and The Killers, among others.
  • This was used in several TV shows, including Miami Vice ("Asian Cut," 1989), Cold Case ("Family," 2005), Prison Break ("Map 1213," 2006), and Here and Now ("Yes," 2018). It was also featured in the 2001 movie Donnie Darko.
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 5

  • Susan from Airdrie, -I loved this song in the 80s. Received little airplay in my city because they were all into the American & "big name" artists at the time. Real shame. :(
  • Brian from Boston, MaMan what a song! I love this tune .It really is one of my favorites. It sounds best played on a 12 string.I was a senior in high school when this song came out. I loved it Immidiatly.One of the first songs I learned to play on guitar
  • Sean from Boca Raton, FlI just saw the Killers and members of the band Chairlift do an amazing version of this song in Miami on 10/3/2009. Brought back some good memories.
  • Davem from Solihull, United KingdomA wonderful song but then it is from the greatest band in the world.
    Please check 'em out. www.thechurchband.com
    You won't regret it.
  • Shanice from Sugar Land, TxLove love love love love this song. Only heard about it on the top onehit wonders of the 80's but couldn't believe that I missed it in Donnie Darko. Great song, great movie
see more comments

Into The Great Wide Open: Made-up MusiciansSong Writing

Eddie (played by Johnny Depp in the video) found fame fleeting, but Chuck Berry's made-up musician fared better.

Evolution Of The Prince SymbolSong Writing

The evolution of the symbol that was Prince's name from 1993-2000.

Maria MuldaurSongwriter Interviews

The "Midnight At The Oasis" singer is an Old Time gal. She talks about her jug band beginnings and shares a Dylan story.

George ClintonSongwriter Interviews

When you free your mind, your ass may follow, but you have to make sure someone else doesn't program it while it's wide open.

Dean Friedman - "Ariel"They're Playing My Song

Dean's saga began with "Ariel," a song about falling in love with a Jewish girl from New Jersey.

Waiting For The Break of Day: Three Classic Songs About All-NightersSong Writing

These Three famous songs actually describe how they were written - late into the evening.