"Sliding through the shadows keeping out of sight"

Part of the Annotated Lyrics Horslips Pages

Album and CD information, General Notes on Album, Album Artwork, Discovery of the 24th Track, The Mysterious Properties of Tea

Album and CD Information

Oats: MOO8

Produced by Fritz Fryer


  1. Jim Lockhart--Keyboards, flute, tin whistle, Uileann pipes
  2. Charles O'Connor--Mandolin, fiddle, concertina, vocals
  3. Barry Devlin--Bass guitar, vocals
  4. Eamon Carr--drums, bodhran, percussion
  5. Johnny Fean--Guitar, banjo, vocals

Photography: Ian Finlay, Sleeve design: Charles O'Connor, Artwork: Chris Ellis*


  1. (If That's What You Want) That's What You Get
  2. Ring-A-Rosey
  3. Flirting in the Shadows?
  4. Self Defense
  5. High Volume Love
  6. The Unfortunate Cup of Tea
  7. Turn Your Face to the Wall
  8. The Snakes' Farewell to the Emerald Isle
  9. Everything Will Be Alright

General Notes on the Album
Historical Note: Down through the ages the quest for the unfortunate cup of tea has stirred the imagination of poet and pauper alike.

Notes on The Unfortunate Cup of Tea, Edsel Records

Fritz Fryer's second production stint saw the band rehearsing in Puckane and recording again in the legendary and chaotic Rockfield Studios. Dire Straits were recording next door. Wonder what became of them?

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

Written largely while holed up in seclusion in a rented cottage in Tipperary (not far from Longfield House), after months of touring Ireland, Britain and Europe (plus a bewildering visit to Canada and New York), the material and the presentation of The Unfortunate Cup Of Tea remains somewhat enigmatic. Just what was going on? No-one, least of all the band, can be absolutely sure.

It was during these surreal sessions that the band learned that drummer Eamon Carr had been nominated a Meath Personality of the Year along with Cheltenham Gold Cup and Aintree Grand National-winning jockey Tommy Carberry and Monsignor John Hanly (now a Bishop!) who had been Postulator of the cause of Ireland's then newest saint, Saint Oliver Plunkett.

from the The Stonehouse album page.

There were some albums where that incessant gigging had an effect. The Unfortunate Cup of Tea suffered from a lack of rehearsal. It's a lesson that you shouldn't call your album by an ironic title if it's going to live up to it.

Barry Devlin, When We Were High Kings, Hot Press, February 2005

Album Artwork
The illustration on the album cover is a stereo card entitled "Scenes from an Irish Life." The monster is Robbie McGrath. See also, "Discovery of 24th Track."

Stereoscopes and view cards were a popular mass-entertainment technology from 1850 until World War I. More history here.

Discovery of the 24th Track

At the risk of sounding ...delusional, perhaps, The Unfortunate Cup Of Tea played to a similar sense of the ridiculous, and the haphazard principles of "found art", as The Fabs' For The Benefit Of Mr Kite! (complete with exclamation mark).

Thinking this through, because the photo was taken at the rehearsal cottage (in fact we rented two - they were small), it would appear that almost everything about the album stemmed from those few weeks. Obviously, we got fired up and reckoned we could make something out of nothing. It was a new challenge. A different challenge. Conceive, arrange, record and package an album in a tight time frame. And rather than simply have a bunch of disconnected songs, the loose theme offered the possibility of a complex set of dramas or at, least, reading of suggested dramas.

The B-side of Come Back Beatles was a backing track from these rehearsals that was never finished as a fully-fledged song. Or at least one that didn't make the cut. As an instrumental we thought it had Booker T/Meters-like possibilities for a throwaway B-side (in Spector-fashion we knew it would not detract possible airplay from the A-side.)

Eamon Carr, Interview to site, August 2006

I have a vague memory that 24 track studio recording was an emerging industry standard in the mid-70s, as shown here in the Studios 301 timeline. Multi-track recording began its slow crawl from a bare 3 tracks to the mystical 24 (and beyond) in the sixties. There are several references on this album to stereo technology, including that artwork on the cover! The album is especially notable for its use of stereo sound-effects, including the dialogue in front of "High Volume Love" which seems to represent the cover illustration.

Lee Templeton,

The Mysterious Properties of Tea
Dating back 5,000 years, tea is one of the world's oldest beverages. Legend says Chinese emperor, Shen Nung, known as the "divine Healer," was the first to discover the beverage when some tea leaves blew into a pot of boiling water.

Lynn Kerrigan, Tea -- The Drink of The Next Millennium?,

Tasseography is the form of divination of the symbols and patterns of tea leaves.

I'm sure that I've read somewhere that green tea was commonly regarded as a slightly sinister beverage in the 19th century, but -- for obvious marketing reasons on the green tea industry's part-- I can't find any online sources to substantiate this claim. But Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's story has always been sufficient enough to make me respectful of the tea at my local Happy Garden restaurant. Below are relevant extracts. And note that rather 20th century phrase of being *on* an intoxicating substance!

Lee Templeton,

"He drank green tea a good deal, didn't he?" I pursued.
"Well, that's very odd! Green tea was a subject on which we used almost to quarrel."
"But he has quite given that up," said I.
"So he has."

I believe that every one who sets about writing in earnest does his work, as a friend of mine phrased it, *on* something--tea, or coffee, or tobacco. I suppose there is a material waste that must be hourly supplied in such occupations, or that we should grow too abstracted, and the mind, as it were, pass out of the body, unless it were reminded often of the connection by actual sensation. At all events I felt the want, and I supplied it. Tea was my companion--at first the ordinary black tea, made in the usual way, not too strong: but I drank a good deal, and increased its strength as I went on. I never experienced an uncomfortable symptom from it. I began to take a little green tea. I found the effect pleasanter, it cleared and intensified the power of thought so. I had come to take it frequently, but not stronger than one might take it for pleasure. I wrote a great deal out here, it was so quiet, and in this room. I used to sit up very late, and it became a habit with me to sip my tea--green tea--every now and then as my work proceeded.

By various abuses, among which the habitual use of such agents as green tea is one, this fluid may be affected as to its quality, but it is more frequently disturbed as to equilibrium. This fluid being that which we have in common with spirits, a congestion found upon the masses of brain or nerve, connected with the interior sense, forms a surface unduly exposed, on which disembodied spirits may operate: communication is thus more or less effectually established.

J.S. Le Fanu, Green Tea, Through A Glass Darkly, 1872

First Posted: February 17, 2005
Last Revised: February 16, 2008