Meaning of Linger by The Cranberries & Song Story

Founded in 1989, the Irish band The Cranberry Saw Us was left without a vocalist after the release of their first album. Niall Quinn decided to pursue a solo career and left his colleagues. The musicians had no one in mind, so they had to look for a new frontman on the ad.

So fate brought them together with Dolores O’Riordan (Dolores O’Riordan), with whom they became stars of the world rock scene. The composition Linger became the first fruit of their joint work, and, unexpectedly for all members of the group, turned out to be an international hit.

The story and meaning of the song Linger

First, let’s listen to the memories of The Cranberries members about how it all began.

Dolores O’Riordan:

Bands in Limerick were just doing cover songs, so when I met this band called The Cranberry Saw Us I was immediately impressed: they wanted to write their own songs. In fact, they couldn’t act, which was part of their charm. Noel Hogan, their guitarist, wrote his own chords, sometimes with just one finger.

noel hogan:

We were terrible when we started. I knew the chords from the heels, and probably four of them went into Linger. But when Dolores heard the monotonous repetitive sequences that would later become Linger, she saw the potential in them.

The Guardian

the cranberriesThe Cranberries in 1993

O’Riordan told how the composition was born:

Linger was the first song we wrote. Initially, it was only in the form of chords, without a real melody or words. I took the tape home and came up with a verse and a chorus. I wrote about what it’s like to be rejected. I never imagined it would be a major hit.

The Guardian

The composition did have lyrics written by Niall Quinn, but O’Riordan chose to write her own lyrics.

Dolores talked about what the Linger song is about:

I was inspired by a night I spent at a club called Madonna’s. This guy asked me to dance and he seemed nice to me. Before that, I thought sticking my tongue in my mouth was gross, but when I got my first proper kiss from him, I really “have to let it linger.” I couldn’t wait to meet him. But at the next disco, he walked right past me and asked my friend to dance. I was devastated. Everyone saw me get dumped, in public, at the disco. When you’re seventeen, everything seems so dramatic, and I poured my soul into the song.

The Guardian

According to the widespread version, that guy was a soldier who soon left to serve in Lebanon.

When the song became a hit, the source of inspiration showed up. Listen to Dolores:

A few years later, when I was already married, the guy that the Linger song is about wrote me a long letter saying, “I know the song is about me. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. We can meet?” I thought, “Too late. You left me!” I didn’t answer.

The Guardian

Recording and release

Noel Hogan spoke about the further history of the song Linger:

We scraped together some money for a demo and sent it to the record companies. When Island signed us, we asked to work with Stephen Street because he was the producer of The Smiths and we all loved him. In the studio, I kept thinking, “He was sitting next to Johnny Marr, and now he’s sitting next to me.” I tried to play cool, but I couldn’t help myself and started to bug him with questions about The Smiths.

The Guardian

In February 1993, the song was released as a single from the album Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? She rose high in the charts in the US, UK, Scotland, Canada and other countries.

Video Linger by The Cranberries

The music video for Linger – The Cranberries refers viewers to Jean-Luc Godard’s sci-fi film Alphaville. Filming for the black and white video took place in Los Angeles when the band toured the US for the first time.

Interesting Facts

  • Dolores performed the song in the movie Click (2006).

Linger Lyrics by The Cranberries

If you, if you could return
Don’t let it burn, don’t let it fade
I’m sure I’m not being rude
But it’s just your attitude
It’s tearing me apart
It’s ruining everything

I swore, swore I would be true
And honey so did you
So why were you holding her hand
Is that the way we stand
Were you lying all the time
was it just a game to you

But I’m in so deep
You know I’m such a fool for you
You got me wrapped around your finger
Do you have to let it linger
Do you have to, do you have to
Do you have to let it linger

Oh I thought the world of you
I thought nothing could go wrong
But I was wrong, but I was wrong
If you, if you could get by
Trying not to lie
Things wouldn’t be so confused
And I wouldn’t feel so used
But you always really knew
I just wanna be with you


Song quote

This is our child. It only has four chords, but it’s a great song.

Dolores O’Riordan, B-Side, 1993

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