Under the Milky Way

Last updated

"Under the Milky Way"
The Church Under the Milky Way single cover.jpg
Australian region version
Single by The Church
from the album Starfish
B-side "Musk", "Warm Spell"
Released15 February 1988 (1988-02-15) [1]
Los Angeles
Length4:05, 4:57
The Church singles chronology
"Under the Milky Way"
Music video
"Under The Milky Way" on YouTube

"Under the Milky Way" is a single by Australian alternative rock band The Church, released on 15 February 1988, [1] and appears on their fifth studio album Starfish . The song was written by bass guitarist and lead vocalist Steve Kilbey and his then-girlfriend Karin Jansson of Curious (Yellow). It peaked at No. 22 on the Australian Kent Music Report Singles Chart, No. 24 on the United States Billboard Hot 100, No. 25 on the New Zealand Singles Chart and appeared in the Dutch Single Top 100. At the ARIA Music Awards of 1989, the song won 'Single of the Year'. It was issued simultaneously in both 7" vinyl and 12" vinyl formats by Arista Records (internationally) and Mushroom Records (Australian region).


In January 2018, as part of Triple M's "Ozzest 100", the 'most Australian' songs of all time, "Under the Milky Way" was ranked number 33. [2]


In 1987 Australian alternative rock band The Church travelled to Los Angeles to record their fifth studio album, Starfish , and worked with producers Waddy Wachtel and Greg Ladanyi. [3] [4]

The Church's line-up for the album was Steve Kilbey on bass guitar and lead vocals, Peter Koppes on guitars, Marty Willson-Piper on guitars, and Richard Ploog on drums and percussion. [3] [4] However, while recording "Under the Milky Way", the band were unable to get a drum track which sounded right with Ploog, so they played to a click track and later session musician Russ Kunkel was brought in to add drums and percussion. [5]


"Under the Milky Way" was written by Kilbey and Karin Jansson of Curious (Yellow). [6] [7] Kilbey and Jansson had become friends in 1983 and lived together in Australia from 1986. [8] Kilbey said, "I smoked a joint and started playing the piano and she came in the room and we just made it up." [9] According to a press release issued with Starfish, the title is from an Amsterdam music and cultural venue, Melkweg (Dutch for "Milky Way"), which Kilbey used to frequent. [10]

I just stumbled upon it and for some reason it has struck this wonderful sense of universality with people that most of my songs don't.

Steve Kilbey [7]

"Under the Milky Way" features a 12-string acoustic guitar melody along with a solo composed with an EBow on a Fender Jazzmaster, and recorded on a Synclavier, leading to a sound reminiscent of bagpipes. [5] In October 1990 Jansson told John Tingwell of Drum Media about songwriting with Kilbey "it's a very spontaneous thing. It's not as if someone has put us together to write a hit song. It's more like sometimes when we write together, a song comes knocking on the door". [8] While in September 2008 Kilbey discussed the track with Iain Shedden of The Australian . [7]

Release history

"Under the Milky Way" was released on 15 February 1988 in both 7" vinyl and 12" vinyl formats by Arista Records (internationally) and Mushroom Records (Australian region). [1] [11] The Church's fifth studio album, Starfish, was issued simultaneously with the single. In April the single was released in several formats worldwide including 7", double 7", 12", CD single, and compact cassette, using at least five different cover art designs. [12] The 12" B-sides were "Musk" and "Warm Spell", whereas the 7" B-side was "Musk". [12] Different Spanish versions added either "Anna Miranda" or "Perfect Child". The music video for the song featured on The Church's video compilation Goldfish (Jokes, Magic & Souvenirs).

An acoustic version was initially released as a single in multiple formats including 7" vinyl, CD single, and others. It also appears on the "Sum Of The Parts" promotional release and the 2 CD re-issue of the "Starfish" album.


