20 things you didn't know about Coldplay's Parachutes album
3 June 2023, 07:30
Coldplay's classic debut was released on 10 July 2000. Here's what you never knew about the album, two decades on.
Coldplay's first album could have been released on an indie label.
The first ever Coldplay release was the self-released Safety EP in May 1998, but only 50 copies of that were made. Their first wider release was the single Brothers & Sisters, in April 1999, which appeared on the famous indie label, Fierce Panda. Label boss Simon Williams planned to sign Coldplay for an album, having established a relationship with the Australian-based Mushroom Records, who were also involved in Muse's early releases. "We tried to sign them to Mushroom," Williams told Coldplay biographer Martin Roach. "Coldplay would have been our first big hit band." In the end, Coldplay went with Parlophone, part of the major label EMI group and home of Radiohead.
Coldplay - Brothers and Sisters
The album was originally meant to be produced by Chris Allison
Allison had been at the controls for The Beta Band's early EPs in 1999 and was lined up to helm the first Coldplay album. Three of the group had only just finished their university exams and being in the studio didn't come naturally. Allison recalled "In hindsight, I think maybe the direction that I was going didn't gel as well as they would have liked."
Trouble is about Chris Martin being a nasty person
Hard to believe, but Martin found the pressure of being signed to a major label too much to bear and Coldplay could quite easily have split before they'd even started. He told Q magazine: "Things were going wrong in the studio and I told Will it was his fault. He's be out of time once and I'd be telling him he was sh*t." Champion's mother was ill at the time, which probably didn't help and the song Trouble was a message of apology and repentance from Chris.
Coldplay - Trouble (Official video)
Trouble was originally influenced by Supergrass!
Incredibly, this piano ballad originally had a guitar riff that was, according to the band, "heavily influenced by the early Supergrass singles". However, when the song was recorded for the album, it turned into the anthem that we know and love today.
The album was ultimately produced by Ken Nelson - apart from one track
After a break, Coldplay reconvened in the studio with Chris Allison, but rehearsals did not go well and the producer bailed out of the project. The band then worked with Ken Nelson, who had produced albums for Gomez and Badly Drawn Boy. He told Sound On Sound in 2000: "The night they offered me the job, they were actually playing a gig in Liverpool with Gomez. They were being beamed out live to Radio 1, and I think they were very very uptight about it. They rushed through the set, so I was thinking to myself 'They just need to calm down.' And in the studio, that's basically what we did."
Shiver was the lead single, not Yellow
Although Yellow was the massive hit around the world, Parachutes was previewed in March 2000 by Shiver. Producer Ken Nelson recalled: "This was one where Chris's vocals were done in one take. He recorded more than one take, but the one we picked was one take, warts and all." Shiver made a respectable No 35 in the charts.
Coldplay - Shiver (Official Video)
Yellow was inspired by Wales
Coldplay wrote Yellow at Rockfield Studios in South Wales and during a break stepped outside to look at the night sky, which inspired the first line: "Look at the stars..." Chris Martin has also explained that the style of the song came from an attempt at impersonating Neil Young.
Chris Martin - Yellow (Story Behind The Song) (Howard Stern 2011.09.11) audio only
Yellow was a difficult song to record
Getting the correct tempo was a problem for Coldplay, which probably contributed to frictions within the band. Producer Ken Nelson recalled: "It all sounds very easy, but it was quite intense because we recorded it two or three times until we were happy with what we got. You can imagine that if you've recorded something and put quite a lot into it, then to decide that you're going to do it again can be quite depressing."
Coldplay - Yellow
The song High Speed was not produced by Ken Nelson
The only track that survived from the aborted sessions with Chris Allison was the eighth song, High Speed, which had appeared on Coldplay's first release for Parlophone, the Blue Room EP, from October 1999.
Don't Panic was about a date gone wrong
Originally titled Panic, this gentle song was part of the setlist of one of Coldplay's first ever gig in 1998. It was reworked for the Blue Room EP, then re-recorded for Parachutes and, according to the official Coldplay website, detailed "a slightly disastrous evening Chris had spent entertaining a young lady".
Coldplay - Don't Panic (Official Video)
Coldplay played Glastonbury for the first time before the album came out
The band appeared on the Other Stage on the afternoon of Saturday 24 June around 3pm, on the bill between Toploader and David Gray. Coldplay's set consisted of eight songs, including a cover of the Nancy Sinatra Bond theme, You Only Live Twice. The Setlist was Spies, Don't Panic, High Speed, Shiver, Trouble, Yellow, Everything's Not Lost, You Only Live Twice.
Coldplay, Shiver, live at Glastonbury 2000
The day before Parachutes was released, Coldplay played T In The Park
The band played the same set as Glastonbury but dropped the Nancy Sinatra cover in favour of the lead track from their debut EP The Blue Room, Bigger Stronger. It was a busy period of touring for Coldplay - they also performed at V2000 in August.
Coldplay performed an in-store as a release party for Parachutes
On Monday 10 July, Coldplay rocked up at the HMV on Oxford Street in London to play their usual eight-song set on the day their debut album was released. It was a pretty couple of weeks for the band - they also taped an appearance on Top Of The Pops and recorded a session for Radio X's predecessor Xfm.
Coldplay - Yellow (HMV Webcast, July 10 2000)
The album cover was shot by Coldplay themselves
The famous shot of a spinning globe wasn't the product of an art director and professional photographer, but of a quick solution by the band to come up with a decent image for their debut. Chris Martin told VH1's Jim Shearer in December 2014: "We'd done a whole photoshoot in Blackpool, with everybody in it. But it just didn't look that good. So we thought we'd better make our own album cover. So we went to this stationery store, somewhere while we were on tour and we bought a globe that lit up. We we went backstage in Leeds and the four of us together... Guy span the globe and turned the lights off, Will had a disposable camera and took some shots of it... and we used it for the album cover. I feel so grateful that that happened, it came from a place of us coming together, saying 'We need to do something quickly'."
Chris Martin Interview w/ Jim Shearer
There's a "hidden track" on the album
Parachutes, like many albums of the CD era, contains an extra track that's not listen on the sleeve. After Everything's Not Lost ends, there's a pause of about 20 seconds before another song, titled Life Is For Living, starts playing.
Coldplay - Life Is For Living (Hidden Track)
Parachutes is dedicated to Will Champion's mother
Sara Champion was an archaeologist who pioneered the role of women and the use of the internet in the field. She died of cancer aged 54 in May 2000, just as Parachutes was being readied for release. The Prehistoric Society still hosts an annual Sara Champion Memorial Lecture. Her funeral took place on the day Chris Martin shot the video for Yellow.
Parachutes was an instant success
Parachutes went straight into the UK charts at No 1. In a Top 10 that featured The Marshall Mathers album by Eminem, White Ladder by David Gray, Moby's Play and Alone With Everybody by Richard Ashcroft.
Parachutes has sold over two million copies
As of January 2020, Parachutes has been certified 9 times Platinum and has sold 2,730,000 copies in the UK alone. In the US, it's also sold over 2 million copies.
It's one of the biggest selling British albums of all time
In 2019, the Official Charts Company named Parachutes as the 45th best selling album of all time in the UK and the 20th best selling album of the 21st Century.
Coldplay didn't really like Parachutes
Despite the acclaim and all the success, the band weren't that keen on their first album. "We know that's terrible music, and we always try to think about what we can do next," Martin told Associated Press in 2006. At Coldplay's headline set at Glastonbury in 2016, the only Parachutes song performed that night was the evergreen Yellow.
COLDPLAY - YELLOW (LIVE GLASTONBURY FESTIVAL 2016)