The Cranberries Biography

Emanating from Limerick City, Eire, the Cranberries enjoyed major US success during the mid-90s. Their sound was distinguished by the honeyed voice of frontperson Dolores O’Riordan (Dolores Mary Eileen O’Riordan, 6 September 1971, Ballybricken, Limerick, Eire). From a conservative, rural Catholic background, she had sung since the age of four in schools and churches. The band was originally launched by guitarist and co-songwriter Noel Hogan (b. 25 December 1971, Eire), his brother Mike Hogan (b. 29 April 1973, Eire; bass), and Feargal Lawler (b. 4 March 1971, Parteen, Eire; drums). The trio had been involved as a band for some time but it had never amounted to much until they joined forces with O’Riordan in 1991. The band’s original vocalist had given them their previous name - The Cranberry Saw Us. Their debut EP Uncertain was released in late 1991 on the Xeric label, whose owner, Pearse Gilmore, became their manager. With its circulation the buzz surrounding the band transferred to the UK, where Island Records underwent tough negotiations (not least due to Gilmore’s self-interested protectionism) to tie up a six-album contract. However, Uncertain disappointed many journalists who had been given a preview of the far superior songs on the demo (which included ‘Put Me Down’, ‘Dreams’ and ‘Linger’). Sessions for their debut album also produced rancour, with Gilmore attempting to act as producer, leading to the end of that relationship.

The band contacted Rough Trade Records founder Geoff Travis, who had been interested in signing them but who instead took over management (with Jeanette Lee, a former member of Public Image Limited). The album was started from scratch at Windmill Studios, Dublin, with Stephen Street. Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? was finally issued in March 1993, following the release of ‘Dreams’ and ‘Linger’ as singles. By now much of the original impetus had dissipated, though a 1993 tour with Belly at least seemed to offer some exposure. It helped the band renew their confidence, and was followed by performances with Hothouse Flowers. However, it was American audiences who would first truly appreciate the band. On 10 June they began a six-week tour with The The and they were picked up by college radio. The USA proved to have none of the preconceptions associated with the capricious British press, and the band soon became a hot radio and concert ticket, with ‘Linger’ climbing into the US Top 10 by the end of the year.

In July 1994, O’Riordan married their tour manager, Don Burton, in a ceremony distinguished by her see-through bridal attire. The Americans kept buying the album in their droves, and it was also successful in the UK, reaching number 1 in the album chart in June 1994. No Need To Argue followed in October, and with its release the Cranberries were crowned as the new kings of AOR. Including the strong single ‘Zombie’ (despite its rather crude and untimely lyrics concerning the Northern Ireland struggle), the album caused the band to be welcomed anew by the UK media that had long since deserted them. The only doubt hanging over the band’s future was the much-repeated opinion that O’Riordan was the star and that, ultimately, she did not need her compatriots. Fortunately this notion was in abeyance on To The Faithful Departed, as both chiming guitar and solid drums were very much in the picture. The instruments were solid as O’Riordan wafted in and out with more political diatribes and tortured love stories. This time, ‘Bosnia’ and the anti-drugs song ‘Salvation’ shared space with the perplexing ‘I Just Shot John Lennon’ and the wonderful doo-wop-styled ‘When You’re Gone’.

After an extended hiatus, the band returned with 1999’s Bury The Hatchet, which struggled to reassert their commercial and critical status. The follow-up Wake Up And Smell The Coffee received more positive reviews and helped revive the band’s career in the USA. The 2002 compilation album Stars was also successful. In 2004, the band members announced they were putting the Cranberries on hold and concentrating on individual projects for the foreseeable future.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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