On the Australian Kent Music Report Singles Chart "Under the Milky Way" peaked at No. 22. [13] However, it was not the band's highest charting single: "Almost with You" (1982) and "Metropolis" (1990) charted at No. 21 and No. 19, respectively, on the Australian charts. [13] In the United States it reached No. 24 on the Billboard Hot 100 [14] and No. 2 on the Mainstream Rock chart. [15] Other charting peaks include No. 25 on the New Zealand Singles Chart, [16] No. 69 on the Canadian RPM 100, [17] No. 70 on the Dutch Single Top 100, [18] and No. 90 in the United Kingdom. [19]

At the ARIA Music Awards of 1989 "Under the Milky Way" won 'Single of the Year', [20] though Kilbey refused to attend the award ceremony. He said, "You will note that I didn't collect the award. I don't give a fuck about winning that award. I've been a big critic of the Australian music industry. I think the whole thing is utterly embarrassing and repulsive." [9]

In 2006 Kilbey said of the recording, "It's actually flat lifeless 'n' and sterile. Great song, sure, but the performance, the sounds are ordinary. We coulda got that in Australia in a week or two for a 20th of the money we spent. Hey, it's sold almost a million in the US alone, but we'll never see any money 'cause it cost so much to make". [21] Kilbey's assessment ignored its second life as a much-licensed track. In December 2011, he told News Limited reporter, Cameron Adams:

"There is almost nothing, except for maybe a cigarette ad, I'd say no to 'Under the Milky Way' being used for [...] It was used for a car advertisement in America, very lucratively for me. You'd think people would think it's been overused, but the more it's used the more people seem to want to use it. I'm signing off all the time for TV shows or chocolate bars using it. Sure, have it, it's just a song, do whatever you like with it. You can hear it wasn't written for profit. It's an accidental song I accidentally wrote and accidentally became a single and accidentally became a hit. It's been a nice earner [...] I've written 2000 songs. Thank God one of them came through! [...] The others aren't pulling their weight. They sit and grumble about 'Under the Milky Way' and I say, 'Well, boys, go out and earn the same dough as that one'. I never see 'Under the Milky Way' – it's so busy out there working..." [22]

In 2001, the song was featured in the soundtrack for the movie Donnie Darko . In 2006, it was performed with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at the opening ceremony of the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. Kilbey said after the performance that it was as if the song had been made for the occasion, though in his blog he was critical of the Commonwealth Games as an event. [23] In September 2008, readers of The Weekend Australian Magazine voted it as the best Australian song of the last 20 years. [7] Sheet music for "Under the Milky Way" was published by Hal Leonard.

In October 2010, The Church's Starfish was listed in the top 40 in the book, 100 Best Australian Albums . [24] The authors, John O'Donnell, Toby Creswell and Craig Mathieson, described "Under the Milky Way" as "[The Church's] signature track ... [which] caught them at their peak of guitar-fuelled creativity ... [it is] the elegiac centrepiece of the record ... sounded like an induction, with its soft, monkish keyboard washes and ringing guitar chords, but it never reaches the point of transition where one world gives way to the next ... possibly concerned with drugs, but it transcends any single setting or worldview". [24]

Track listing

12" Australian region version
1."Under the Milky Way" Steve Kilbey, Karin Jansson [6] 4:57
2."Warm Spell"Kilbey, Marty Willson-Piper, Peter Koppes [25] 4:35
3."Musk"Willson-Piper, Richard Ploog, Kilbey, Koppes [26] 3:55
7" International version
1."Under the Milky Way" Steve Kilbey, Karin Jansson4:05
2."Musk"Willson-Piper, Richard Ploog, Kilbey, Koppes3:55
2× 7" Spanish version
1."Under the Milky Way" Steve Kilbey, Karin Jansson4:57
2."Anna Miranda" Marty Willson-Piper, Richard Ploog, Kilbey, Peter Koppes, Jansson [27] 2:57
3."Antenna"Koppes, Kilbey, Willson-Piper, Ploog [28] 3:51
4."Destination"Willson-Piper, Ploog, Kilbey, Koppes [29] 5:51
12" Spanish version
1."Under the Milky Way" Steve Kilbey, Karin Jansson4:57
2."Perfect Child"Kilbey, Richard Ploog, Marty Willson-Piper, Peter Koppes [30] 2:53
3."Musk"Willson-Piper, Ploog, Kilbey, Koppes3:55
4."Warm Spell"Kilbey, Willson-Piper, Koppes4:35


