"And they ran from the spell of the sea"

Part of the Annotated Horslips Lyrics Pages on

Album and CD information, General Notes on Album, Reviews and Commentary, Guestbook Discussions, Further Reading and Resources

Album and CD Information

Oats: MOO14/Edsel Records EDCD 668

Produced by Alan O'Duffy and Horslips.


  1. Eamon Carr--Drums, percussion
  2. Barry Devlin--Bass, vocals
  3. Johnny Fean--Guitar, vocals
  4. Jim Lockhart--Keyboards, flute
  5. Charles O'Connor--Fiddle, mandolin, vocals

Photography: Ian Finlay, Sleeve design Charles O'Connor, Original Artwork: Geoff Halpin,
Artwork: Chris Ellis (additional citation on CD)

Album Track Order
Side One

  1. Before the Storm
  2. The Wrath of the Rain
  3. Speed the Plough
  4. Sure the Boy Was Green
  5. Come Summer
  6. Stowaway

Side Two
  1. New York Wakes
  2. Exiles
  3. Second Avenue
  4. Ghosts
  5. A Lifetime to Pay

CD Track Order

  1. Before the Storm
  2. The Wrath of the Rain
  3. Speed the Plough
  4. Sure the Boy Was Green
  5. Come Summer
  6. Stowaway
  7. New York Wakes
  8. Exiles
  9. Second Avenue
  10. Ghosts
  11. A Lifetime to Pay

General Notes on the Album

As chronicled in The Book of Invasions, the sons of Mil inherited Ireland from the mystical Tuatha De Dannan in 350 B.C. The 1840's were the Famine Years and once again the Sons of Mil were driven to search for a new home

Exiled they were fated to begin a new life as aliens.

Notes on the Aliens album sleeve, Oats Records

Aliens tends to get lost between The Book of Invasions and The Man Who Built America but it's an album that has a strong character, and well defined lyrical themes. Fierce moustachioed men were much in evidence, though by this time the band had short hair. I don't mind short hair said Jim Lockhart at this time, as long as it's clean.

Notes on Horslips, The Best of...,Edsel Records

Reviews and Commentary

"What we've been sayin' on 'Aliens' frankly hasn't been too nice, y'know, not too favorable to our Irish cousins", admits Carr, "because what happened was, you had people in little villages who had a good sense of community relations, and when they went on those coffin-ships to get here, it suddenly became the survival of the fittest, and they realized when they got over here that it was basically the 'ruthless boyo' who actually survived"

Eamon Carr, Heard the One About the Irish Band and the Green Beer?, NME article by Andy Gill, May 1978

"The difference with the Irish coming over here was that they spoke the language, and that was why they had the quick 'In', y'know? Otherwise a small ethnic group would've been way behind the Polish and Italians. That was their big advantage from about 1850 to 1900, as we discovered when we started digging into it for the 'Aliens' album.

"We discovered quite a lot of interesting stuff -- like the population of New York in 1850 was one-third Irish. Not Irish descent, but born in Ireland. The big exodus was 1847-50, and quite a lot of them never got here..."

Jim Lockhart, Heard the One About the Irish Band and the Green Beer?, NME article by Andy Gill, May 1978,
Quote has been edited to update dated language.

We then followed Book of Invasions with what we thoughts was the next step: the Irish people who had immigrated to America were perceived as aliens.

As record company executive said to me "It's a concept album about a Potato Famine? You've got to be kidding." So we sort of thought "Perhaps, maybe this is not exactly the commercial whiz we thought it might be." But again, it charted and did the business in certain areas and so on. And then it went towards The Man Who Built America.

Eamon Carr, Return of the Dancehall Sweethearts DVD, 2004

I went to see them in Britain for the first time around then, on the Aliens tour, which I thought was them at their absolute best, in fact. However much I adored the Tain and the BOI, something happened with Aliens that just...the whole thing crystallized, for once, in something that was very identifiably Horslips and uniquely Horslips.

Even their stage show, at that stage, they were sort of looking willfully kind of scuffed like exiles or immigrants or something. Something about the way the amps were kind of falling to bits around that stage. The whole aura around them was just brilliant."

I think Aliens is their best record. Also perhaps because it's the one that brought the story most up to date. And I think also it made its impression on the work I was doing with the Radiators in the sense that it made Ghosttown possible. It made a contemporary Irish concept album possible.

