(Above: Dolores in concert.)
The music world was surprised today to get word of the passing of Dolores O’Riordan, the lead singer of Irish band The Cranberries, at the age of 46. As of this posting a cause of death has not been shared, and the word “unexpected” has been used in several circles.
The Cranberries hailed from Limerick. When I prepared to visit Limerick several years ago, I was told that it was “the Detroit of Ireland.” I found Limerick to be an interesting city: a little gritty, very down to earth, and – perhaps most surprising – a city with a large Polish population. The band got together in 1989 and gritted it out until, after replacing original lead singer Niall Quinn with O’Riordan, they hit international superstardom in 1993 with their LP Everyone Else is Doing it, So Why Can’t We?
The first singles, “Dreams” and “Linger,” failed to move the needle chart-wise until 1994 when MTV added the clips into heavy rotation. The follow-up LP, No Need to Argue, actually sold more copies. It included “Zombie,” which topped the modern rock charts. All told, the Cranberries LPs sold over forty million copies.
I missed the alternative scene of the 90s, mostly. The radio work that I did throughout the decade, after leaving classic-rock heavy WLLI at the end of 1992, was almost exclusively in the Oldies format. Had it not been for my stint in New Zealand in the middle of the decade, I’d have missed all of the currents in the 90s entirely. But there was no escaping the popularity of the Cranberries at that time, and even today. For years “Dreams” was used to sell the virtues of travel to Ireland in television commercials.
But there was always something simultaneously catchy and ear-wormy about “Linger.” I immediately thought of one story upon hearing this news. One night at Teehan’s, an Irish bar in Tinley Park that I was, for many years, known to frequent, the song kept coming up on the jukebox. A group of us decided to start singing the chorus as loud as we could whenever it came up. When that wasn’t enough, we started changing the lyrics to lines that rhymed with “linger” but fit the meter. “Did you have to use your finger?” was the obvious one. It wasn’t until I bellowed “Did you have to blow Kip Winger?” that the bartender asked us to refrain from singing. And yet, almost 25 years later, that’s the line I hear in my head.
Alternative and 90s-gold programmers will be including these songs – with the correct lyrics, of course – long after I’m done sharing bar stories. That’s a testament to the staying power of a hit record, I suppose.
Sing along with the right words. You can hear “Linger” by clicking here.