Chart (1988)Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report) [31] 22
Canada ( RPM ) [17] 69
Netherlands (Single Top 100) [18] 70
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ) [16] 25
UK Singles (OCC) [19] 90
US Billboard Hot 100 [32] 24
US Mainstream Rock ( Billboard ) [14] 2

Cover versions

"Under The Milky Way [33] "
Under the Milky Way by Sia (cover).jpg
Single by Sia
Released26 January 2010 (2010-01-26)
Label Rhino Records (Warner Music Group)
Sia singles chronology
"You've Changed"
"Under The Milky Way [34] "
"Clap Your Hands"

Sources: [6] [35]

TV/film appearances

The band performed the song, as well as "Metropolis", for MTV Unplugged on 30 January 1990 at the National Video Center in New York City.  The episode aired 18 March 1990. [38]

"Under the Milky Way" was featured in the season 1 episode of Scorpion titled "Charades", [39] the episode "Asian Cut" in Season 5 of Miami Vice , and also in the 2001 cult classic film Donnie Darko . [40] An a capella version (sung by BeBe Bettencourt as the character Ellie) is featured in both the narrative and the trailer of the 2020 Australian film The Dry. [41] [42] [43]

Related Research Articles

Steve Kilbey Anglo-Australian singer-songwriter and bass guitarist

Steven John Kilbey is an English-Australian singer-songwriter and bass guitarist for the rock band The Church. He is also a music producer, poet, and painter. As of 2020, Kilbey has over 1000 original songs registered with Australian copyright agency Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA).

The Church (band) Australian rock band

The Church are an Australian alternative rock band formed in Sydney in 1980. Initially associated with new wave, neo-psychedelia, and indie rock, their music later came to feature slower tempos and surreal soundscapes reminiscent of dream pop and post-rock. Glenn A. Baker has written that "From the release of the 'She Never Said' single in November 1980, this unique Sydney-originated entity has purveyed a distinctive, ethereal, psychedelic-tinged sound which has alternatively found favour and disfavour in Australia." The Los Angeles Times has described the band's music as "dense, shimmering, exquisite guitar pop".

Suzanne Marguerite Abeyratne, who performs as Zan or Xan, is an Australian-based singer born in London. Abeyratne was a co-lead vocalist of I'm Talking (1984–87), alongside Kate Ceberano. She provided lead vocals on their single, "Holy Word", which peaked at No. 9 in Australia, and No. 21 in New Zealand. Along with her identical twin sister Sherine, Abeyratne has provided backing vocals for Models, INXS, and U2, and has toured the world with other bands.

<i>Starfish</i> (album) 1988 studio album by The Church

Starfish is the fifth album by the Australian rock band The Church, released in February 1988 by Mushroom Records in Australia and by Arista Records internationally. The band's international breakthrough album, Starfish went gold in America and has remained their most commercially successful release. The album sold 600,000 copies in the United States alone. The first single, "Under the Milky Way", charted on the US Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #24, and at #2 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, leading to significant exposure of the then relatively underground Australian act. In Australia "Under the Milky Way" climbed to #22, and Starfish reached #11 on the album charts.

My Island Home

"My Island Home" is a pop song written by Neil Murray and originally performed by the Warumpi Band. The song references lead singer's home up at Elcho Island off the coast of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. It was recorded in 1986 and released as a single from their second album, Go Bush, in January 1987. "My Island Home" won 'Song of the Year' at the 1995 Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) Awards for Anu's reworked version of the song. It was also listed in the APRA Top 30 Australian songs of all time in 2001.

