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Classic Tracks: The Cranberries 'Linger'

Producer: Stephen Street • Studio: Windmill 2
Published March 2019
By Tom Doyle

Classic Tracks: The Cranberries 'Linger'

After a record label bidding war the success of the Cranberries' first single was vital. Fans of the Smiths, they called in producer Stephen Street...

Following in the creative footsteps of the Cocteau Twins and the Sundays, Limerick four-piece the Cranberries quickly gained a reputation in the early 1990s for their evocative dream pop. None of their stylistic predecessors, however, matched the commercial success of the Irish band, whose multi-platinum-selling career was kickstarted in 1993 with the release of their second single, 'Linger', a track that managed to balance being both ethereal and anthemic, and which reached number 14 in the UK and number eight in America.

A deluxe 25th anniversary reissue of the hit's parent album, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? was delayed last year, though, due to the tragic death, aged 46, of singer Dolores O'Riordan, in an alcohol‑related, accidental bathtub drowning in a London hotel in January 2018. "I guess the hard part," says Cranberries guitarist and 'Linger' co-writer Noel Hogan, "was as the months went by after Dolores passed away, you were looking at photos that we had forgotten about. That was emotional because you do tend to remember those times very fondly."

"I feel very protective of them, knowing what they've gone through," says 'Linger' producer Stephen Street. "Obviously with Dolores gone, it's been a very sad time."

Looking back on 'Linger', both the guitarist and the producer stress that the track's success came at the end of a vexing period. After the band had signed to Island Records in 1992, the initial releases of the song and its predecessor single 'Dreams' had both resulted in flops.

"It was very frustrating," says Street, "because the first single we put out was 'Dreams', which everyone now thinks of as a pop classic. But at the time it was completely ignored. So 'Linger' came out and because 'Dreams' had been ignored, no one wanted to take much notice of it. So there's the first two songs from the album, which have gone on to become absolute huge, kind of classic hits. But at the time no one really wanted to take any notice."

"Yeah, it really was a kick, to be honest," laughs Hogan. "It was like, 'Oh, they're the next big thing.' And when you're 18 or 19 and you start a band, you get swept away in all that. Then, when the album came out, it basically bombed. It didn't do anything like anyone expected. You really, really feel deflated. You think, Oh, this is it, the writing's on the wall here. 'Cause we'd heard all the horror stories of bands that get all this money spent on them, and they're dropped in the blink of an eye. We thought that was the direction we were going in.

"Then out of the blue, without any of us knowing, we got a call from America to say that college radio had picked up on 'Linger' and it had really taken off over there, and that we needed to get over there the next day. And that was it, y'know. Everything changed from that moment."

Beginnings

In 1989, Noel Hogan — along with his bassist brother Mike, drummer Fergal Lawler and original vocalist Niall Quinn — had formed the band that initially took the punning name The Cranberry Saw Us. When Quinn quit in 1990, O'Riordan responded to an advert the others had placed, looking specifically for a female singer.

Remarkably, O'Riordan's trial period actually involved the writing of 'Linger', when the singer added the song's lyric and melody to one of Hogan's rough cassette demos. "I'd had that for a long time before I met Dolores," he says. "She came in, the very first day, and we played a couple of songs for her, 'Linger' being one of them. I said, 'Look, here's a cassette of that song.' It wasn't even a week later that she came back with the lyric and melody. The version everyone knows is the version that was written from the beginning. It never changed."

In the studio during the recording of Everybody Else Is Doing It...In the studio during the recording of Everybody Else Is Doing It...

Soon after O'Riordan joined the band, the Cranberries stepped into the recording studio for the first time: namely, Xeric Studios in Limerick, a facility owned by their soon-to-become manager Pearse Gilmore. "He had an old Soundcraft desk in there," Hogan remembers, "and a 16-track. There wasn't a whole of lot of outboard gear. I remember there was a [Yamaha] REV-7, 'cause that was where I discovered reverb and what you could do with...

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Published March 2019