Phil Chevron, Return of the Dancehall Sweethearts DVD, 2004

It was in 77-78 that Horslips made their boldest move to expand from their original base. The projected trilogy of albums begun with "Book of Invasions" in 77 was to have as its theme settlement, invasion and finally colonisation.

The setting for "Book Of Invasions" had been prehistoric Ireland. The 2nd album In the trilogy, "Aliens" took the theme right through history to 19th century New York; Its theme was "an old people in a new land", the stock sprung from those prehistoric figures of mythology, suddenly uprooted and planted in a raw, new environment.

It was a bold and ingenious move: the exploitation and extension of the concepts explored in "B of I" along a radical new line of development. It seemed to give the band the best of both worlds: one foot remaining firmly on their traditional ground, the other determinedly exploring avenues that could fire the imagination of a far broader sweep of "consumers" i.e. the US public.

"Aliens" remains Horslips' finest album, a formidable meshing of their extensive experience in rock 'n roll with their traditional influences radically but realistically updated. It was in many ways the culmination of everything they had learned.

With this album they set out to storm the US charts, backed up by their new company, DJM, who pushed the band as far as their limited capacity as an independent would allow.

Shane McElhatton, "Insights, Comments, Denials: Barry Devlin Noises of Approval," Hot Press, mid-80s, exact date unknown

ALIENS might be their finest hour altogether. The very best kind of concept album, one whose individual songs are strong enough to stand alone minus any conceptual framework but gain tremendous emotional power when listened to in sequence, ALIENS is a series of sketches based upon the famine-spurred emigration to America of countless hardpressed Irish families during the 1870's. These small, nuanced, evocative tales are told through music that stirs together Celtic folk, Johnny Fean's caustic rock guitar and some haunting, eldritch flutework. The various parts cohere into one flowing, unforgettable whole that surges into your soul on first listen, going places inside you that standard-issue pop and rock never could. Honestly, this is a magical record.

from reviewer El Kabong, August 26, 2001

Guestbook Discussions

I remember a very detailed explanation of how the album artwork of Aliens was planned out and executed. The suits were second-hand (especially purchased for that reason) and then treated with housepaint to age them further (!?!) and then everyone went a day or so without a shave before the photo shoot.
Lee Templeton

Taking a moment to look at the "Aliens" album sleeves. But I do see the flash of the curious camera reflected on the wall behind each face.

Surely the passport reference was about the cover pix in which the five lads wound up looking incredibly distressed, much like the average person's passport photo. The were aliens/emigrants after all...

Donnacha is right in that the intent was to have passport-style photos carrying the album's theme. It's the whole secondhand/housepaint/unshaved part that I'm trusting my memory holds correctly.

Can't wait to get home now, too, and check for the camera flash described by KK! That would support the passport motif as well.
Lee Templeton

From the CBH Guestbook, March 1 2007, edited to relevant portion

Further Reading and Resources

The history of the Irish in America is founded on a paradox. The Irish were a rural people in Ireland and became a city people in the United States. The cities of Ireland were founded by Danes, Normans, and English; none was founded by the Irish themselves...

In the United States the Irish reversed this pattern. Here they concentrated in the cities and shunned the farms. The first reason was economic. Having arrived in the seacoast cities virtually penniless, they had no funds to travel inland. Moreover, farming on the frontier was radically different from tilling the small plots of intensively cultivated ground in the old country. The open prairie could be a lonely and forbidding place. One Irish farmer who had pioneered successfuly in Missouri wrote home in 1821 a poignant letter that showed how profoundly different life on the frontier was from that of Ireland:

"I could then go to a fair, or a wake, or a dance...I could spend the winter's nights in a neighbor's house cracking jokes by the turf fire. If I had there but a sore head I could have a neighbor within every hundred yards of me that would run to see me. But here everyone can get so much land...that they calls them neighbors that live two or three miles off."

William V. Shannon, The American Irish, MacMillan Company, New York, 1963

Ghosts of the Faithful Departed, David Creedon, photographer, 2006

Cobh: The Queenstown Story, online museum of the Cobh Heritage Center, Co Cork, Ireland

'Kilkenny, Ireland', online article on Diary of Pat McNamara, Schoolmaster,, 2002

A special thanks to David Creedon for permission to repost information on the current exhibition of Ghosts of the Faithful Departed and for the last two links

First Posted: February 11, 2007
Last Revised: October 15, 2007