<i>...Ish</i> (album) 1988 studio album by 1927

...ish is the debut album by Australian pop rock band 1927, released on 14 November 1988, which peaked at number one for four weeks in early 1989 on the ARIA Albums Chart. The album remained in the top 50 for 46 weeks and reached No. 2 on the 1989 ARIA Year End Albums Chart. The album was awarded 5× platinum certification – for shipment of more than 350,000 copies. At the ARIA Music Awards of 1989, 1927 won 'Breakthrough Artist – Single' for "That's When I Think of You" and 'Breakthrough Artist – Album' for ...ish. At the 1990 ceremony the group won 'Best Video' for "Compulsory Hero", which was directed by Geoff Barter. In 1999 rock music historian, Ian McFarlane, described the album as "brimful of stirring, stately pop rock anthems". As of 2002, it was in the top 10 of the most successful debut albums by Australian artists.

<i>The Collection</i> (Divinyls album) 1993 greatest hits album by Divinyls

The Collection is the second compilation album by Australian band Divinyls, released on 6 December 1993. The album does not include any of their 1980s singles, which were released on a different record label. The album failed to enter the Australian ARIA top 100.

Cherry were an Australian pop music group from the late 1990s. The five founding vocalists were Amy Canto, Empress Camielle, Hayley Toomey, Gerri and Zoe Trilsbach. Two of their singles reached the ARIA Singles Chart top 60, "S.O.S." and "Saddest Song". Amy and Zoe left the group, which continued as a trio but disbanded soon after in 1999.

Original Sin (INXS song) 1983 single by INXS

"Original Sin" is a song by Australian rock group INXS, released as the first single from the band's fourth album, The Swing. It was written by Michael Hutchence and Andrew Farriss, and produced by Nile Rodgers.

Wide Open Road (song) 1986 single by The Triffids

"Wide Open Road" is a single released in 1986 by Australian folk rock band The Triffids from their album Born Sandy Devotional. It was produced by Gil Norton and written by David McComb on vocals, keyboards and guitar. The B-side "Time of Weakness" was recorded live at the Graphic Arts Club, Sydney, November 1985 by Mitch Jones, mixed by Rob Muir. "Dear Miss Lonely Hearts" was recorded at Planet Sound Studios, Perth and produced by the Triffids. "Wide Open Road" reached No. 26 on the UK Singles Chart in 1986, and No. 64 on the Australian Kent Music Report Singles Chart. In May 2001 the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA), as part of its 75th Anniversary celebrations, named "Wide Open Road" as one of the Top 30 Australian songs of all time.

The Dead Heart 1986 single by Midnight Oil

"The Dead Heart" is a song by Australian rock band Midnight Oil. It was first released as a single in Australia in 1986 and in the United Kingdom and the United States in 1988 after it had been included on the 1987 album, Diesel and Dust. It peaked at number four on the Australian singles chart and at number 11 on the U.S. Mainstream rock chart.

Run to Paradise 1987 single by The Choirboys

"Run to Paradise" is a single by Australian hard rock group The Choirboys which reached No. 3 on the Australian Kent Music Report Singles Chart in December 1987. The related Big Bad Noise album peaked at No. 5, and was the twenty-first highest-selling album of 1988 in Australia. In New Zealand, "Run to Paradise" attained No. 13 on the RIANZ Singles Chart. Released in the United States in 1989, it appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 and Mainstream Rock charts. The song was re-worked for a 2004 release credited to Nick Skitz vs. Choirboys and reached No. 16 on the ARIA Singles Chart.

<i>Touch</i> (Noiseworks album) 1988 studio album by Noiseworks

Touch is the second studio album by Australian rock band Noiseworks. It was released by CBS Records on 14 November 1988.

Bedroom Eyes (song) 1989 single by Kate Ceberano

"Bedroom Eyes" is a 1989 song by Australian singer Kate Ceberano. It was released as the first single from her third solo album, Brave, in April 1989 on the Festival Records label. It spent six weeks at No. 2 on the Australian ARIA Singles Chart and became the 7th highest-selling single in Australia—as well as the highest-selling single by an Australian artist—in 1989.

