Silenced by death, in a grave sang Dolores on the Cranberries’ song Yeats’ Grave. A peon to the poet William Butler Yeats and his unrequited love for Maude Gonne. In the coda she sings the Yeats line “Why should I blame her, that she filled my days with misery, or would of late have taught ignorant men violent ways?”. He was a fascinating man and the Irish revere him in the way we Scots do Burns and as the Welsh do Dylan Thomas. He was an Irish Nationalist and member of the Fenian Brotherhood but didn’t support the newly formed Irish Republican Army although it sounds like the love of his life did.
That was from their second album No Need to Argue (1994). It was a subtle line but I picked it up as my surname is Yeats and because of that I have looked into the man’s life and works. After Dolores died a few record shop owners I know on Facebook said they thought the Cranberries and specifically the song Zombie were rubbish. I replied that I thought that very song, Zombie helped to speed up the Northern Ireland Peace Process.
I was young and naïve and at the University of Liverpool where many Irish go to study so I met a load of different people from Portadown, Belfast, Londonderry, Derry, The North of Ireland, Northern Ireland. You say potato, I say there was no famine, all the meat fish and vegetables were shipped to England and that’s why the Irish people starved*. Let’s call the whole thing off! We watched Sean Hughes live when he was tin and edgy and the Cranberries were doing their ting and according to Sean there were horses in all the towns of Ireland. A W.B. Yeats poem even made its way into the film Memphis Belle.
Ah, the old days…
What’s in your head? Seems an appropriate question to ask of terrorists then and now, but to me back then, it sounded as if it was aimed at all sides. She sings -With their tanks (UK) and their bombs (Nationalist) and their bombs (Loyalist) and their guns (everyone). It was a masterclass of a protest song about the Troubles and was about NOW. The exact time it was written and I am sure it helped turn the tide.
For something that was a part of British life for so long, it is a surprise to me that there are so relatively few songs about “The Troubles”. Stiff Little Fingers’ Alternative Ulster, Suspect Device and Wasted Life. U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday and erm McCartney’s Give Ireland Back to the Irish. There are a few more by The Pogues and others here. This was one for my generation -folk in their 20s in the 1990s.
Since opening the shop in 2011 and beginning to understand the music industry better the title of the Cranberries debut album has made more sense. Everybody Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? (1993) A band asking why they can’t get signed/support slots/festival slots/radio play and so on. You need a good label. Dolores joined the band in 1993 so there were 3 years to get their songs together. A local label signed them and managed them for a bit. They were called The Cranberry Saw Us to begin with but importantly he sent the band’s demo tapes around and eventually they were picked up by Island Records and then they could. There have not been many big record company people talent spotting in Scotland or Ireland for many years now.
The debut album was huge and seemed to come out of nowhere proving that overnight success takes a load of time, self belief, talent (in this case) and perseverance.
The song Zombie was pretty powerful when it came out I think. People were sick growing up in an environment where you can go to catch a train and the roof of the station ends up being blown 20 foot in the air. The person that told me he witnessed that event seemed more annoyed that he missed his appointment. Terrorism and a military presence is a tedious and dull trudge for the ordinary folks that have to live with it. If you could pin a terrorist down, the question “What’s in your head? What’s in your heeeiad?” Seem to be the best to ask as it is rhetorical. It said we are sick of you eejits.
So I loved the first two albums yet I still haven’t heard the tird and later ones but I will try to do that someday. Some artists with a unique voice only have a few albums before the general public tire of them. Dido and Macy Gray come to mind. I read that she took her style of singing from copying her dad singing Eddy Arnold’s version of Cattle Call.
That’s a bit weird but I like weird.
I like a beer and a bath while listening to music too.
And thank you; you made a difference.
* A Sinead O’Connor lyric