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Even Better Than The Reel Thing
They were the first true Irish rock stars, a band that blended Celtic mysticism and proggy excess with eye-popping results and paved the way for U2 and The Boomtown Rats. Now, three decades since their last tour, HORSLIPS are back. To coincide with their hotly-anticipated O2 show and new ‘Best Of’, the band talk about dropping acid, Father Ted-like encounters with outraged members of the clergy and hanging with the ‘walking pharmacy’ that was Motörhead’s Lemmy.
Stuart Clark, 02 Dec 2009
London may have been swinging and Haight-Ashbury dropping out, but in late 1960s Ireland it was still the Catholic Church and their anti-young people political minions who ruled the roost.
How bad was it? Well, no one had considered yet that the Magdalene laundries weren’t being as run as ethically as they might have been; RTÉ thought popular culture was something you got in yoghurts; and the nearest thing to a full-blown rock ‘n’ roll festival experience was the National Ploughing Championships.
Add in the beginnings of three decades of internecine violence in the North, and it’s no wonder that Ireland’s leading export back then was its people.
“The only way to really have fun in Ireland in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s was to organise your own gigs or ‘happenings’ as the hippies were fond of calling them!” reflects Eamon Carr whose band Horslips helped bring colour to what up till then had been a decidedly black & white country. “There was a DIY mentality, which while accompanied by far too much hair to be termed ‘punk’ shared a lot of punk’s objectives.”
And penchant for pulling ‘The Filth and the Fury’-style media stunts.
“For Horslips’ first proper gig, we hired a venue in Navan, which with a bit of effort we knew we could put a few hundred people into,” Carr, now the Evening Herald’s rock guru in residence, explains. “To advertise it, we did this fantastic poster up which had our logo, a cigarette dangling from a pair of red lips and the words ‘Funky Ceildh + Afrodisiac Lightshow’ on it. The Afrodisiac Lightshow being a guy called Des O’Mahoney who’d done a six months electronic course in the Tech and sent away for a kit to make a stroboscopic lamp! Anyway, a few days after sticking these posters up we get a call from the curate who owned the hall saying the gig was cancelled. It turns out that Father Wotsitsname had been approached after the bingo by a group of concerned mothers who didn’t want that sort of thing happening on their doorsteps – whatever that sort of thing was! Wanting to get our own back on the bastard for pulling the show, I decided in proto-Malcolm McLaren mode to ring up all the papers including the big one of the day, The Sunday Press, who ran a story under the headline ‘Bingo Priest Bans Pop Group!’ It sounds very Father Ted now, but at the time locking horns with a priest was considered the height of anti-establisment behaviour!”