I Send a Message 1984 single by INXS

"I Send a Message" was the second single released by Australian rock band INXS from their fourth album The Swing. The music video was directed by Yamamoto San and filmed in Tokyo at the city's oldest Buddhist temple in Main Old City Park.

Science Fiction (song) 1982 single by Divinyls

"Science Fiction" is a song by Australian rock/new wave group Divinyls, which was the lead single from their first studio album Desperate. Released in December 1982, "Science Fiction", peaked at No. 13 on the Australian Kent Music Report Singles Chart. The B-side, "I'll Make You Happy" was a cover of The Easybeats 1966 hit.

Even When Im Sleeping 1997 single by Leonardos Bride

"Even When I'm Sleeping" is a song by Australian band Leonardo's Bride that was the second single from their first studio album, Angel Blood. Released on 13 April 1997, "Even When I'm Sleeping" peaked at No. 4 on the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Singles Chart in July 1997 and was certified Gold.

<i>The Honeymoon Is Over</i> 1993 studio album by The Cruel Sea

The Honeymoon Is Over is the third studio album by Australian indie rock band The Cruel Sea, which was released in May 1993. The album was produced by the band, Tony Cohen and Mick Harvey for Red Eye Records. It peaked at No. 4 on the ARIA Albums Chart and has sold over 140,000 copies. Its lead single, "Black Stick" was released ahead of the album in March 1993 and peaked at No. 25 on the related Singles Chart. The title song, "The Honeymoon Is Over", was released in July 1993 as a single and reached the Top 50. It was followed by a cover of Tony Joe White's 1969 song, "Woman with Soul", in October which peaked at No. 64. The final single from the album, "Seems Twice", was issued in February 1994 and peaked at No. 90.

Burn for You (INXS song) 1984 single by INXS

"Burn for You" is a song by Australian rock band INXS that features on the band's fourth album The Swing. It was the third single to be released from the album and peaked at #3 on the Australian chart in August 1984, remaining there for two weeks.

Simple Man (Noiseworks song) 1989 single by Noiseworks

"Simple Man" is a song by Australian rock-pop band Noiseworks. It was released in May 1989 as the third single from their second studio album Touch (1988) and peaked at number 47 on the ARIA singles chart.


