Coldplay is one of the few bands that's been bringing good, non-manufactured music back to "Top 40" radio stations. Formed at the University College of London in early 1998, the band originally and currently consists of Chris Martin (vocals, piano, guitar; born March 7, 1977), Will Champion (drums; born July 31, 1977), Guy Berryman (bass guitar; born April 12, 1978), and Jon Buckland (lead guitar; born September 11, 1978).
In the beginning, before Coldplay was officially formed, the four UCL students enjoyed jamming together frequently, though at that time, each one of them played the guitar as their primary instrument. This changed, of course, as the band progressed and actually began writing and recording songs. Champion had originally intended to play lead guitar, hoping the band would find a new drummer, but as they became more and more successful, he found himself stuck on drums. After the release of their first few EPs, he didn't mind much.
Coldplay ignited the stage at a festival in Manchester for unsigned bands in mid-1998. Shortly thereafter came their first release, Safety, on the small, Yorkshire-based Fierce Panda label. It enjoyed wide acclaim by critics and the public alike, and gave rise to another EP; Brothers & Sisters was released in early 1999, along with another EP, Blue Room, which was the base upon which band’s debut album, Parachutes, was built. It was released and widely pushed by Parlophone Records and EMI all over the world.
With a cache of EPs and a new album under their belt, Coldplay began touring the UK and Europe, playing college campuses, coffeehouses, concert halls, TV shows (Eins Live and Harald Schmidt in Germany; Jo Whiley, Top of the Pops, and CD:UK in the UK; The Late Show with David Letterman, Saturday Night Live and Late Night with Conan O’Brien in the USA), and awards ceremonies (they had by this time been nominated for three Brit Awards for Parachutes). They recorded music videos for four of the first album’s ten tracks (in order: Shiver, Don’t Panic, Yellow, and Trouble), and perhaps as a consequence, the lanky, geekish Martin had become something of a sex symbol. In scores of interviews since then, however, he has retained his humility:
"I don't think about [being a sex symbol]. When I look in the mirror I see a slightly receding hairline." (San Francisco Chronicle, August 2002)
The constant touring started to wear on Martin's voice and he became prone to sore throats and bad colds, particularly during a short tour of the USA in early 2001. A number of concert cancellations because of it gave rise to the rumour of internal strife within the band and the UK music press went into a frenzy of printing the rumours. They persisted throughout the rest of 2001, as the band returned to the UK to begin work on their second album, and into mid-2002, when that album was released, and the band started touring again.
The album in question, A Rush of Blood to the Head, was released in the UK, the USA, and in Europe on August 27, 2002. On that date, Coldplay began a world tour in support of it, starting at the Olympia in Paris, France. (An excellent soundboard recording of this show1 can be found without too much effort on most P2P networks. Highly recommended.) A week later the band arrived in the USA to kick off an 11-date tour, all the stops of which were sold out, with one cancellation (The Masquerade2, an outdoor venue in Atlanta, Georgia, due to an imminent tropical storm in the area). Afterwards, they returned to the UK and sold out 10 of 14 dates there, before taking a break for a few months and then returning to the USA eventually in January and February, 2003, for 26 more dates.
Through it all, Coldplay has managed to not only "retain their pop sensibilities," but also get away with doing more or less whatever they want, musically. Very few popular bands have the option to do that, what with the heavy hand that most major record labels use to push their artists around. This hasn't stopped Chris Martin from becoming a celebrity; he's married to Gwyneth Paltrow, with whom he has a daughter called Apple.
"Rock'n'roll is about doing whatever the fuck you want. It doesn't have to be about doing huge amounts of drugs or being hedonistic. It's about not caring what anyone else thinks of you. Rock'n'roll is about the seeking of the ultimate pleasure. For us, that means hanging around together and playing music that we all love and not being afraid to say that's why we're doing it. We're a little too frank sometimes, and not as concerned with all the other stuff as we should be. That's fine, though. We just get on with doing it. We don't want to live up to anybody else's cliché." (Melody Maker, June 2000)
In February 2003, the single "In My Place" won a Grammy for "best alternative performance by a group or duo," and the album from whence it came, A Rush of Blood to the Head, won a Grammy for "best alternative album by a group or duo." My reaction to this was one of surprise, as it seems that the recording industry is finally able to recognize good music. Stop the press!
This is where my interest in Coldplay ended. The 2005 album X&Y didn't do much for me so I've been ignoring anything they put out after it. That's alright with me; I'm only just beginning to realize that to be a fan (of any music, really) doesn't mean I have to like everything put out by the bands I like. Anyway, I've seen freaking TV commercials for their follow-up album, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (how pretentious!), and if that isn't a sign that they probably don't need anymore attention from me, I'm not sure what is. "Most ambitious album to date" indeed.
1 Tracklist for the show at the Olympia in Paris on August 27, 2002:
- 01. Politik
- 02. Shiver
- 03. Spies
- 04. Daylight
- 05. Trouble
- 06. One I Love
- 07. Don't Panic
- 08. Everything's Not Lost
- 09. See You Soon
- 10. God Put a Smile Upon Your Face
- 11. Yellow
- 12. The Scientist
- 13. Clocks
- 14. In My Place
- 15. Life is for Living
- 16. Lips Like Sugar
- 17. Amsterdam
2 As my universally bad luck would have it, this was the date I had tickets to see. Of course it was canceled! If I hadn't driven all the way to Atlanta, I'm sure it would've proceeded as planned.