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After surfacing in 2000 with the breakthrough single "Yellow," Coldplay quickly became one of the biggest bands of the new millennium, honing a mix of introspective Brit-pop and anthemic rock that landed the British quartet a near-permanent residence on record charts worldwide. The group's emergence was perfectly timed; Radiohead had just released the overly cerebral Kid A, while Oasis had ditched two founding members and embraced psychedelic experimentation on Standing on the Shoulder of Giants. U.K. audiences were hungry for a fresh-faced rock band with big aspirations and an even bigger sound, and Coldplay were more than happy to take the reins. Parachutes went multi-platinum in several countries and earned the band its first Grammy, but Coldplay continued to grow into the 2000s, topping their debut album's success with higher record sales and an increased public profile.
Chris Martin (vocals/piano), Jon Buckland (guitar), Will Champion (drums), and Guy Berryman (bass) were all born into musical households. Martin, the eldest of five, began playing the piano as a young child and later took solace in the work of Tom Waits. Buckland, on the other hand, grew up with the heavy guitar sounds of Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. Scotland native Berryman preferred funk to indie rock, thereby leaving him to play bass, while multi-instrumentalist Champion didn't plan to be a drummer until he joined Coldplay's lineup. The bandmates came together in 1996 while attending the University College of London, and the Safety EP was issued shortly after their first gig at a Manchester festival for unsigned bands. The release only saw 500 pressings, as did the subsequent Brothers & Sisters EP. Nevertheless, it was enough to win the band a U.K. deal with Parlophone Records in April 1999, and the five-track Blue Room EP arrived that fall. With nods from the media, Coldplay were hailed as the next Travis, thanks to their simple acoustics and charming personas.
Parlophone ushered Coldplay into Parr St. Studios in Liverpool, where they recorded the bulk of their debut album. Parachutes was released in July 2000 and became a swift hit on the strength of four U.K. singles, several of which enjoyed popularity in America as well. With "Yellow" climbing the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, Parachutes was released in the U.S. in November, where its sales soon rivaled -- and eventually surpassed -- those in the U.K.
Riding on the strength of their universally popular debut, Coldplay headed back into the studio in fall 2001 to work on a sophomore album. They emerged with A Rush of Blood to the Head, releasing the album worldwide in August 2002 and embarking on a global concert tour soon after. "The Scientist" enjoyed regular radio rotation, while both "Clocks" and "In My Place" won Grammy awards. The CD/DVD package Live 2003 was issued to highlight the group's popular tour, and Martin specifically earned a higher notch on the celebrity scale by marrying actress Gwyneth Paltrow in December 2003. Paltrow gave birth to the couple's first daughter, Apple Blythe Alison Martin, the following April.
Fatherhood didn't stop Martin from working, as Coldplay began recording material for a third album within weeks. Previously recorded material with longtime producer Ken Nelson was scrapped early on, while Danton Supple (Morrissey, the Cure) joined Coldplay to complete the recording of X&Y. "Speed of Sound" marked Coldplay's first single from their long-awaited third effort in spring 2005; the album followed in June, topping charts around the world and selling more than eight million copies during its first year.
Such success put Coldplay on the same commercial level as U2, and Coldplay retreated to the studio in late 2006 to work with famed producer Brian Eno (who had teamed up with U2 two decades prior for The Joshua Tree). Recording sessions with Eno were completed within one year, followed by several months of mixing and growing anticipation from the band's audience. Viva la Vida -- also known by its extended name, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends -- ultimately arrived in June 2008. Worldwide sales for the album had approached six million by November, when Coldplay released several new recordings (including a collaboration with hip-hop mogul Jay-Z) as part of the Prospekt's March EP. Preceded by first single "Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall," Coldplay's fifth studio album, 2011's Mylo Xyloto, was produced by Markus Dravs, Daniel Green, and Rik Simpson (the official press release adds "with enoxification and additional composition by Brian Eno"). Live 2012, the band's second concert film/recording, followed in 2012.
Top 5 things you may not know about Coldplay:
1. They could have been called Pectoralz or Starfish.
The rock group that has rocked the world got its start in 1996 at a decidedly unhip place, orientation week at University College London (UCL). It was there that frontman Chris Martin met Jonny Buckland and the two began forming a group. One year later the group became three with the addition of fellow student Guy Berryman and the trio performed side projects under the names “Pectoralz” and “Starfish.” It was only later that the group, with the addition of Will Champion on drums, became “Coldplay.” They took the name from another fellow UCL student, Tim Crompton, who discarded it for his own band because he found it too depressing.
2. They don’t do endorsements, unless it’s Apple.
Coldplay is well known for their generosity when it comes to charitable causes like Oxfam and Amnesty International, but not so charitable when it comes to letting companies use their music for endorsements.
The band has famously turned down big money contracts from the likes of Gatorade, Diet Coke and Gap.
“We wouldn’t be able to live with ourselves if we sold the songs’ meanings like that,” Martin has said.
The band has been a good friend to computer giant Apple, however, allowing their hit song “Viva la Vida” to be used in a commercial for the company’s iTunes store
They’ve also performed at special Apple events and product launches and last October were one of a select group of musicians to perform at a memorial service for Apple founder Steve Jobs at the company’s California headquarters.
3. They don’t eat meat on Mondays.
The band was one of the first and most prominent supporters of the “Meat Free Monday” food campaign started by fellow musician Paul McCartney in 2009. The campaign attempts to help slow climate change by encouraging families to eat meat-free at least one day a week. Martin himself is a well-known vegetarian who was named the “World’s Sexiest Vegetarian” in 2005 by animal rights group PETA.
4. They rock but they’re family men too.
Martin, Buckland, Berryman and Champion are all fathers so they have a tour demand unusual to most rockers: they demand 10 days off every month during their tours to spend quality time with their families.
“The other guys in the band have little kids as well, so they want to tour in a family-friendly way,” Martin’s wife, Gwyneth Paltrow, the mom of his two children Apple and Moses, recently told Harper’s Bazaar magazine.
The foursome have made another pact somewhat unusual also in the rock world, staying clean. Coldplay created a rule for themselves that states, “Any member of the band caught using hard drugs will be dismissed immediately.”
5. They almost fell apart.
Chris Martin told the UK’s The Telegraph in 2008 that the band came close to calling it quits after the release of their third album, “X&Y,” in 2005. The album sold 10 million copies but was panned by some music critics who called it inferior to the band’s 2002 album, “A Rush Of Blood To The Head.”
“After the last album, we weren’t really talking to each other; we were falling apart. We didn’t own ourselves: there were too many swanky dinners, too many award ceremonies. We could almost just have phoned in the songs for the new album from our holiday homes. I wanted to burn all the awards, erase the past,” Martin said.