  1. 1 2 3 "Australian Music Report No 707 – 15 February 1988 > Singles: New Releases". Australian Music Report . Retrieved 24 September 2019 via Imgur.com.
  2. "Here Are The Songs That Made Triple M's 'Ozzest 100'". Musicfeeds. 27 January 2018. Retrieved 4 January 2020.
  3. 1 2 McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Encyclopedia entry for 'The Church'". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop . St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN   1-86508-072-1. Archived from the original on 4 June 2004. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  4. 1 2 Holmgren, Magnus. "The Church". Australian Rock Database. Magnus Holmgren. Archived from the original on 18 November 2000. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  5. 1 2 Lurie, Robert Dean (2009). No Certainty Attached: Steve Kilbey and The Church. Portland OR: Verse Chorus Press. p. 182. ISBN   978-1-89124-122-2.
  6. 1 2 3 "'Under the Milky Way' at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  7. 1 2 3 4 Shedden, Iain (20 September 2008). "Milky Way Judged the Best Song from Down Under". The Australian . News Limited (News Corp Australia). Retrieved 1 June 2010.
  8. 1 2 Tingwell, John (16 October 1990). "Karin Jansson Talks About Charms and Blues". Drum Media . Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  9. 1 2 Tracee Hutchison (1992). Your Name's On The Door. Sydney, New South Wales: ABC Enterprises. p. 167. ISBN   0-7333-0115-0.
  10. Mathieson, Craig (2009). "Answers First, Questions Later". Playlisted: Everything You Need to Know About Australian Music Right Now. University of Sydney, NSW: UNSW Press. pp. 144–148. ISBN   978-1-74223-017-7.
  11. Hung, Steffen. "The Church – 'Under the Milky Way'". Australian Charts Portal. Hung Medien (Steffen Hung). Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  12. 1 2 Grimm, Don; Skjefte, Morten; Allen, David; Marshall, Kevyn; Fulmer, Mike (8 August 2000). "The Church Discography – Singles: 'Under the Milky Way' (1988)". Mike Fulmer. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  13. 1 2 Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 . St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book Ltd. ISBN   0-646-11917-6. Note: Used for Australian Singles and Albums charting from 1974 until Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) created their own charts in mid-1988. In 1992, Kent back calculated chart positions for 1970–1974.
  14. 1 2 "The Church Chart History (Mainstream Rock)". Billboard. Retrieved 24 September 2019.
  15. "The Church Chart History > Mainstream Rock Songs". Billboard. Retrieved 24 September 2019.
  16. 1 2 "Charts.nz – The Church – Under the Milky Way Tonight". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 24 September 2019.
  17. 1 2 "RPM100 Singles". RPM . Library and Archives of Canada. Archived from the original on 20 October 2012. Retrieved 18 October 2010.
  18. 1 2 "Dutchcharts.nl – The Church – Under the Milky Way Tonight" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 24 September 2019.
  19. 1 2 "The Church: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 24 September 2019.
  20. "Winners by Year: 1989". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  21. Jenkins, Jeff; Meldrum, Ian "Molly" (2007). "40 Great Australian Songs". Molly Meldrum Presents 50 Years of Rock in Australia. Melbourne, Vic: Wilkinson Publishing. p. 301. ISBN   978-1-921332-11-1.
  22. Adams, Cameron (14 December 2011). "The Church Milk Their Own Song". News Limited . Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  23. Kilbey, Steve (16 March 2006). "The Games People Play Now ... Everynight n Everyday Now". The Time Being: Being the Diary of a Certain Mister Kilbey. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  24. 1 2 O'Donnell, John; Creswell, Toby; Mathieson, Craig (October 2010). 100 Best Australian Albums . Prahran, Vic: Hardie Grant Books. pp. 106–107. ISBN   978-1-74066-955-9.
  25. "'Warm Spell' at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  26. "'Musk' at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  27. "'Anna Miranda' at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  28. "'Antenna' at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  29. "'Destination' at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  30. "'Perfect Child' at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  31. "Australian ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart – Week Ending 15th May, 1988". ARIA . Retrieved 24 September 2019 via Imgur.com. N.B. The Kent Music Report chart was licensed by ARIA between mid-1983 and 12 June 1988.
  32. "The Church Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 24 September 2019.
  33. "Under the Milky Way - single". iTunes Australia. Retrieved 26 June 2015.
  34. "Under the Milky Way - single". iTunes Australia. Retrieved 26 June 2015.
  35. Grimm, Don; Skjefte, Morten; Allen, David; Marshall, Kevyn; Fulmer, Mike (8 August 2000). "Covers of Songs by The Church". Mike Fulmer. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  36. "RE: ARIA Chart Peaks". Imgur.com. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  37. "ARIA Hit Seekers – Week Ending 19th November, 1995 (from The ARIA Report No. 301)". ARIA, via Imgur.com. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  38. "Sinead O'Connor with The Church". tv.com. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  39. ""Scorpion" Charades (TV Episode 2015) - Soundtracks". IMDb . Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  40. "Donnie Darko (2001 Movie) - Soundtracks". IMDb . Retrieved 9 February 2016.
  41. The Dry (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), Allmusic.com. Retrieved 9 August 2021
  42. 'The Dry': Film Review, The Hollywood Reporter, David Rooney, 17 May 2021, retrieved 10 August 2021
  43. You Need To Hear This Haunting Cover Of The Church's Classic Track In Eric Bana's New Film, TheMusic.com, Jessica Dale, 28 October 2020, retrieved 10 August 2021