Cranberries guitarist Noel Hogan wrote the music for this song before Dolores O'Riordan joined the band. Originally, it had lyrics written by the group's first singer, a bloke named Niall Quinn. When O'Riordan auditioned for the band, she had some ideas for the song, and after she was hired, she wrote her own set of lyrics, turning it into a song of regret based on a soldier she once fell in love with.
The emotional, girlie sound was a huge departure for the band, but wildly successful. The song got lots of airplay from radio stations looking for an alternative to rap or grunge, and MTV put the video in heavy rotation. The Cranberries became one of the best-selling bands of the mid-'90s.
Dolores O'Riordan wrote this song about her feelings following the breakup with her first boyfriend, the soldier who broke her heart. She said the song is about "the way I reacted to infatuation."
In a Songfacts interview with Dolores O'Riordan
, she described this as "a love song." In the lyric, she describes being mistreated by her love and seeing him with another girl, yet unable to break free because he lets their relationship linger. This hardy seems the stuff of dreams
, but the feeling of first love is what O'Riordan keyed in on. It brought her back to a time of innocence.
The Cranberries recorded the first version of this song in 1990 at their manager's studio in Limerick, Ireland. It was one of three songs included on a demo they distributed to local records stores, which found their way to various record companies. Island Records signed the band, which released their first EP, Uncertain, in 1991. "Linger" was not part of that EP, as they wanted to save the song for when they built a bigger fan base. The strategy worked: the song was included on their debut album Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?, and issued as their second UK single (after "Dreams"), it cracking the UK charts at #74 for a week in February 1993.
The band didn't make it to America until that summer, when they toured as the opening act for The The. "Linger" was issued as a single later that year, earning airplay on radio and MTV, breaking the band in America. They were already working on their next album when the song caught on in the States.
It wasn't until February 12, 1994 that "Linger" reached its peak position of #8 on the US chart. A week later, the reissued single topped out at #14 in the UK.
Dolores O'Riordan performed this song in the 2006 Adam Sandler movie Click. In the film, Sandler's character has a remote control that can take him back in time. When his wife reminisces about their first kiss, she asks if he remembers the song that was playing. Sandler uses the remote, goes back to the memory, and discovers that "Linger" was playing.
The movie appearance was a big deal for O'Riordan, who had a bit of a breakdown in the late '90s and spent a lot of time in the ensuing years raising three children and recovering emotionally from the travails of stardom - she was just 18 when she joined the band and ill-equipped for the sudden celebrity. She was considering a return to music when Sandler approached her about being in the movie. She released her first solo album in 2007.
The video for this song is a tribute to Jean-Luc Goddard's film Alphaville
. In one of the rooms of the hotel, a silent film is being shown which features 1950s stripper Blaze Starr.
Ekristheh - Halath
In 2015, Dolores O'Riordan and Noel Hogan performed this song on a Season 11 episode of the reality dating show The Bachelorette
, where a group of guys compete for the affections of one girl. This segment took place in Dublin, where the couple (Kaitlyn and Jared), visit Christchurch Cathedral to find O'Riordan and Hogan performing this song. This was the first time they played together since 2012; the following year, the group re-formed to tour, but that tour was cut short and abandoned in May 2017. O'Riordan died on January 15, 2018.
The Cranberries performed this song in many different arrangements, often doing it acoustic. On their 2017 album Something Else, they included a version with the Irish Chamber Orchestra.
"Linger" was the first track that O'Riordan and Hogan wrote together. Hogan told Q Magazine in a 2018 interview that he had little idea of what a huge hit it would be, mainly because when the band used to rehearse in their early days, he couldn't hear it properly.
"We didn't have much gear, so Dolores would plug a microphone into the guitar amp," he recalled. "That sound was dreadful so I actually never got to hear the lyrics until we demoed it. I could hear the melody and the odd words here and there, and we got that 'linger' was in there somewhere."
Eventually, The Cranberries scraped the money together to record the tune and Hogan got to hear O'Riordan's vocals properly. He recalled that he was pleasantly shocked. "She sang that and it was like, 'Oh my gosh… this is actually good!'"