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on 9 November 2013
From the minute she opened the front cover of this sumptuous book, a collage of gig tickets ranging from 1972 to 1980 and from Dublin to London to Palm Beach transported this reader straight back to the days of her youth and the glory days of Celtic rockers Horslips. Uber-fanboy Mark Cunningham has produced the definitive and indeed official biography "Tall Tales" and the love and passion he has for their music shines out from every glossy page. This reverent and irreverent book charts the lives of five fine moustachioed men from their childhoods through their early career choices (apprentice missionary, male model - the usual stuff), to the velvet and satin clad decade of the 1970s when they captured the hearts of two continents right up to their highly anticipated return in the twenty first century - neatly chronicled with another array of tickets on the inside back cover. Beautifully written and gloriously packed with photographs, this book could not come more highly recommended. By this fan, anyway.
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on 15 December 2013
For many teenagers of Irish decent, growing up in British cities such as Birmingham in the 1970s, as I did, was a fair distance away culturally, environmentally, economically and socially, from that experienced by our parents ( in my case both were from the West coast of Ireland). We remember the ceilidh records they played in the house when we were kids, as their way of connecting with their past in a new urban setting; the shindigs; the smoke-filled rooms where adults partook of something they called 'having the craic'; and it is surprising just how much we subliminally absorbed of all that, without really knowing it on an emotional level.

It is this explanation anyway, that I offer for the exhilarating experience I had when seeing Horslips play for the first time at Barbarellas club in Birmingham around 1977. Their music connected with me on an emotional level in a way that was utterly authentic, aligned, contemporaneous, exciting ( I had gotten into rock music as most teenagers had) and, moreover, uniquely special because if its Irishness. Celtic rock was its name, and it lived up to it.

This was their "Book of Invasions" tour, which I still think was the band at its finest, although I saw them several times in the years that followed, up until their split in 1980. I was also fortunate to see them play at the 02 in Dublin in 2009, at the height of their come-back period, and I can say without any hesitation it was the finest gig I have ever had the pleasure of being at.

So it goes without saying, then, that I am a wee bit precious about this band, as they have been so much a part of my youth and subsequent middle youth too! Or, to put it another way, from where I am coming from, anyone writing a book about this band had better make it a good one. Fortunately, Mark Cunningham's biography more than delivers on that requirement.

Visually, the range of material he has unearthed is quite staggering, from the numerous photos of the band taken at their various stages in the timeline of their existence, which the book is constructed around, to copies of gig tickets, handwritten song drafts, posters, long-forgotten magazine articles, and more. His presentation of them ( and indeed of the book as a whole) is quite superb, befitting a former editor of an international music production journal. The narrative is also lively, authentic (he has let the band members do most of the talking, as well as those close to them such as former producers, roadies, and other gigging buddies) and seamless, his weaving of their reminiscences into a cohernt and pacy read being a key strength of the work.

This approach elicits from band members an often frank and occasionally intimate assessment of their history and legacy, as well as several humorous recollections of past misdemeanours (or wrongly interpreted ones).The chronological (rather than thematic) narrative also enhances the reader's sense of the band's musically creative (and visually stylistic) evolution: at various times being influenced by Psychedelia, Glam Rock, "Americana" and New Wave, whilst, for the most part, retaining distinctly Irish influences in their musical compositions.

We get to know the individual band members too, including their musical and artistic influences and their distinctive contributions to the band's creative outputs. Horslips was always a band in the true sense of the term; a creative, collective of shared individual talents rather than any one individual dominating the others, and, until the last 12 months of their first incarnation, this served them well. By the end of the 1970s, however, with the rock and pop music scene rapidly changing in ways that became increasingly difficult for the band to navigate or accommodate (they never quite knew which way to go), a split became inevitable, and the descriptions of what that meant for band members on an emotional level are quite moving.

But, as we know, after a monumental effort by loyal Horslips fans during most of the first decade of the 21st Century, to get them to "Come Back" as the fans' website was called( not least so that we could all enjoy reliving our youth with them), they finally succumbed, and their performances have since been as good as ever. These events are brought to life in Mark's narrative in a way that is genuinely moving and indeed uplifting.

One is also constantly reminded of the aesthetic originality of their music, and enlightened on the influences that brought that about. There is less, however, on their significance as a social phenomenon and cultural change agent in a rapidly transforming Ireland during the 1970s, than is covered in Maurice Linnane's excellent documentary, "Return of the Dancehall Sweethearts". As such, these two accounts complement one another in so many ways, and both are therefore unreservedly recommended.
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on 4 November 2013
Far from being a tall tale, this is an excellent and erudite publication which will delight Horslips fans everywhere, and indeed anyone with an interest in Irish music more generally.

