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Music / Horslips

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Packaged as Other Medium - their first album sleeve, Happy to Meet, Sorry To Part

Horslips were an Irish Celtic rock band that composed, arranged and performed based on traditional Irish jigs and reels. The band members were working in an advertising agency design studio in Dublin when they were prevailed upon to act the part of a rock band for a commercial. They enjoyed the experience so much that they pressganged a keyboard player and set about doing it for real, adopting a fusion of traditional Irish music with rock music. While semi-retired now, they can rightly claim to have inspired many local and international acts.

The group formed in 1970 and "retired" in 1980 for an extended period. The name is a wordplay in the best traditions of Flann O'Brien or James Joyce: it originated from a spoonerism of "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" as "The Four Poxmen of the Horslypse".The group is regarded as 'founding fathers of Celtic rock' for their achievement and oeuvre.


Most notable works by this group:-

  • Happy to Meet, Sorry To Part
  • The Book of Invasions
  • The Táin

This group and their albums provide examples of:

  • Bilingual Bonus: A large chunk of their work is performed in, or at least titled in, Irish Gaelic.
  • Celtic Mythology: specifically Irish myth and legend.
  • Drums of War: In the song Charolais, the men of Connaught are gathering to march to war:
    The druids read the smoke and sand;
    Told her that she would love again;
    The rhythms from the wolfskin drums
    Called men to war in hide and bronze...
  • Folk Metal: They could be considered an Ur-Example of the genre with their fusion of traditional Irish music with driving hard rock.
  • Fighting Irish: Lots of examples. The Book of Invasions takes the primal myth of how the Irish came to Ireland and set it to music. The key song ''The Power And The Glory", with its Ominous Pipe Organ theme, has the lines
    not so much teachers as fighters, and what we teach is how to fight!
    • The Táin is all about the fighting Irish. Even sex is a fight;
    Her words were sharp, they cut him deep/In the war between the sheets.
  • Genre Roulette: hard and soft rock jostle with pieces performed in a more traditional style, and there's even a bit of reggae on one album..
  • The High Queen: Medhbh, the domineering greedy monarch who plunges Ireland into destructive war.
  • Holy Pipe Organ: This Irish band performed a Concept Album dramatising the earliest Irish mythology. The Power And The Glory concerns the coming of the Irish to Ireland to take the land as their own. The main theme sounds like a triumphant hymn on pipe organ.
  • My God, What Have I Done?; Cuchulain's Lament in which the hero comes out of a battle-frenzy to realise he's just slain his BFF.
  • Matchmaker Crush: Diarmuid for Deirdre. He's meant to be escorting her to the King she is to marry, and to ensure she arrives at her wedding in one piece. Instead... See song The Warm Sweet Breath of Love.
  • Oireland - a sort of mythological other-Ireland emerges from their work.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: * The Power And The Glory which dramatises the coming of the Irish people to Ireland in the primal myth. The song opens with a stirringly ominous theme on pipe organ that recurs throughout the track, and underscores the determination of the people to fight for and hold the land as their own.
  • Packaged as Other Medium: their first LP, Happy To Meet, Sorry To Part, was released in an octagonal LP sleeve that was designed to open and pull out, like an old-fashioned button accordion. If you looked closely you could see the faces of the band members on the buttons. (See page picture)
    • Unfortunately, supplies of the eight-sided custom inner sleeve for the record soon ran out. Later editions were marred somewhat by the record being packaged in a conventional 12" square paper inner sleeve. The four large corners sticking out rather spoilt the illusion.