15 July 2008
Salad - Motorbike to Heaven
Label: Island Red
Year of Release: 1995
So let's get one thing straight from the start - to begin with, nobody liked Salad much. The music press were suspicious of them, the public didn't really snap up their records in any great quantity, and when I got a call from their promotional company asking if I'd like to interview them in 1995, I was told "Look, I know they used to be a bit shit, but they've really got good in the last year or so". Never have I ever heard less of a sales pitch for an act in my life.
To understand quite how they found themselves in this unfortunate position, you only really have to look at the previous careers of lead singer Marijne Van Der Vlugt, who had a history of being a successful model and an MTV presenter. In an interview from 1994, she states:
"I wanted to become a model, and I became a model. It was my determination that got me there rather than my looks. Sure, I'm tall, and I had the right figure, but I had to work to get that. More importantly, I wanted to do it and I wanted to be bloody good at it. I had the attitude, I was really bloody cocky. I worked in Paris for a year and, in a few months in Tokyo, I earned £20,000."
"Then I wanted to be on TV and I became an MTV presenter, just literally walked into the job. I was taking in a Merry Babes video and someone just asked me to audition there and then. So I made my decision, went for it and, I got the job."
Now, if the above doesn't make you want to vomit, you're a better person than I. The ridiculously charmed Marijne had seemingly walked into two very glamorous jobs through determination alone (which, contrary to her claims, wouldn't be enough for most of us however determined we were) and had now begun a career in a band with a string of distinctly average singles ("Kent", "Diminished Clothes", "On A Leash"). As much as it's tempting to whip the music press under most circumstances, at the start of Salad's career I have to confess I wasn't sold either. It all smacked of an It girl deciding she'd like to front a scratchy indie band.
Then something weird happened. "Drink The Elixir" came out, and was actually pretty damn good. This was then followed up by "Motorbike to Heaven" (above) which was actually, in my opinion, brilliant. Far from being just another model who had decided to have a career as a singer, Marijne's voice is actually fantastic on this track, changing from gentle purring to full-on rawk snarls. It's expressive, and suits the melodramatic, sixties cinematic feel of the track extraordarily well. Then the album "Drink Me" came out, and whilst it wasn't start-to-finish genius, it was nonetheless far stronger than similar works put out that year by other female fronted Britpop bands the press lumped them in with.
Nonetheless, the music press still weren't having any of it, and went for their jugulars on a weekly basis. It's a sign of how much things have changed. If a youth TV presenter went on to front a band who signed to a major label now, I have little doubt the NME would put them straight on to the front page without even asking any questions. For as much as I found myself getting frustrated by their continual lazy dismissals of Salad's work in the nineties, I do much prefer their cynicism of that time to their marketing-lead attitude of the present.
So then, I am forced to conclude that had Salad been around during this decade, they probably would have had more success - but that doesn't necessarily make the industry fairer or more interesting now than it was then. And contrary to what Marijne says, it's not all about confidence. You're usually a successful model because you're in some way beautiful as well as determined, which she most certainly was (and probably still is). In a fair world, your music would also sell by the shedload according to your talent, irrespective of your personal history, but sadly the music industry isn't necessarily as straightforward as that. Still, "Drink Me" managed to scrape the top twenty of the album charts, which isn't a bad score compared to many of the bands featured on this blog, even if it did deserve a hell of a lot more.
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