The Cranberries circa 1996.
The Cranberries circa 1996.

Tragic story behind Cranberries’ biggest hit

WITH the tragic news today of Cranberries singer Dolores O'Riordan's death, fans of the band will no doubt revisit their string of 90s hits.

While The Cranberries released a handful of certified classics - their first two wistful singles, Dreams and Linger, can still be heard on radio today - it was their 1994 single Zombie that was to become their signature song.

A pounding five-minute rock anthem anchored by Riordan's unmistakeable voice and penned by her alone, the song climbed to the top of the charts in Australia upon its release, becoming their only worldwide chart topper.

With its insanely catchy, semi-yodelled chorus of "Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie," some listeners might not realise the song's true subject matter - and just how controversial a release it was for Riordan and the rest of the band.

Zombie became The Cranberries’ biggest hit worldwide.
Zombie became The Cranberries’ biggest hit worldwide.

The song was written during The Cranberries' English Tour in 1993, in memory of two boys, Johnathan Ball and Tim Parry, who were killed in an IRA bombing in Warrington, England in February 1993.

Ball was three and Parry was twelve when two bombs placed inside cast-iron litter bins exploded in a Warrington high street, injuring dozens of shoppers and killing the two young boys. The bombs had been placed by the IRA, a militant group that was determined to remove British troops from Northern Ireland.

The deaths of the two children ensured that the bombing received major media coverage, and a month later, thousands held a peace rally in Dublin in response to the deaths.

The tragedy also inspired the lyrics to Zombie:

 

Another head hangs lowly

Child is slowly taken

And the violence, caused such silence

Who are we mistaken?

Another mother's breaking

Heart is taking over

When the violence causes silence

We must be mistaken

It's the same old theme

Since 1916

In your head, in your head, they're still fighting

With their tanks, and their bombs

And their bombs, and their guns

In your head, in your head, they are dying

 

In interviews at the time, O'Riordan explained that the fight for Irish independence, and its associated violence, had seemed to last forever ("It's the same old theme, since 1916," she sang, referencing the year of the Irish Easter Rising, a rebellion to end British rule of the country).

"I remember at the time there were a lot of bombs going off in London and the troubles were pretty bad," she told Team Rock. "I remember being on tour and being in the UK at the time when the child died, and just being really sad about it all. These bombs are going off in random places. It could have been anyone, you know?"

O’Riordan during a shoot for a film clip in 2009. Picture: Wenn/Alamy
O’Riordan during a shoot for a film clip in 2009. Picture: Wenn/Alamy

And while the message of the song was hardly controversial - an ode to children killed by violence, and a call for peace - Zombie did create a great deal of controversy when it was released, with some accusing the Irish band of making a political statement about the troubles in Northern Ireland.

O'Riordan said she didn't think twice about putting herself in the midst of the conflict.

"It's a tough thing to sing about, but when you're young you don't think twice about things, you just grab it and do it. As you get older you develop more fear and you get more apprehensive, but when you're young you've no fear," she said.

"I knew that would be the angle of the song, because it was controversial," she told Songfacts. "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."


Mateship the focus for 'shed week'

Mateship the focus for 'shed week'

Men mark annual 'shed week'.

Strawberries selling themselves

Strawberries selling themselves

Demand for fruit still high across Granite Belt region.

Market in the Mountains on again this weekend

Market in the Mountains on again this weekend

Craft lovers will have their second pick for the month

Local Partners