The music used during the famous Goal of the Month segment on ‘Match of the Day’ is arguably less important now than it used to be.
Football supporters who grew up in a certain era will undoubtedly have fond memories of hearing ‘The Life of Riley’ by the Lightning Seeds and ‘Sequence Three’ by the Italian composer Gianfranco Reverberi once a month. Some may even suggest that Teenage Fanclub’s ‘Is This Music?’ is the best song to have appeared on the programme.
These pieces of music meant something to football supporters in the past and the producers of the show used to put some thought into the song choices, but now they just use any old indie claptrap like ‘In This City’ by the ridiculously named Iglu and Hartly. Popular nostalgia, however, seems to have forgotten that Salad’s ‘Drink the Elixir’ was used as the segment’s theme music during the mid-1990s.
It is fair to say that prior to the release of ‘Drink the Elixir’ in February 1995, Salad did not have the best of reputations in the music industry.
They were ridiculed for having the MTV presenter and model Marijne van der Vlugt as their lead singer, and their early output was clunky at best.
As the excellent Left and to the Back blog points out, even the band’s press officer admitted that they were “a bit shit”.
And it’s easy to see, as early singles like ‘Diminished Clothes’ also had van der Vlugt as a keyboardist that had pathos in the same vein as Frank Sidebottom. It was a little bit embarrassing, to say the least.
Something changed, though, when ‘Drink the Elixir’ was released.
Instead of going down the usual “lets change our clothes” route, when a band undergoes a revamp, it was the production values that changed.
The messy and clumsy sound of ‘Your Ma’ went out of the window, and in came a slicker and more professional sound.
It did not sound like it had been recorded in someone’s shed any more and they started to sound like a proper band, rather than a vanity project for some deluded satellite television presenter.
The erraticness of van der Vlugt’s keyboard skills and the questionable lyrical content remained, as seen by several confusing lines – “I’ll wrap myself in bandages/’Till it gets ridiculous/And nobody will bother me” – but the attitude changed.
The brazing guitar riffs were more forceful than ever, which helped to create a tighter melody, and the track also saw an improved and more natural vocal performance from van der Vlugt.
‘Drink the Elixir’ also used the approach – as used by The Breeders’ in their classic ‘Cannonball‘ – of having a series of soft but teasing verses, followed by a rapturous chorus that was bursting full of energy.
The two contrasting styles blended together well – particularly during the superb break and subsequent end of the song – that had a strong sense of urgency, tempo and triumphancy.
They suddenly had a purpose and a concept, something that many Britpop bands failed to have.
Salad built upon this momentum after this, during their creative and commercial peak in 1995, with two further singles – ‘Motorbike to Heaven’ and ‘Granite Statue’– which both peaked inside the UK Top 50 Singles Chart.
They also managed to have a Top 20 album in ‘Drink Me’, during this period.
Both of these tracks had exactly the approach as ‘Drink the Elixir’ – having two contrasting sounds in the verses and chorus – so the band could be considered as being a one-trick pony, which possibly explains why their career never stepped up a gear after their appearance on ‘Match of the Day’.
What can be said, though, is that ‘Drink the Elixir’ was one of the most powerful and exciting records from the less than distinctive Britpop era.
They finally released something that most bands would be more than satisfied with. In a nutshell: a belter of song.