Personalities | Coldplay | Twenty-First Century | Rock

Coldplay were formed in London in 1996 by four college friends – Chris Martin (born 2 March 1977, vocals), Jonny Buckland (born 11 September 1977, guitar), Will Champion (born 31 July 1978, drums) and Guy Berryman (born 12 April 1978, bass).

Their early years were similar to thousands of other struggling young bands in the UK’s capital, with continued gigging at venues in the Camden area and numerous support slots to bands they would later go on to shadow and supercede.

Indie Roots

A popular route into the ‘recorded world’ that Coldplay soon followed was the self-funded single – in this case the Safety EP CD (1998). It is rumored that less than 20 per cent of the 500 copies made found their way to actual gig-goers, and that most ended up in the hands of record-company executives. But a concert in north London attracted the head of the cool Fierce Panda label, Simon Williams, and a single was quickly slated for release on the strength of that night’s performance (‘Brothers And Sisters’).

After their responsibilities at university were fulfilled, the band signed a then massive five-album deal with UK label Parlophone, also home to Britpop bands like Blur and Supergrass that many claim Coldplay were influenced by. After initial internal squabbles that were soon resolved, the band decided to act as a democracy with main songwriter Martin receiving 40 per cent of any profits and the remaining 60 per cent split equally between the other three. On top of such equality, the four claimed to live a comparatively clean lifestyle, and from very early on Coldplay found themselves dogged by accusations of being dull or ‘not rock’n’roll enough’.

A Rush Of Sales

Parachutes, Coldplay’s debut album from 2000, found the band and Martin in good voice, but spectres of college influences still hung over the work – for example, ‘Shiver’ was strongly influenced by Jeff Buckley, as Martin admitted. However, later single smashes from the album, ‘Yellow’ and ‘Trouble’ – both emotionally fraught and plaintively played (particularly by Buckland), and accompanied by dramatically simple videos – gained them exposure on a worldwide scale.

Returning in 2002 with the thoroughly impressive ‘In My Place’, an epic, haunting track with a guitar motif to die for, Coldplay found their position in world music to have swelled enormously. This was largely as a result of the intense touring to promote Parachutes, but also because of a growing confidence among the band and Martin. (His profile soared due to a relationship with movie star Gwyneth Paltrow; they married in 2003.)

A Rush Of Blood To The Head, which arrived in 2002, was full of much the same balladry and artful musicianship that its predecessor had been, but here the band had stretched their wings, honing their live show to one that could fill the largest of stadiums. ‘The Scientist’ and ‘Clocks’ were more explicitly piano-driven, and the latter was used as music for a...

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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, general editor Michael Heatley


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