THE UNFORTUNATE CUP OF TEA

"We can begin to grasp its potent symbolism..."




Part of the Annotated Lyrics Horslips Pages


Instrumental with sound effects

Recorded On:

  1. The Unfortunate Cup of Tea

Source Tune:

The Unfortunate Cup of Tea - reel. Also known as Cup of Tea, The / An Cupán Tae / The Unfortunate Cup of Tea / The Green Cup of Tea / Mayobridge (also without 3rd part)

Irish, Reel. E Dorian ('A' part) & D Major ('B' and 'C' parts). Standard. ABB (Breathnach, Feldman & O'Doherty): ABC (O'Neill): ABBCC (Mitchell): AABBCC (Alewine, Mallinson, Miller & Perron). As 'The Unfortunate Cup of Tea,' a rather truncated version of the melody appears in Haverty's Three Hundred Irish Airs (1858-1859), although in modern times the title is usually simply 'Cup of Tea' and the tune is greatly developed over the Haverty version. In northern Ireland parts of the tune are played AABBC.

From the Fiddler's Companion

Recordings (After Horslips):

  1. Various. The Coleman Archive Vol. 1: The Living Tradition
  2. Kieran Hanrahan, Kieran Hanrahan Plays the Irish Tenor Banjo
  3. Tommy Peoples, The Quiet Glen / An Gleann Ciúin
  4. Liz Carroll, Lost in the Loop
  5. Other recordings, unsorted

General Notes:

TUCOT ... Our music-hall melodrama. SFX ties in with visual image. [During the recording of the album] we did still manage to laugh quite a lot, especially late at night when "kicking back".

That's when I found the title of one particular tune in O'Neills particularly hilarious. The Unfortunate Cup of Tea. "Unfortunate." Hahahaha. Very Victorian. Very Monty Python ...or Spike Milligan. On a roll, I reminded Charles of his stereoscopic cards and the one of the Irish couple in a cottage similar to the one we were rehearsing in - except that ours was modern repro. This madcap idea became a sleeve design (for which Charles credited me along with his mate Geoff who did the finished art on the monster).

Eamon Carr, interview, August 2006

Tea in Rock and Popular Music:

Tea in the morning, tea in the evening, tea at supper time
You get tea when it's raining, tea when it's snowing
Tea when the weather's fine
You get tea as a mid-day stimulant
You get tea with your afternoon tea
For any old ailment or disease
For Chrissake have a cuppa tea

Ray Davies, Have a Cuppa Tea, Muswell Hillbillies, 1971


"Right," said Fred, "Both of us together
One on each end and steady as we go."
Tried to shift it, couldn't even lift it
We was getting nowhere
And so we had a cuppa tea and


"Right," said Fred, "Give a shout for Charlie."
Up comes Charlie from the floor below.
After strainin', heavin' and complainin'
We was getting nowhere
And so we had a cuppa tea.

Myles Rudge, lyrics & Ted Dicks, music, Right Said Fred, Cup of Tea, 1962

See Also:

  1. The Police, "Tea in the Sahara," Synchronicity, 1983
  2. The Who, "Heinz Baked Beans," The Who Sell Out, 1967
  3. The Thamesmen, "Cups and Cakes" b/w "Gimme Some Money," 1965



First Posted: February 17, 2005
Last Revised: October 20, 2007