How did a young choir-girl meet a young garage-band, with a name like ‘The Cranberry Saw Us’, and go on to one day become Top New International Act at the awards of industry bible Music Week? IROC investigated…
In 1993 the Cranberries became the first Irish band to sell more than a million copies of their debut album in America, with ‘Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We’, which peaked at no 18 on the U.S. album chart, while ‘Linger’ entered the singles chart at no 19 in December ‘93
After a four year struggle in the music business they conquered America in a matter of six months. They began their American conquest on a co-headlining tour with Suede, and ended up stealing the show, selling more tickets and reducing the ‘cover-stars of ‘93′ to support. Likewise, when they later toured as support to Duran Duran, The Cranberries were headlining by the time they reached New York’s prestigious Radio City. Duran Duran played support.
The Cranberry Saw Us’ were a four piece Limerick band, Noel, Mike, Fergal and Niall, with soogs such as ‘My Granny Drowned In A Fountain At Lourdes’. Such songs, and the singer Niall, didn’t last long. Has anyone thought of asking Niall, Pete Best of The Cranberries, how lie feels now?’ Answers on a postcard. Niall, how about giving IROC the exclusive?!
In 1990 Dolores Mary Eileen O’Riordan heard through a friend how The Cranberry Saw Us were looking for a vocalist. She sang in church and had song with some covers bands but was looking for a serious group. They had done their joking around and were now looking for a serious vocalist. Dolores met the band and they decided to make a go of it.
They spent the next year learning to play together and writing songs, while still holding down their day jobs. Mike on an electronics course, Dolores in a shop, Noel answering phones and Fergal dressing hair.
They played some local gigs and met Pearse Gilmore who ran a small label and studio called Xeric and who became their first manager.
They recorded a three track cassette ‘Nothing Left At All’ and sold out all 300 copies in local record shops. The promotional posters proclaimed it ‘A Glimpse Of A Bigger Picture’. They then put together a five track demo as The Cranberry’s, edging closer to their eventual name as we now know it. ‘Put Me Down’, ‘Dreams’, ‘Nothing Lelt At All’, ‘Linger’ and ‘Them” were the five songs that were sent to record companies in England. Sarah Bolton, at Rough Trade listened to the tape but wasn’t very impressed. It was later through John Carroll, manager of A House, that Geoff Travis, Rough Trade supremo, heard of the band.
He listened to the demo and thought it ‘fantastic’ and sent business partner Jeanette Lee to see them in Sir Henry’s, Cork. Music company interest increased with regular visits from A&R people, however contact with the band was getting harder to make, as Gilinore ‘protected’ his charges. Of attempts to set up a meeting Travis was quoted as saying “It was a complete brick wall”.
Dolores took it upon herself to go to London and meet Rough Trade. “Geoff wanted to sign us, but the boys wanted to go with Island… it was a majority rule thing in the end”. They signed a six-album deal with Island Records.
Gilmore used a significant sum from Island to upgrade his Limerick studios to record the debut album there. They recorded the debut single at Xeric in October 1991. ‘Uncertain’ was backed by ‘Nothing Left At All’. The band’s wishes for their debut single to be a low-key affair back-fired drastically. The music press who had been, almost universally, so impressed with the demo were now faced with the debut 45 of ’second grade songs’.
Melody Maker, who’d been promising a possible cover, which went to Curve, wrote about “four little leprechauns from Ireland wearing green hats with bows on the top, who don’t have a clue”1! NME produced a feature a month later with Dolores revealing her surprise at first meeting a black man in London. Press reaction to the single was unanimous: “slightly disappointed”,”much preferred demo”.
Things came to a head in January 1992 when it took four weeks to record three songs for the album (they would later record ‘Everybody Else… ‘ in six weeks) with Gilmore producing. The tension was too much and The Cranberries sacked their manager, producer, svengali…
“Dolores phoned, and more or less said,’Help!”‘, Geoff Travis is quoted as saying, “so we [Travis and Lee] became, completely unintentionally, managers”.
They scrapped the album so far and Travis, at Noel’s insistence, tried, unsuccessfully, to get Johnny Marr to produce. Stephen Street, engineer and co-producer of The Smiths’ last three LPs, was brought in and work commenced at Windmill Lane Studios, Dublin.
