Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “The 90’s Edition,” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!
The last time The Cranberries guitarist Noel Hogan saw Dolores O’Riordan was in the Limerick hotel in November 2017.
Rock fans fell in love with The Cranberries in the early ’90s, thanks to the haunting, Celtic-inspired voice of the Irish rock band’s lead singer, Dolores O’Riordan. The Cranberries, made up of O’Riordan on lead vocal, guitarist Noel Hogan, bassist Mike Hogan and Fergal Lawler on drums, created an intoxicating juxtaposition of grunge and alternative rock, with O’Riordan’s lilting lyrics searing through right in. Between her vocal power, her vulnerable songwriting and her Irish accent peaking through every syllable sung, O’Riordan made The Cranberries stand out.
O’Riordan was living in New York and she wanted distraction. She was in good spirits and in good health although ongoing back problems – a slipped disc, from picking up a guitar – had led to a cancelled tour.
Christmas came and went, but the Cranberries were still recording. O’Riordan would send Hogan vocals by email. On 14 January, she emailed him new songs: she had flown to London to mix an album with her side project D.A.R.K. At 1.12am on 15 January, calling from the Park Lane Hilton, she left a friend an excited voicemail in which she said a new recording was sounding “fucking terribly good”. At 2am, she spoke to her mother. Later that night, she died. An inquest ruled the 46-year-old had drowned accidentally in the bath, with high levels of alcohol in her blood. Hogan looks around the lobby and says it is hard to believe that the last time he saw her it was somewhere so mundane.
“We’d pass each other in the corridor,” says bassist Mike Hogan, Noel’s brother, who was only 20 when the band achieved international fame. “Dolores would say: ‘You know that thing you recorded?’ I’d say: ‘You mean the thing that took me five hours to get right?’ She’d say: ‘Yeah, it’s not working!’ This time around, there were nights when we were waiting, looking for her to come in the door.”
When she first sang, I wondered how and why she wasn’t already in a band. I didn’t want to question our luck.
The Cranberries, Zombie. Album: No Need To Argue (1994)
This was inspired by the IRA bombing in Warrington, Cheshire, England on March 20, 1993. Two children, Jonathan Ball and Tim Parry, were killed. The IRA (Irish Republican Army) is a militant group that was determined to remove British troops from Northern Ireland.
Lead singer Dolores O’Riordan claimed that “Zombie” speaks about “the Irish fight for independence that seems to last forever.” The lyrics even say, “It’s the same old theme since 1916.”
Like the responsive works of Yeats, Heaney and U2, the Cranberries claim they wrote “Zombie” to be a “song for peace, peace among England and Ireland.”
This song takes the unassailable position that killing young children is tragic, but in venturing into the political fray, it created a great deal of controversy. This didn’t surprise O’Riordan. “I knew that would be the angle of the song, because it was controversial,” she said in an interview. “But, I suppose I was kind of taken aback with the success of the song. I didn’t know it was going to be that successful.”
The video was shot by Samuel Bayer, who flew to Belfast shortly before the ceasefire to get footage of the area – those are real British soldiers and local children. Bayer intercut these scenes with striking images of Dolores O’Riordan, standing by a cross and covered in gold paint, as similarly gilded children look on. Bayer, who began as a painter, was wildly creative in his videos when given free rein. His best-known work is Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
Getting painted for the video was O’Riordan’s idea. Explaining the symbolism, she told us, “It was to make it magnificent in a way, at the cross. It was metaphoric for all the pain that was being caused, and it was slightly religious as well.”
On August 31, 1994, just a few weeks after this song was released, the IRA declared a ceasefire after 25 years of conflict, leading some critics of The Cranberries to wonder if the IRA was willing to call a truce to make sure the group didn’t release any more songs about them.
In celebration of Zombie hitting a billion views, the video has been restored to 4K. Watch below.