In just over 280 pages, Mark Cunningham does a quite wonderful job of telling us the Horslips story from its beginning in the early 1970s to the present day. Part musical odyssey, part social history, and always compelling, the book takes us inside the music itself, the life and times of the band, and places both within the context of Irish society as it has evolved over the past 40 years. Many books of this nature amount to little more than endless lists of facts, figures and statistics, complete with trainspotterish details of recording dates and catalogue numbers. Not so here. Like all top class writers, Mr Cunningham lets the story tell itself whenever possible, and is content to let his hand rest lightly on the tiller when appropriate. But don't be fooled into thinking that this lets the book descend into empty sycophancy and hero worship. The author is an incisive and objective commentator and brings a constructively critical perspective to bear on his subject throughout.

For those of us who have been fans from the beginning, this book is long overdue. It has also been worth every second of the wait. Reading it you will be reminded of the life changing impact this band has had on us all. It will also take you back to days and times you had long forgotten. But, best of all, it will help you understand what exactly it was about Horslips, individually, collectively, musically and culturally, that spoke so clearly and influentially to us all. As the late Philip Chevron once said so eloquently 'People I know have gone on to do things they thought were'nt possible until they heard Horslips' Never a truer word sir!

If you buy even one book this year, make it this!
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on 14 November 2013
(I am giving this 5 stars plus)

I read this over a Long Weekend and loved every Short Story and Tall Tale along with the stories of Ghosts of the past and the epic accounts of Trouble.

Mark Cunningham's massive book is long overdue and is a mighty tome of facts and anecdotes about our favourite band that take us from their conception (almost literally) - in Dublin - to the present day. But although it is a superb account of the band (John Fean, Barry Devlin, Jim Lockhart, Eamon Carr and Charles O'Connor) - it is far, far more than that. It also unlocks memories of the past (the 70s and 80s) for the legions of fans who may be familiar with some, most or all of the chapters - although few but Mark Cunningham know just as much and can tell it all coherently. He really was paying attention - and the detail of research is staggering.

Me? I was there for most of it but as someone once said 'If you can remember the 60s you weren't there.' And to me my memories of the 70s and 80s were a bit like that too. Heck, my memories of last year are a bit hazy ... How I wish we'd had camera phones, digi cameras and Facebook then to record all our wonderful memories.

Despite the many surprises contained in the book of tall tales we really didn't know - the greatest question of all is 'Why in the Dearg Doom did it take so long ....!?'

Horslips ... Horslips ... Horslips ...!
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on 11 November 2013
It's a definite first-never before has there been an official biography of the band-and with the full endorsement and co-operation from them (past and present members) Tall Tales is written in that 'so-hard-to-put-down' way,choc-full of info, without being simply a 'list' of facts and dates. Author Mark Cunningham has painstakingly traced the bands early years, (including insights into their childhoods), recruitment, rehearsals, recording timelines, hiatus, reformations-everything! It's all here.
With pictures,tickets, posters, photos, record sleeves and labels galore decorating every page, (including an explanation of what each one is from) it's more than just informative-it's an absolute must for anyone who wants to know 'how and why it all happened'.

With full discography, TV/radio appearance listings,album design features and post Horslips activities, this is essential reading for any fan, but you need not be a die hard fan either to enjoy this.
A perfect accompanyment to this is the new 'Biography' double CD Biography, a collection for the first time on CD of all the UK A sides and B sides (it's a vinyl thing, kids!) with different edits and mixes of singles.

I don't often score this, but it's a definite 10/10-more than highly recommended.
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on 22 November 2013
An absolutely fabulous book !
I was only a child for Horslips first coming, and therefore I hadn't seen them until their reformation for their Waterfront and 02 concerts, I had memories alright of them being regularly played on the radio during my childhood, the bigger lads discussing their latest album, how it compared with the Táin or the Book of Invasions or indeed how it compared with the new Led Zeppelin LP.
This book brought those days back to me, it's lavish multitude of pictures conjuring up memories of the 1970s Ireland of my youth as it documents the band from the days of their own childhoods, fledgling days as a band, right through the times of the production and presentation of their classic albums, foreign tours and stardom, and on to the "interlude" and post Horslips careers. Mark Cunningham has clearly approached this project as a labour of love, and it shows in the sheer detail and magnitude of facts, photos, memorabilia and ticket stubs collected and reproduced.
This book is lavishly done and can safely be described as sumptuous.
If I, as a bystander in so many respects to it's backdrop, can appreciate its worth so highly then this book must have a staggering impression on anyone who lived their lives and loves as Horslips strutted their stuff through the highways and by-ways of Ireland and beyond.
Days to remember...... a book and band to savour.
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on 3 January 2014
I received a copy for Christmas. The book is fine and better than I was expecting. You can dive in and out rather than read from start to finish. Unfortunately at about page 97 the next 10 or so pages were missing and instead the earlier pages were repeated. I have arranged to be replaced by Amazon, hopefully with the missing pages included. Worth a check if you have a copy
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on 20 June 2015
A wonderful read, from start to finish. As an avid fan - I first saw the band at York College of Art back in 1976 - I was hopeful that this would be a fitting tribute to a great band and I have not been disappointed. The author wisely takes a step back from the proceedings and only provides the chronological details such as gigs, TV and radio appearances, record/CD release (and re-release) dates, preferring to let the band tell their own story, and what a fascinating read this makes. And at this point I must also not forget the contributions made by other artists, notably members of Thin Lizzy and U2, who graciously attribute much of their own success and musical styling to being fans of Horslips.

