The Sto­ries Be­hind The Songs

The Cran­ber­ries

Classic Rock - - Contents - Words: Emma John­ston Some­thing Else is out now on BMG.

How a storm­ing left-turn, an in­cen­di­ary, fu­ri­ous track about the bomb­ings in North­ern Ire­land, made them mas­sive.

By 1994, Lim­er­ick rock band The Cran­ber­ries had achieved in­ter­na­tional fame with their chart-top­ping, multi-plat­inum de­but al­bum Ev­ery­body Else Is Do­ing

It So Why Can’t We?, and most peo­ple thought they knew ex­actly what the

Ir­ish four-piece were about.

As the fi­nal days of grunge stormed around them, they were a bare­foot, floaty, slightly hip­pie-ish oa­sis of calm, the ro­man­tic long­ing of Linger and the fairy tale sugar-rush of Dreams fur­ther sweet­ened by singer Dolores O’Rior­dan’s girl­ish, heav­ily ac­cented vo­cal style.

Then in Septem­ber, in the run-up to the re­lease of their sec­ond al­bum, No Need To Ar­gue, they turned their own im­age on its head by re­turn­ing with Zom­bie, a grungy, gloomy, fu­ri­ous anti-war song that found O’Rior­dan rag­ing against the vi­o­lence caused by the con­flict in North­ern Ire­land, which was mak­ing the news head­lines on what seemed like a weekly ba­sis.

On March 20, 1993, one of two bombs was planted in a lit­ter bin in War­ring­ton city cen­tre by Ir­ish repub­li­cans. When it ex­ploded, 12-year-old Tim Parry and three-year-old Jonathan Ball were killed, and dozens of peo­ple in­jured, in an at­tack that shocked and ap­palled the pub­lic in the UK and Ire­land alike. When the news of the at­tack broke, The Cran­ber­ries were on tour in the UK, and O’Rior­dan was on the tour bus in Lon­don.

“I re­mem­ber at the time there were a lot of bombs go­ing off in Lon­don and the Troubles were pretty bad,” she says now, 24 years later. “I re­mem­ber be­ing on tour and be­ing in the UK at the time when the child died, and just be­ing re­ally sad about it all. These bombs are go­ing off in ran­dom places. It could have been any­one, you know?

“It’s a tough thing to sing about, but when you’re young you don’t think twice about things, you just grab it and do it. As you get older you de­velop more fear and you get more ap­pre­hen­sive, but when you’re young you’ve no fear.”

Zom­bie was writ­ten in a rare lull be­tween tours; the band had spent the ma­jor­ity of the year on the road in the US, tour­ing uni­ver­si­ties and are­nas and build­ing up their brand. Rather than be­ing a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort, it was writ­ten by O’Rior­dan alone, in the calm of her own flat, and it be­gan life as a much gen­tler propo­si­tion than it ended up as.

“It was ex­tremely busy and we were work­ing all the time around the clock,” she says. “That song came to me when I was in Lim­er­ick, and I wrote it ini­tially on an acous­tic guitar, late at night. I re­mem­ber be­ing in my flat, com­ing up with the cho­rus, which was catchy and an­themic. So I took it into re­hearsals, and I picked up the elec­tric guitar. Then I kicked in dis­tor­tion on the cho­rus, and I said to Ferg [Fer­gal Lawler, drums]: ‘Maybe you could beat the drums pretty hard.’ Even though it was writ­ten on an acous­tic, it be­came a bit of a rocker.

“That was the most ag­gres­sive song we’d writ­ten. Zom­bie was quite dif­fer­ent to what we’d done be­fore.”

It was recorded in Dublin with pro­ducer Stephen Street, who spent a long time work­ing on get­ting the guitar set­tings right to give a suit­ably ex­pan­sive sound. But while they were ex­per­i­ment­ing with rais­ing the vol­ume, O’Rior­dan says it wasn’t a con­certed ef­fort to ride the grunge band­wagon.

“It came or­gan­i­cally be­cause we were us­ing our live in­stru­ments, we were plug­ging in a lot, and we started to mess around with feed­back and dis­tor­tion. When you’re on tour you start to mess around a bit more with the live side of things. There were a lot of bands around that were part of the grunge thing, and this wasn’t grunge, but the tim­ing was good. We couldn’t have re­ally fit­ted in with grunge, be­cause we were just a dif­fer­ent type of a band. We were Ir­ish and from Lim­er­ick, and we had a lot of our own ideas. A lot of the grunge bands were very sim­i­lar to each other.”

Equally im­por­tant to the suc­cess of the track, re­leased as a sin­gle, in the MTV era was the ac­com­pa­ny­ing video, in which the singer was painted gold and sur­rounded by sil­ver-painted cherubs. It was in­ter-cut with doc­u­men­tary footage of sol­diers and chil­dren on the streets of North­ern Ire­land, filmed by direc­tor Sa­muel Bayer, who also made the videos for Nir­vana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit and Blind Melon’s No Rain.

“I ac­tu­ally thought the direc­tor was very brave,” says O’Rior­dan. “When he got back, he was pretty pumped

– there was a lot of adrenalin pump­ing through him. He was telling me how tense it was and how he was blown away by the whole thing. He got footage of the kids jump­ing from one build­ing to another, and he got a lot of footage of the army. He was a very good direc­tor.”

Re­leased in 1994, Zom­bie went to

No.1 in sev­eral coun­tries and on the

“It’s a tough thing to sing about, but when you’re young you don’t think twice about things, you just grab it and do it. When you’re young you’ve no fear.”

US rock chart (although it only made it to No.14 in the UK), and was cer­ti­fied plat­inum in Aus­tralia and Ger­many. At the MTV Awards, the band beat Michael Jack­son and TLC to win Best Song. But that paled into in­signif­i­cance when they were in­vited to per­form it at the No­bel Peace Prize in 1998, when Ulster Union­ist leader John Hume and SDLP leader David Trim­ble were hon­oured “for their ef­forts to find a peace­ful so­lu­tion to the con­flict in North­ern Ire­land”.

Par­ent al­bum No Need To Ar­gue went on to sell 17 mil­lion copies, and made O’Rior­dan very rich.

“I wouldn’t change any­thing about it, be­cause it did so well,” she says. “It was well-writ­ten and it was well-com­posed. I think it did so well be­cause it’s hard to cat­e­gorise it. And I still like singing it.”

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