Coldplay

TrackAlbum
Cemeteries Of LondonViva La Vida
Charlie BrownMylo Xylto
Don'’t PanicParachutes
Fix YouX&Y
Glass Of WaterLeft Right Left Right Left
God Put A Smile Upon Your FaceLive 2012
Lovers In Japan/Reign Of LoveViva La Vida
PolitikA Rush Of Blood To The Head
ShiverParachutes
Speed Of SoundX&Y

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Contributor: Rick J Leach

I have gradually come to appreciate some of the albums in my collection less and less as the years advance, to the point when I wonder if I really liked it in the first place, or question why I liked it at all. Not too many though. Even music I haven’t listened to for a good few years, I still really like.

There is though, a small yet distinct, category that stand apart and above. These are artists who not only have produced great music over the years but have something about them as well, some indefinable characteristic. It may additionally be that I’ve collected so much of their work or that I’ve been into them for so long, I couldn’t imagine not hearing them again. Even when they produce something that is below their usual standards, it’s still head and shoulders above 99.9% of anything else. It’ll always be interesting and different, and they’ll always come up with something unexpected; Dylan, The Fall, Prefab Sprout, The Flaming Lips, Springsteen – and Coldplay are the final ones in this special grouping.

As my friends and family can testify, my relationship with Coldplay is somewhat chequered. Unlike The Fall for example who, as soon as I’d heard them, I knew that there was something special there. Or Prefab Sprout, where I was convinced of their greatness at an early stage by my musical guru, Andy. There was nothing about Coldplay for me for a very long time. I’d seen the video for Yellow as had probably half the population and written them off, totally unfairly, as sub-Oasis chancers. The only contact I had for a long time with anything to do with them was glancing at reviews of their albums in say, Mojo, where at best they were damned with faint praise. John Peel never played any Coldplay and as my radio-listening tastes had shifted to Radio 4, A Rush Of Blood To The Head, and X&Y passed me by completely. Even more than that though, I’d picked up on the general air of sneering within the rest of the music press and reviews in broadsheets of Coldplay being boring, Radio 2 Phil Collins-y and pompous. This was only exacerbated by Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow’s (admittedly) annoying habit of giving their kids daft names and being constantly snapped by the pap for the tabloids. I must admit that I fell into this easy misconception of Coldplay to the extent that every time they were mentioned I fake-stifled a yawn and used to tell my son Thomas that it was impossible to say Coldplay without narcolepsy setting in before pronouncing the second syllable i.e. Cold … zzzz.

This state of affairs carried on until 2008 (i.e. at least nine years); me dismissing Coldplay out of hand and not bothering to give them a proper chance. Like the planets falling into conjunction, three things happened that radically and permanently changed my prejudice. First thing was that an advert for Viva La Vida kept running on TV and I found myself thinking, “Well, this isn’t too bad … actually it’s quite good.” The second thing was a conversation I had with Andy, who had just seen them play at the MEN Arena in Manchester. Although I knew he liked Coldplay a lot, the fact that he was so enthusiastic about the gig and for once tried to convince me that they were much better than I thought they were, and that I was being slightly myopic, made me think I should reconsider my position. The final piece in the jigsaw happened one weeknight when the BBC repeated a Coldplay show recorded outdoors at TV Centre in front of about 300 people. I was idly flicking through the channels when it came on and, for want of anything much better to do, I sat down and watched it for 30 minutes. In that half hour I was converted. Went from sceptic to believer in an almost quasi-religious manner. “Oh Lord, I was blind and now I can see …”

If all that sounds a bit strong and too obsessive, it is maybe a question of degree. I had moved so far from where I had been a few weeks before that any statement of admiration for Coldplay made me look like the most rabid born-again Christian.

Then in December 2010 and June 2011 I saw Coldplay live at two different gigs; two shows that couldn’t have been more different, opposite ends of the spectrum but each, in their own way, wholly convinced me that a) Coldplay are a brilliant band, b) taking notice of what is considered to be hip or cutting edge is silly, c) who gives a fuck if Coldplay aren’t critically well thought of? and d) they are just a brilliant band.

That December, Coldplay announced at very short notice that they would be playing two small gigs for Crisis, the charity for the homeless. It was only by chance that I found out about it. The Liverpool gig was to be at the Royal Court. I was lucky and got two tickets. On December 19th my son and I trotted into town for my first live Coldplay show and Thomas’s first ever gig. When I say we trotted off into town, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. We didn’t trot as much as slip and slide. Pavements hadn’t been gritted and I fully expected one of us to have broken an ankle as we negiotated the treacherous conditions around the Royal Court. We then waited outside for half an hour or so before the doors opened. It was so cold that I had lost all feeling in my toes, but it didn’t really matter as we managed to get our way to nearly the very front of the stage.

Coldplay were everything and more than I could have expected (see above clip). Within 30 seconds, I totally forgot about the cold in my toes and fingers. Best of all however, was the look on Thomas’s face as Coldplay launched into Glass Of Water and how much he let rip and sang every word at the top of his voice.

Just over six months later, I experienced Coldplay in a much larger venue. There was a slightly larger audience at Glastonbury than there was at the Royal Court and I didn’t manage to get as close to the stage either! And because I was working at Glastonbury that year, and Coldplay’s set unfortunately coincided with one of my shifts, I only managed to catch a couple of songs. The only common factor between seeing them the preceding December and then at Glastonbury was that the conditions underfoot were lethal. This time it was mud rather than ice!

