Legendary Irish folk rockers Horslips are no more. Barry Devlin, the bass player and vocalist behind the iconic act, has called it: they simply can’t carry on under the name, minus several members. From now on will be playing under their own names, if at all.
It’s time then, for some nostalgia, with the group putting out a gigantic collection that summarises their 50-year career, something only possible because of an almost decade-long fight to regain the rights to their music that spanned the 90s and early 00s. The 35 disc, 500 track box set called ‘More Than You Can Chew’ is an ‘all you can eat’ of Horslips career.
“In defence of what can only be called ‘wretched excess’,” Devlin says to us in a sparkling conversation spanning Horslips’ career, “it wasn’t our idea. It’s done with Snapper Music who do this with legacy bands, putting out very large record collections. It’ll be a very limited edition costing a great deal of money, but we really liked the idea. So we went for it. It was very strange, and sometimes revelatory, as you forget a lot in 50 years. There are two CDs of essentially rehearsals, and it’s interesting to hear material making its way to the final shape. And to hear tracks that we probably should have put out, but we didn’t at the time.”
The story that started it all for Horslips is quite incredible. “The most bizarre thing is that we were pretending to be in a commercial, pretending to be in a band,” Devlin recalls. “We worked in advertising. And then we became a real band. In the 70s, we were doing an ad for Harp, and we were the fake band for the ad. One of the dancers in the video is Paul McGuinness, later manager of U2. It shows how small Dublin was at the time.”
“We loved it so much we decided it would be a great lark to do it for real, and we set out to start rehearsing. Gradually the idea of that Horslips ethos, Irish traditional tunes incorporated into songs we wrote ourselves, that arrived quite early. By the time we did our second album, we’d written Dearg Doom, the song we’re best known for, I think. We paid for our own recordings and then licensed them through RCA, Atlantic, and so on. For better or worse, we had artistic control. Enough rope to hang ourselves, perhaps.”