Friday, 4 June 2021

Dreams of Dolores

 I was recently listening to Dreams by The Cranberries when it occurred to me that Dolores O’Riordan was one of the great vocalists of her generation.


“What took you so long?” You might wonder.


Well, I did miss the ascent of The Cranberries to stardom in the early 90’s when I was much on the road myself with Black 47.


One night, however, somewhere in Missouri, our road manager asked if we’d be interested in partying with the Limerick born band who were playing in the vicinity.


It sounded like a good idea – there’s nothing like kicking back with some fellow road warriors, particularly if they’re Irish.


It didn’t happen, our record company insisted we move on to our next destination to play some “important shock-jock, early morning radio show.” Talk about much ado about nothing!


It would be another 15 years before I’d meet Dolores. She walked into the SiriusXM studios already exhausted from a full day of interviews. I could tell there were many other places she’d rather be. 


An intense, spiky presence she had large luminous eyes. She was quite beautiful, small in stature, but did she dominate that room!  


When confronted with any threat from Limerick, I always mention Malachy McCourt. She smiled, and confessed she’d never had the pleasure of meeting this back-lanes icon, and from that moment our interview took off.


I reminded her of the broken party engagement in Missouri.  


“You’re Irish?”  She said, as though it was more likely I was from the outer rings of Saturn. 


She added that her shoes were killing her, and did I mind if she kicked them off.


Like many stars she was wary of interviews, mostly because in these days a successful one demands that some piece of intimate information be teased out and then plastered online.


I was more interested in how a young woman from Ballybricken, County Limerick had written such wonderful songs as Zombie and Linger?


With that she relaxed and told me some of the story of Dolores, as opposed to the buffed biography constructed by her publicist.


I could tell almost instantly that there was a private darkness at her core, a pain that would always curdle despite her mega-success. 


I knew better than to go there – such heartaches are revealed in their own time, and for now, she had come to terms with hers. 


All that aside, I was reminded of some lines from her song, Dreams:

“And oh, my dreams

It’s never quite as it seems…”


It was obvious that the 12 year old who stood up in her new school and declared, “My Name is Dolores O’Riordan and I’m going to be a rock star” had achieved her ambition - but it had left her wanting.


In the course of the interview she veered from fierce to tender, often harkening back to the ever-present pressure of her popularity. 


In the end we agreed that in one’s musical career the songs are all that count. The gigs, the glamour, the admiration of the crowds, just fade away, but the songs are your legacy.


And with that, two culchies from Limerick and Wexford found common ground on the snazzy 36th Floor of a Manhattan skyscraper. 


Then in 2017 she showed up with an entourage who sat in on the interview. 


The publicist whispered that Dolores was in pain from a back ailment, and that Noel Hogan, her band mate, would answer my questions.


Noel is a gentleman, songwriter, and a fine guitarist, but there was little intimacy and the interview dissolved into your standard rock grilling. 


And then they were gone. Our personal interaction was so curtailed, I actually wondered if she remembered me.


Then the muffled studio door opened suddenly, there she was beaming, and giving me a big sisterly Irish wink.


I smiled back, the door closed silently, and I never saw her again.  She died in a London hotel room some months later.


What a journey for a wonderful young countrywoman – from Ballybricken to the stars.  Despite her tragic end, her starkly revealing songs continue to enhance her brilliant legacy.

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