You can either read the book from start to finish - as I did - or you can dip into certain years to read of the recording, release, promotion and gigging for a certain album. What I really enjoyed about that aspect were Charles O'Connor's insight into how he designed the album sleeves and how certain elements didn't work. And whilst we're discussing artwork, one cannot fail to notice the proliferation of photographs, tickets, posters, singles sleeves, badges, et alia that populate almost every single page of this beautiful tome. Hell, they even had me searching eBay to see whether any badges are still out there; sadly, there aren't!

Starting with each band member's humble beginnings and introduction to the music scene, the book goes on to tell of their huge success both at home in Ireland and also in the UK and the States. The agony of the dissolution of the band clearly upset every member, and their subsequent meeting, re-forming and the outrageously successful comeback gigs brings the book to a joyful end. I don't really do quotes, but there's one which made me laugh right there on page 255: whilst performing live at the O2 in 2009, Charles O'Connor thinks to himself "... There were some faces in the crowd I recognised. It was like, 'I know you ...' But they were now 50-something. I suppose they were looking at me thinking, 'He's let himself go ... Hasn't he got ugly?' We were watching the crowd as much as they were watching us." Magical!

In conclusion, if you're a fan or just someone who is even remotely interested in music biographies, then this sumptuous book will be a terrific addition to your library. And while you're at it, the re-released and re-mastered CDs are now available very cheaply right here on Amazon, so go grab yourself a huge slice of Celtic Rock history with the book and discs - you'll not regret it!
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on 30 November 2014
I love biographies and autobiographies and those band biographies that tell the stories through the band members and main participants. This one falls into the last category.
I actually first heard about it being a work in progress in 2005 or 2006 and as I had, at that time, loved Horslips' music for around 15 years, I eagerly awaited it. Then when nothing seemed to be happening after a couple of years, I e~mailed the bands' bassist/vocalist Barry Devlin and he said it had been put off indefinitely as the author had been unwell.
Fast forward to this summer and on a whim, I just thought I'd check to see if anything was happening on that front and I was pleased as Punch to discover that the book had been completed and was now on sale.
I snapped it up right away !
Some biographies I've read have been such a crushing disappointment after so much anticipation {those that spring to mind were Aerosmith's "Walk this way", John Wetton's "My own time", Stewart Copeland's "Strange things happen" and the Rolling Stones' "According to...." which inexplicably omits anything from Mick Taylor & Bill Wyman}. Horslips' was at the completely opposite end of that spectrum. It is a fantastic book, full of tremendous insights into the period the members grew up in, their influences, how they came together, how they came up with their songs and musical concept, where and how they recorded their albums, why they broke up and how they came together again and the beauty of it all is that it's all in their own words.
Credit must go Mark Cunningham for his approach; he could have taken the gushing fan perspective but he was astute enough to see that however biased and subjective the main protagonists may be, their viewpoint will nearly always make better reading than an objective storyteller's, simply because of that very bias and subjectivity. And the subjectivity is all the more fascinating because they had a good 30~50 years of hindsight to reflect upon and chew over.
There's not many artists I listen to that managed to put together 5 or 6 consecutive excellent albums and Horslips are one of the few {their first six studio efforts}. This autobiographical account matches the drama and sheer high quality of the music they put out in their time.
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on 12 January 2014
This was a surprise Christmas present for my other half. When we were ona short break in Ireland last year he tried unsuccessfully to buy it in a bookshop. He knew the book existed but we just needed to find it. So when I found it on Amazon it went straight into the surprise Christmas present sack. he is reading it now and seems really pleased with it. Sorry I cannot be more precise but I know little of the band. Oh he did exclaim that he thought that they might do some concerts as he was reading so here's hoping.
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