Nobody said it was easy, but Coldplay have undoubtedly become the most successful alt-rock group to emerge from the UK within the last 25 years. Landing in the public consciousness with the indie-inflected acoustic folk of Parachutes before embarking on a multi-coloured crusade to widen the sonic spectrum of stadium rock, Coldplay’s musical achievements have seen them go from pure-hearted Davids to ambitious Goliaths destined for immortality. Not since The Beatles have a band occupied a more respected position in the musical landscape.
Listen to the best of Coldplay here.
Traversing the many changes of 21st-century pop with frontman Chris Martin’s statuesque mix of towering melodies and heart-on-sleeve songcraft, each Coldplay album has inspired millions of listeners with era-defining anthems that have become rooted in the fabric of our everyday lives. Whether you’re partial to the oscillating piano tones of Clocks or the Elysian jaunt of Paradise, nobody can deny the enduring power of the best Coldplay songs. Always engaging and willing to experiment with new sonic trends, Martin’s songwriting has never lost sight of the heartfelt instincts of his muse.
Moving from minimalist ballads to expansive arena singalongs that take their production cues from commercial pop megahits, the band’s fiercely perfectionist streak continues to set a standard few rock groups can reach. Fusing U2-sized riffs with Radiohead-inspired atmospherics while never sacrificing their own unique sound, Coldplay’s unprecedented success has carved out a much-vaunted space in music history that proves remarkably enduring and hugely inspirational. Here’s how Coldplay became the biggest band in the world…
Life inside a bubble: Coldplay’s early days
Exeter-born songwriter Chris Martin first met his future bandmates at University College London in late 1996, bonding over music while playing pool at the student-union bar with guitarist Jonny Buckland, bassist Guy Berryman and drummer Will Champion. With his frenzied mass of curly hair and teeth braces, Buckland was particularly struck not just by Martin’s talent, but also his good-natured attitude and single-minded ambition. “We were determined to do it from the start,” the guitarist said of the band’s foundation. “From the moment I met Chris, I really did think that we could go all the way.”
Scoring their first gigs in January 1998, at venues such as The Laurel Tree pub in Camden, London, the group eventually adopted the name Coldplay after spotting it on a list of potential band names drawn up by a friend. Having been impressed with the strength of their early songs, such as an embryonic version of Don’t Panic, one of Martin’s friends from boarding school, Phil Harvey, was invited to come on board as the group’s manager, helping them fund their first recording, the Safety EP. Today, Harvey is widely considered to be the “fifth member” of Coldplay. Charged with contacting music-industry figureheads, it didn’t take him long to capture the attention of record labels; remarkably, Coldplay had only played ten gigs when they inked their first record deal, with the London-based indie Fierce Panda.