Conceptualizing the idea of an alternative rock band hailing from County Limerick in Ireland following their destiny of dominating the competition and rising to be one of the most impactful and influential acts that the modern era has ever witnessed continues to be a tricky idea to wrap the ceann around. As alien as the notion may sound, it’s no notion at all. The Cranberries were an alternative rock band consisting of four influential and talented musicians, Noel Hogan who played the guitar, Mike Hogan who played bass, Fergal Lawler who was on drums and finally the late and legendary Dolores O’ Riordan.
This lineup played an important part in the representation Ireland had in the alternative rock scene, Thin Lizzy and U2 were at the time the biggest musical outports the country has seen. With the global skyrocket to recognition and success, the Cranberries received a deserved cult following of alt-rockers who followed them show by show around Ireland, bought their latest releases and supported the band through thick and thin. The Cranberries broke the Irish music industry records and broke into America at the same time following the current hype the band found. Breaking America was no easy task. Breaking into America as a 4 piece lineup from the middle of Ireland singing alternative rock music about Irish legends and folklore was almost an impossible task, but for the Cranberries “impossible” as an adjective simply doesn’t exist in the band’s vocabulary.
The skyrocketing success came as a surprise, the hit release “Linger” wasn’t originally a hit. Peaking at number 74 upon its initial UK release disappointed the band but that sour taste was soon washed away when MTV caught hold of some refreshing ice-cold cranberry juice off the bottom shelf of the fridge full of aspiring and talented musicians. Throughout the band’s tour supporting Suede, the Cranberries replaced Suede as the headline act due to the cranberries catching the attention of MTV who broadcasted their music videos onto the small box TVs of angsty alternative rockers all across the television pole-connected globe. If you had MTV, you knew who the Cranberries were.
“PEOPLE OFTEN ASK ME WHY I SING WITH A STRONG IRISH ACCENT. I SUPPOSE WHEN I WAS FIVE YEARS OLD, I SPOKE WITH A STRONG IRISH ACCENT, SO I SANG WITH ONE, TOO”
Following this exposure, the band reissued Linger which peaked at a massive 14 in the charts. A huge life-changing and band-saving improvement. Following Linger, the hit “Dreams” was reissued and found airplay in the US alternative airplay list, like a Spotify playlist … but ten times the amount of listeners and … you can’t skip songs. Twas a simpler time. Dreams got to 15 in America which helped the band draw a lofty 13,500 people to each show they played. 13,500 manic fans listening to a four-piece band from Limerick chiming on about old Irish legends and folklore, how beautifully bizarre.
1994 saw the Cranberries peak at the summit of mount music reaching a colossal number 6 on the United States charts with “No Need to Argue” outselling its predecessor, It didn’t take a year for the album to be awarded triple platinum. This was the album that saw the revolutionary hit “Zombie” released to the critics and public, and there was not a bad word spoken about it. Zombie continues to influence the alternative rock scene to this day. Woodstock saw the song performed live as did the viewers of David Letterman’s Late Show broadcasted nationwide in the US which drew in record-breaking numbers and tapes of the band’s performance.
The Cranberries had planned a small impromptu gig for no more than 3000 people at the National Sylva Theater in Washington D.C. 5 US Police officers were in attendance should anything go wrong. Well, things did go wrong. The band and the organisers of the event drastically underestimated the alt-rock fanatics in attendance and the estimated number of attendees turned out to be three times that. It was packed. The Police couldn’t control the angst in the air of the crazed fans. The event was on the borderline of being a disaster and labelled as a riot. I can’t help but picture the scene, 10,000 people packed into a small field with a small stage barely containing the electricity of four powerhouse monumental musicians exhilarating the thousands in attendance and millions watching across the television all tuned in to watch and listen to a band from a town in Ireland play the songs they wrote.
Stories of the Cranberries will continue to enchant and encourage aspiring musicians and writers and creative people alike. As I stated earlier in this piece, impossibility is all but a word in the band’s vocabulary. They conquered the globe and influenced the music industry to write and perform with everything you’ve got as if your next show is your last. The band shall go down in history and live on into the future, leaving footprints for bands in Ireland to follow.