“I love their energy”: Coldplay producer reveals the stories behind their success

The summer of 1999 was a turning point for Coldplay.. By then they were an emerging band that had released two EPs (Safety Y The Blue Room), along with producer Chris Allison with moderate success. And although at first it was the name considered to work on the group’s first album, finally the unproductive work sessions and the need to achieve a more polished sound convinced the executives of the Parlophone A&R division of the need for a change. , the EMI subsidiary that had signed them.

It was then that producer Ken Nelson entered the scene (1959). Originally from Liverpool, he had previously accumulated experience working with alternative bands like Gomez, which gave him enough indie credentials for the group, eager to establish an identity. As he is used to, he first went to see them live before meeting them in person.

Ken Nelson, English music producer who worked with Coldplay on their first three albums.

“I first met Coldplay in the summer of 1999 in their rehearsal room. The meeting was arranged by Dan Keeling, their A&R man. I was one of the producers who met the band”, recalls Nelson via e-mail with Culto. “Luckily for me, I got the job. I loved his energy and of course I loved the songs and I knew we could make a great album.”

Together with Nelson, the band worked on almost all the songs on their first album, Parachutes (2000)with which they managed to position the hit Yellowand other songs like trouble, Don’t Panic Y Sparkswhich until today are incorporated into the sets of the Music of the Spheres tour; in fact the last two were performed in the first of the band’s four shows on their return to Chile this season.

Once launched as a promising band, with a charismatic singer and a single that hit the charts, it was time to make the leap. The passage of the second disc, titled A rush of blood to the head (2002)should definitively prop up Coldplay. With skill, Nelson noted that he could take advantage of the group’s increasing touring pace to enhance their sound.

“When we started working on A rush of blood to the headThey had been on tour for a long time and I think they had improved as musicians and had much more confidence, “he recalls. Even filming the road had allowed them to clearly define what they were looking for; a more resounding sound compared to their first album. “The band wanted to achieve a harder and more aggressive sound on the second album and I think that with stronger and fuller guitar sounds we achieved it”, details Nelson.

The group began work on the album a week after the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. In fact, from those events, Martin wrote politics, the opening song with its marked staccato and a reflection on humanity that will mark later themes and that has been included in some of the shows on the tour Music of the Spheres. “I wrote the song on September 11 and we recorded it on September 13. We were all, like everyone else, I guess, a little confused and scared. I go off tour and rest for a day or two. But then I get restless again. I want to write songs and do things, because you never know what can happen”, he himself said in an interview at the time.

Although it didn’t touch them directly, some of the melancholy mood crept into the record. More by changing the work methodology to achieve what they were looking for. “The second album was a very different experience than Parachutes –notes Ken Nelson. In parachutes was more or less a band recording live, while A rush of blood to the head started with Chris playing a guide track, sometimes with the guitar and the voice and other times with the piano and the voice. The rest of the band would add their parts on top, often writing the parts as they recorded.”

The cover of A rush of blood to the head, designed by photographer Sølve Sundsbø.

In those days, Chris Martin polished the songs together with guitarist Jonny Buckland and the rest of the group after composing on piano or guitar. According to Nelson, in those days the musician managed to define his own sound that definitively marked Coldplay’s style. When asked about the best of Martin’s compositions at the time, he doesn’t hesitate. “What I love about Chris’ songwriting is the beauty of the chord progressions. and their melodies are impressive”.

And by the way, as bands usually do, from time to time he would reach for a record to look for an idea. And they weren’t just Radiohead, as the group was blamed in those days. “Occasionally we would listen to other artists’ music,” says Ken Nelson. I remember listening to Scott Walker, Jeff Buckley and the Foo Fighters among others.”

That was how some of the songs began to come out. The first one recorded for the album was in my place, a song that despite its optimistic tone revolves around one of the classic pop topics; the heartbreak. It is about a boy who loves a girl who does not love him back, he is willing to wait for her, but he knows that he cannot stay in the same place. “It’s about where they put you in the world, and how they give you your position, and the way you look, and how you have to move forward,” Chris Martin explained to Billboard magazine.

The song, released as the album’s first single, was written during the days of parachutes and the group was working on it with different arrangements during the tours, they even played it on some occasions. Already in the studio, and after many doubts, she finished giving it the final shape in my place was worked on by the band when they were on tour Ken Nelson recalls. I think they fixed it during sound check. It eventually became part of the set before we started filming.”

In the studio it’s over The Scientistthe second single from the album. Another theme about incomplete love; this time, about a scientist who is absorbed by his work and therefore neglects the relationship. Hence the desire to go back. “Nobody said it was easy, oh, it’s such a shame for us to part,” sings Martin, who in 2005 explained the history of the song to Rolling Stone.

“I was in a really dark room in Liverpool, and there was a very old, out of tune piano. I really wanted to get the George Harrison song out, Isn’t It a Pity, but I could not. So this song came out right away.” Since those days, he has not left the group’s live sets and even marks an emotional moment, as happened during the band’s shows at the National Stadium.

For Ken Nelson it is one of his favorite songs on the album. “For me the best of A rush of blood to the head it is the energy that we record. My favorite songs are politics, The Scientist Y amsterdam”. On the occasion of the album’s anniversary, the group released a 4k version of the song’s video directed by Jamie Thraves (who directed the video for just for Radiohead), the one that tells a story from the end.

The third single was Clocks, another of Coldplay’s classic songs that sounded strong at the group’s shows on their return to the colossus of Ñuñoa. Like the other tracks on the album, it’s a sustained love song over a catchy piano phrase that Martin created one afternoon in the Liverpool studio where they worked on the album. As they were in the final sessions, it was thought to archive. But it was the insistence of the group’s manager that finally made it to be included on the album; in fact, that forced them to delay the end of the recordings.

“I remember Chris coming up with a basic idea of Clocks and wanted the song to be one for the next album, but Phil Harvey [mánager del grupo] insisted that we record it for A rush of blood to the headaccount ken nelson. It was the last song we recorded for the album. I’m glad I did, I love it and of course it won the Grammy for Record of the Year in 2003!”

Once it hit stores in August 2002, the album eventually gave Coldplay the final push to become a pop phenomenon, performing well commercially and to critical acclaim. In fact, it debuted at number one on the UK Albums Charts, while in the US it managed to break into the Top 5 of the Billboard Hot 200, which was still better than the performance of parachutes who stayed in 51st place.

“Coldplay sounds like a very confident band. So confident, in fact, that its flaws seem almost out of place,” said Alexis Petridis, the critic for The Guardian. For his part, Rob Sheffield, the distinguished critic of Rolling Stone, also gave the album a laudatory review. “A Rush of Blood to the Head it’s a edgier, sharper and completely surprising album. The guitars are still full of Pink Floyd, but the band has figured out how to loosen up and rock out, something Floyd never learned.”

Ken Nelson worked with the band until their next album, X&Y, which had mixed reviews. But the accumulated experience, he assures, marked the rest of his career. “Work in parachutes and the success of the records meant I could choose who to work with and I’ve been very lucky in that regard. I have received many comments from people inside and outside the industry mentioning the energy and feeling of parachutes Y A rush of blood to the head”.

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