Greetings curious listeners and fellow fans of the NBTMusicRadio stations.
Here be fragments, debates, dissections, and battles between the heart and the mind, as two lovable indie music geeks ponder a selected tune within an inch of its life.
Our choices may sometimes surprise you (take a gander at the 1st post for example) as we trip hectically from the Mainstream to the Alternative, from the very well known to the still obscure.
Usually this is the point in the blog, where I tell you a little about the writers, but in a typically contrary NBT way, I will rather leave you, gentle reader, to discover what you feel you need to know, from just their words and thoughts.
So. Let’s dive in shall we
Yellow – Coldplay
From Debut album “Parachutes” in 2000.
“Look at the stars/Look how they shine for you/And everything you do
Yeah they were all yellow.”
I remember the very first time I heard this song. (My good friend) Andrew Kay and I used to go round to our manager’s house some evenings. Paul Drosdzol – He was a news sub, but also a keen muso – ran a club in Randburg for a while, and always got the very latest UK releases before they came out in South Africa. He loved this one especially, and so did we. The fact that the most important thing in the song was that everything was YELLOW really appealed to our sense of humour. And let’s face it; it’s a very catchy tune too!
The track definitely takes you back to a ‘time and place’ which, for me has always been the mark of a creation that has that little something to it. It is also, to be very honest, the only Coldplay track, with the notable exception of ‘the scientist’, that sticks in my mind at all. For me, Coldplay has been a band that has been ‘just there’ pleasant, does no harm, not irritating, but also not inspiring. So I have never understood why the band engenders such hate from one group and love and devotion from another.
I probably have a slightly higher opinion of the band than you. I can think of many of their tunes that have stuck in my mind, or that I have even hummed. I can’t remember many song names right now, but maybe my younger self would have been better at that. However, I do completely get your observation of this band being very much in the “Marmite” category with regard to public opinion. However, when that song first came out at the turn of the Century, people wouldn’t have yet formed those opinions, so I guess it would have got a more honest reaction from everyone, and from my experience, that was generally good. I remember when it made it on to the radio in South Africa, most people liked it, and I was hearing it all the time. We always received a strong audience approval whenever we performed it live. And it’s so easy to sing. Audiences also tend to sing along to that “Look how they shine for you” bit. It’s always great when your audience sings along with you.
I didn’t know that you guys covered it! What did you do ‘differently’ with regards to arrangement? The song IS indeed, very well constructed and gets to the point quickly and concisely, something that too much pop music struggles with. There is no excess fat. However, I think, and indeed did think back then, (its twenty years old….just WOW) that this was the first time I started to notice that ‘nice’ was a huge selling point for what we loosely term indie music. At the time there was not much interesting stuff going on musically for so called ‘alternative’ acts that were on major labels or in the charts, i.e. music that made it onto the same radio shows’ playlists, which our parents and workmates were listening to as well. Of the top 100 selling tunes for that year, only sub standard REM and Oasis were placed. Of the stuff that was doing reasonably well sales wise, (but still not getting played on mainstream platforms), there was a certain blandness pervading (ladies and gentlemen I offer up the Beta Band and Modest Mouse as proof) in fact, from that year only ‘At The Drive In’ had the sort of danger and excitement that would not grow old even many years later. I am sure you could point out many examples though, of acts that I have missed. And while it is indeed over harsh, and I will fully admit, absurdly unfair, to lay the blame on one track from the band, this is the tune, that for me, started a trend, or tradition, of record execs realizing they could pass off soft rock as something edgy or independent and thus doubling their audience. Bands like Travis were taking notes!
….and James Blunt was selling off his Army Surplus gear to buy a new guitar. Our cover was as Andrew’s band, “The Party Dolls” and was basic rock standard: Guitar, Bass, Drums, Vocals. Perfect for Pubs. As you said, that was 20 years ago, and everything in the industry has changed so much in that time, but your mention of song construction also makes me think of the video for the song. Now, I only saw the video quite a long time after knowing the song quite well; but I remember it touching my heart quite deeply. It seemed to be shot as a long single shot that started in the dark and gradually caught the morning light in real time as Chris Martin (with his cute little weather-beaten face) paced along the beach, singing to the camera. I have since learned that the darkening of the light was done by some sort of telecine effect by James Frost and Alex Smith of “The Artists Company”, and was apparently inspired by the lighting effect at the beginning of “Jaws”. I also read on Wikipedia that they shot it at double speed and then slowed it down to get that subtle slow motion effect. Nonetheless, I remember finding the video extremely captivating at the time.
That is really interesting info about the video, shows you that something that seems to be almost throw-away (dude walks on beach towards camera, sings too) if made with care, and a lot of thought and skill, will connect, in such a way that many will recall it much later. It also seemed to start off a pop music trope; we had Bittersweet Symphony, where Richard Ashcroft did it in a city with attitude and anger, The Temper Trap – Love Lost , where it was done by kids in the 50s running a ‘loneliness of the long distance runner’ race and LCD Soundsytem ‘All my Friends’ using tech, irony and face paint’. All of which go to show what an excellent concept, and well executed at that, the Coldplay clip was.
By the way, I thought I might just add in the vital statistics. Released 26 June 2000 from the Coldplay debut album “Parachutes”. Label: Parlaphone. Writers: Martin, Buckland, Berryman, Champion. Produced by Ken Nelson and Coldplay. Reached number 4 in the UK, Number 48 in USA and Number 1 in Iceland.
As for what the song is really all about; well apparently Chris Martin said: “Yellow’ refers to the mood of the band. Brightness and hope and devotion.” And if anyone knows, I guess he should. What do you think?
Mark, I think, that you have argued the case for this track exceptionally well. I don’t think you have made me like the song any more than I originally did, and that is, perhaps, because I have never really been emotionally invested in the tune or indeed in the group. I think, that possibly you have made me ‘respect’ it a little more, which is a good take-away actually, because we tend to forget, even tunes we do not connect with, heck even tunes we actively dislike, are made and promoted with love, care and thought, and we should never dismiss them out of hand. I also think that a band like Coldplay, got blander the more popular they became, and that sort of artistic risk aversion, is always troubling. But those are thoughts for another twenty conversations down the line.