As soon as my break started I ran round from the bar to the Pyramid. Well, it’s a bit difficult to run in wellies so I kind of squelched my way and managed to see them play Lost! and The Scientist. Even though I was at Glastonbury by myself that year, just hearing those two songs, seeing them play and singing along with thousands of other people, well, it didn’t make me feel as if I was alone at all. That’s what’s so good about Coldplay.

Anyway, if you never try you’ll never know.

The official Coldplay website

Coldplay community site

Coldplay biography (iTunes)

This is an abridged extract of a longer chapter on Coldplay in the author’s recent book – Totally Shuffled: A Year of Listening to Music on A Broken iPod by R J Leach, available on Kindle from Amazon. Rick has selected this top ten exclusively for toppermost.

TopperPost #126

9 Comments

  1. Peter Viney
    Nov 14, 2013

    Rick, the “Rock Snob’s Dictionary” (David Kamp & Stephen Daly) is an essential guide. I lost my copy and just ordered another. I’ve no memory of whether they mention Coldplay, but the book is a guide to what we are supposed to like: John Lennon but not Paul McCartney, John Phillips but not the Mamas and Papas, The Nice but not ELP. It’s also very funny. The ultimate Rock Snob was John Peel which is why he wouldn’t have played Coldplay. Commercial success is the greatest sin. Melodic ability is not considered necessary. Ability to play in tune is just showing off.

    To me, there are no “guilty pleasures”. It’s all music. It often sells because it’s good (though we might exclude the TV Idol era from this, I add rock snobbishly). So … with all that in mind, let me suggest adding “Yellow”.

    • Rick J Leach
      Nov 14, 2013

      Thanks for the tip re the book – I’ll certainly give it a go as it sounds interesting.

      Totally with the Lennon/McCatrney divide yet I am afraid I have to differ re your comments about John Peel – I heard him playing Sheena Easton and Status Quo not infrequently.

      Furthermore, as a long term fan of The Fall I don’t hold much truck with either melodic ability or playing in tune. In fact those two factors are selling points that generally turn me off from most artists – mindless rackets and hitting instruments at random is much more interesting to me!

      I realise that this doesn’t tie in much with Coldplay but, as has been said, music is just music and it would be boring if we all liked the same stuff!

  2. Ian Ashleigh
    Nov 14, 2013

    My schoolchums knew and my friends know that, in my opinion, there are only 2 categories of music: music that I like and music that I don’t like. You could even replace the word ‘music’ with the word ‘songs’. It explains a music collection that is even more eclectic than the one behind this frame.

    I bought ‘Parachutes’ and also ‘A Rush of Blood to the Head’, and whilst I can see why people like/love Coldplay, I don’t like Chris Martin’s voice so I cannot share Rick’s enthusiasm. Although there was a time that you couldn’t go to Vicarage Road Stadium and not hear Yellow over the PA system.

    Many thanks for this posting Rick, perhaps it’s time for a reappraisal.

    • Rick J Leach
      Nov 14, 2013

      Thanks for your comments re this Ian – and your thanks. I’m all for eclecticism myself and, as you say, everything is due for reappraisal.

      Except for Muse. I’d draw the line with them.

  3. Mat Baker
    Nov 14, 2013

    I can’t help thinking Rick that you have spent a lot of time telling us what Coldplay aren’t, but not a whole lot telling us what they are.

    For my part, I have really tried to like Coldplay. I loved “Yellow”, but was unconvinced with the rest of the album. And I have tried to give their subsequent material a go, but I just don’t like it, and there is so much music out there that I don’t have any urge to work at it.

    Each to his own though! I have grown out of my musical fascist phase – pretty much – and who knows, maybe I will have a Coldplay epiphany one day…

    It doesn’t feel likely though!

    • Rick J Leach
      Nov 14, 2013

      Mat, maybe that’s the problem – it’s possibly easier to say what artists are not than what they are or maybe when something is so personal and emotive, then it’s impossible to articulate it in words.

      For me, I never even tried to like Coldplay! They just sort of crept up on me unannounced when I was not expecting it, so maybe you may yet have an epiphany one day; however unlikely it may seem!

  4. Kasper Nijsen
    Nov 15, 2013

    Good list, and thanks for telling your Coldplay story.

    I think a lot of people underestimate them. For myself, I really liked them when ‘A Rush of Blood to the Head’ was first released and they hadn’t really caught on yet. But then a few years later their music was suddenly everywhere, and it was simply overexposure that killed it for me.

    On a side-note, it strikes me how little people listen to their actual lyrics (which are often quite good). When our current (Dutch) prime-minister was re-elected in 2012, he rose to the platform to the tune of Viva La Vida: “Never an honest word, but that was when I ruled the world!” Now that’s a pretty accurate description of his previous term to me, but I’m not sure how his conservative spindoctors thought it would work…

    • Rick J Leach
      Nov 15, 2013

      Kasper, glad you liked the list and my Coldplay tale. I do think that you have got it right; they are a wholly underrated band and maybe this is because they have had so much exposure. Probably due to that very exposure and commercial success they are not seen as anything like cuttting edge or even vaguely hip, but that’s what makes them interesting to me. Sometimes the best music is right under our noses and we don’t notice it.

      Maybe sometime in the future they will be seen as more than soft rock fodder!

  5. David Lewis
    Dec 21, 2013

    I always put Coldplay into the great band poor lead singer category until I started teaching students the songs on guitar. Actually seeing how the songs are constructed made me see just how undeniably good they are. Great list.

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