The album was recorded in six weeks and the first single ‘Dreams’ was released in September 1992. It was followed by ‘Linger’ in February 1993 which charted at no.74. In March they supported Belly on their British tour. The excellent Belly were °press darlings’ at the time, riding high with their wonderful ‘ Feed The Tree’ and very impressive debut album ‘Star’, thus ensuring lots of publicity and exposure for The CranberrieS. The last night of the tour at London’s ULU culminated with Dolores joining Tanya Donelly for an encore and Belly’s album, and set, closing classic ‘Stay’. Dolores wore a Belly t-shirt, Tanya wore a Cranberries t-shirt. That song sticks in the mind of this fan as one of the most beautiful performances of a song i’ve ever witnessed. As Tanya sang, Dolores soared and wailed, magically and.. gorgeously… If anyone has a bootleg, please let me know!
The album was released in March and things were starting to go well. June saw them support The The on a six week tour of the States. MTV picked up on ‘Linger’ and in September carne ‘that’ five week tour of the U.S. with Suede. Although they co- headlined on paper Suede closed each night. As the tour progressed, support for The Cranberries increased. They reached Atlanta and 4,000 fans turned up for a 2,000 capacity gig, the majority of them Cranberries’ fans. The gig had to be moved outdoors and The Cranberries had to headline. There were no reports of prima donna tantrums from Brett and the boys although, in what may have been a sign of things to come, Dolores was quoted as saying: “We hung around with Bemard more, though. He was the one who ended up in our bus”.
The Suede tour was closely followed by six weeks on the road with Duran Duran, and again the ‘established’ act had to cede to the new pretenders, that’s new pretenders, not new Pretenders!
They went home for a couple of Christmas gigs, although Dolores was to spend Christmas itself with then husband-to-be, Duran Duran tour manager Don Burton, in Canada, playing Dublin’s Tivoli Theatre and the homecoming Limerick gig at the Theatre Royal The Irish press and journalists were falling over themselves, with the accolades and rave reviews, seeking to make up for ignoring the band before their U.S success, and as everyone now officially liked The Cranberries this involved one-up-manship to the tune of’I knew and liked them before the Suede tour and ‘I remember seeing them before they went to the States. ‘ I don’t want to get iiivolved 10 such pettiness but that night at ULU, their own set had been pretty good but that encore with Belly was outstanding
1994, The Cranberries left behind the ‘next big thing’ tag and became Stars. Awards came tumbling in, Best Band at the Irish National Entertainment Awards, Top New International Act at Music Week’s prestigious industry awards, Best Album at the Smithwicks/ Hot Press Critics Awards, Best New Irish Band at the IRMAs in Dublin and in June ‘Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We’ went to No I in the British album charts, 16 months after its release, only the fifth album ever to do so over a year after its release (T-Rex, Elvis Presley, Fame and Mike Oldfield being the other four artists)
Dolores suffered her Gazza-style knee injury while skiing in France, they did a fashion spread for Rolling Stone magazine, finally got a cover with Hot Press!, released a live Cranberries video, missed out on a support slot with Crowded House due to Dolores’ injury, Dolores cut and dyed her hair, they recorded their second album ‘No Need To Argue’, got a second ilot Press cover!, and in July Dolores got married in Holy Cross Abbey in Tipperary in what became the Irish media’s Wedding of the Year. Flanked by security-men in dark sunglasses with walkie-talkies, Dolores arrived at the church at the reins of a Connemara pony trap and in an outfit that was variously described as a skin tight satin bikini with see-through lace leggings and knee high beige boots, – It wasn’t as bad as it sounds!
Performances at the Fleadh and the Feile were followed by opening the second day of the Woodsiock 25th Anniversay concert and playing to 6,000 in New York’s Central Park. October saw Dolores grace the covers of most of the music magazines, the release of ‘Zombie’, the first single from the second album, an appearance on the Late, Late Show, the album itself ‘No Need To Argue’ and a British tour culminating in two brilliant gigs at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire That’s the story so far, a story far from over as The Cranberries continue to grow in popularity and, if their live show is anything to go by, maturity. Watch this space…