Blood Work

Coldplay's success hasn't gone to Chris Martin's Head

Not really. But there is one thing everyone knows, Martin included: There's no more sneaking up on listeners, not after "Yellow," Parachutes' stand-out single, crossed over onto the American pop charts and set up camp there, tent-hopping among the unlikely likes of Britney Spears and 'N Sync. "Yellow" was bigger than the band that recorded it, at least at first, the kind of formula that usually produces "one-hit wonder" for an answer, especially when a British band is plugged into the equation. (As in: Blur + "Song 2" = one-hit wonder. Try it at home with anyone you've seen on the cover of NME or Q.) Yet, as more people picked up Parachutes for "Yellow," they heard that there was much more to Coldplay than that one gloriously undeniable song. Parachutes didn't have another hit as big as "Yellow"--at least in the States--but they didn't need one. No need to separate one song from the pack when there's an entire album that's every bit as good.

A Rush of Blood takes the idea even further: With its fists-in-the-air chorus, lead single "In My Place" has the potential to become another "Yellow," but it might not even be the best of the album's 11 tracks, each song better than the one before it. Martin knows it would have been easy to simply coast on their success, rush out a new album loaded with cut-rate rehashes, take the money and run to Ibiza or wherever rich rock stars are supposed to go. He could've gone crazy trying to write another "Yellow." But the overwhelming response to Parachutes made the group even more resolved to record the best possible album it could, not just another hit sandwiched between 10 slices of white bread.

"Absolutely I feel a responsibility," Martin says, his voice rising as he warms to the topic. "Because, in this world where people are ripped off on a daily basis and exploited...Even when you're just watching Frasier and you have to sit through 10 minutes of advertisements, you know? We're so exploited and ripped off all the time that I absolutely dread the idea that someone would spend their $10 on our record and go home and be disappointed. So, in that sense, I feel absolutely like, 'Well, we better fucking do it.' We won't ever release anything unless we've put absolutely everything we possibly can into it. Because, you know, at the end of the day, it's people's pocket money.

Rush chairman: Coldplay's, from left, Guy Berryman, Chris Martin, Will Champion and Jon Buckland.
Rush chairman: Coldplay's, from left, Guy Berryman, Chris Martin, Will Champion and Jon Buckland.
Dark places: A Rush of Blood to the Head was finished. Then Coldplay dumped half  of it.
Dark places: A Rush of Blood to the Head was finished. Then Coldplay dumped half of it.

"The same thing happened on the first one," he continues. "The same thing happens on everything...There was a time when we thought we'd finished the record, and then we came back to it a week later and just thought, 'No, no, no, we can do a lot better than this.' And then, basically, dumped half of it."

It wasn't Coldplay's first career crisis. Long after Parachutes hit like a kiss in England, they weren't sure if they were a successful band or a successful media creation, a disposable group the overzealous British press had bullied onto the charts. They enjoyed it, sure, but they questioned it even more. And then they came to America. "It suddenly dawned on us that people were turning up because they liked us and not because of anything else, you know?" Martin says, referring to the turning point, a show in Atlanta last summer. "And that they weren't joking when they were clapping. And, really, it was touring America that just gave us loads of confidence. We could try new stuff out and not worry about anything."

The American fans' belief in the band got them through the first half of A Rush of Blood, and after ditching the almost-finished record, their belief in themselves got them through to the end. But they still worry about a few things.

"The weird thing is, in terms of interviews and what I say, I wish I did think more about that, 'cause I always say things that come back to haunt me about two days later," Martin says. "Or someone comes up to me and goes, 'You wanker! I can't believe you said that.' And I'm like, 'What?'" He laughs. "The problem is that you forget when--you know, like me and you are just talking now--you forget that anyone's going to read it. And I'll tell you something about the time I, you know, skinned my neighbor's dogs or whatever, and I forget that you might print that.

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