March was a busy behind-the-scenes month for Coldplay, yet it was full of anticipation and speculation for Coldplayers. Rumours about their fifth album were slowly emerging, as well as announcements of festival performances for later in the year. New material was on the horizon, but March 2011 also saw the 10th anniversary of the release of Don't Panic, the fourth single from their debut album Parachutes.
#1: New website layout
Coldplay launched an ever so slightly new look website, revealing a new link button to the news page. The new icon showed a newspaper with the cryptic letters ‘MX’ and ‘UFO’. Some interpreted MX as a hidden release date, with MX being 1010 in Roman numerals, and therefore the tenth of October. It was also (correctly) believed that UFO would serve as the title to a song from the LP5 era, but with all the ‘alien goings on’ on the new website, it was difficult to separate speculation from real evidence (as always!).
Another feature on the updated website was the Studiofeed #1video that appeared, showing the boys at The Beehive recording, writing and jamming. You can watch the video here. Although nothing much was given away by the video, it was enough for the excitement for LP5 to escalate tenfold.
#2: Unheard Viva instrumentals
Coldplay songs Famous Old Painters, Lukas and Until the Water Flows surfaced online as instrumental MP3s. Famous Old Painters is a song that was written during Viva la Vida sessions but in the end was left off the album. The song first emerged in 2007 when introduced with Glass of Water in Prospekt’s journal on October 29, 2007. In March though, it was heard as an instrumental although a hot debate ensued over whether it was the legitimate song. Nearly 84% of Coldplayers believed it to be real, but you can make your own mind up by listening to it here.
#3: Roadie #42 updates us on studio antics
Perhaps it’s the weather.
The change of season has removed the permanent blanket of grey cloud from over London and we’re getting day after day of clear blue sky and blazing sun. Similarly with the record, the fog of infinite possibilities had lifted and, for me at least, the songs are appearing in a whole new light.
I guess it demonstrates the idea the nothing focuses a creative mindset more than a hard deadline. Although the festivals are still comfortably on the horizon, they’re marching ever closer with each day. This not only provides a solid target for having things tidy, but also brings plenty of spring-like new growth of its own.
Plans for how to present Coldplay live in 2011 are well underway, which means production meetings, old faces, new ideas and a whole host of very talented people from across the globe padding through the Coldplay world once again. Each brings a bucketful of idea and concepts, some of which will become defining features of the tour, some of which won’t make it off the drawing board. All of it looks exciting at this stage, though.
The first sightings come on a trip to an aircraft hangar in the middle of the countryside where Production Manager Wob Roberts has assembled all manner of new gear and technology to assess suitability and potential for both the festival shows and beyond. I tag along to film proceedings to send off to band members who are on half-term with their families.
The hangar itself, I’m told, is situated on what used to be a hugely secure and secret military base. Here, boffins once prodded, wired and evaluated the next level of war machinery. By rather lovely and heartening way of progress, we found the place full of crazy-arsed roadies blowing shit up, running around with the hugest toys imaginable and generally making a wonderful mess in the name of creating a bloody good time for crowds of music lovers. Perhaps there is a still hope for the world?
Back in the studio, the songs are now very much pushing their heads above the soil and straining towards the light. I suspect that the band has had a reasonable idea all along of how things will feel when they’re finished, in the same way that a sculptor sees the finished pieces, but just needs to dig it out of the block. There’s been much chiselling and smoothing and now things are really developing a recognisable form and an emotional resonance.
There’s no better aural equivalent of the bursting growth of spring than the laying on of backing vocals. Brian [Eno] is back in the fold this week and the fellas are gathered around the mix for much of the time. It’s a tremendous thing to get close up to. When the guys are belting it out with the track on headphones, all that can be heard in the room is the blast of harmonies. It’s huge, powerful and yet completely unaided by technology, just a pure, organic human bloom
Other spurts of growth are taking place on the top floor, as Dav Rossie gives a few songs his string arranging magic touch. My office is next door, I hear Chris standing in the doorway of Dav’s room listening. “That’s amazing, just great.” He stays a while and listens, then heads off down the stairs proclaiming to no-one in particular: “Maybe this album won’t be so bad after all”.
Regular viewers will doubtless be aware that in terms of hyperbole and enthusiasm, that’s pretty excited talk around here...
I’d say then, that winter is well and truly behind us and the summer is shaping up rather well.
#4: More festivals confirmed
As anticipated from the rumours that surfaced in February and earlier in March, Coldplay announced their headlining festival spots at both Oxegen in Ireland and Fuji Rock in Japan, bringing the total number of confirmed festivals at this point to 15 spread over 3 continents and 14 countries!
With the confirmation of two new festivals, there also seemed to be confirmation from a ‘source’ saying “There definitely won’t be anything new before Glastonbury and their summer dates”, and reporting that they would not play any new material at these festivals. What a nice surprise it was then for Coldplay to perform five new completed songs for their summer shows ;)
#5: Jo Whiley leaves Radio 1
As Jo Whiley left Radio 1 after 17 years on the 27th, Coldplay gave her a very special goodbye present indeed. The boys performed a special acoustic cover of boy band East 17’s Stay Another Day for Jo, placing her name into the lyrics as well as some other personal touches.
Coldplay’s cover of the classic song can be found here.
#6: Other happenings
Life in Technicolor II puppet auctioned off for Comic Relief The Oracle is asked if Ricky Gervais is producing LP5 (um) Phil posts an adorable video on the hypnofeed Coldplay co-finance Ashes (directed my Mat Whitecross & starring Ray Winstone) Gwyneth Paltrow states she will only collaborate with Chris when “hell freezes over” Guy produced The Pierces album, and performs a live session version with them here On the 2nd, NASA woke the crew of the Discovery shuttle up with, appropriately, Speed of Sound
And of course March 2nd also saw Chris Martin’s 34th birthday – how time flies eh?!