Story of the Song: 'Clocks', Coldplay (2002)
Friday 25 July 2008
Coldplay's second album, A Rush of Blood to the Head, was nearing completion when an excited Chris Martin arrived at the studio late one night. At the keyboard, he played the tune running through his head. Lead guitarist Jonny Buckland was impressed. "He picked up his guitar [a sure sign that he likes a song] and played these brilliant chords," Martin recalls. "It was like a chemical reaction process."
The pulsing, cyclical riff – inspired, according to Martin, by the band Muse – was edgy, hectic and suggested an uneasy passage of time. The band all agreed: this was the sound to herald the next phase in Coldplay's musical development.
But, for now, they had enough songs on the second album and, under pressure to get them out and running low on studio time, they quickly cut a demo of the new composition and filed it under "Songs for #3" – ideas for a projected third album.
By June 2002, they were ready to hand over A Rush of Blood to the Head to Parlophone. "But it was sounding rubbish," Martin recalls. The new track, soon to be titled "Clocks", was the grit in the oyster. Still unfinished, it had thrown the whole album into perspective. Unhappy at putting out something they were not completely satisfied with, the band reached agreement with their label to delay release. After headlining that year's Glastonbury, the band returned to the studio and dusted down "Songs for #3". Phil Harvey, the band's close confidant, urged them to revisit "Clocks" immediately. "He heard it and said, 'No, you must do that song now,'" Martin says.
Lyrics were written to fit the mood of urgent agitation, with Martin switching between major and minor chords: "Lights go out and I can't be saved/ Tides that I tried to swim against/ You've put me down upon my knees." The rest of the band trotted out a tense, staccato soundtrack that wound around a shifting time signature, perfectly fitting Martin's ode to lost opportunities. It was fleshed out by synthesisers and strings.
A Rush of Blood to the Head eventually appeared two months late, with the newly mastered "Clocks" taking pride of place. The Grammy award-winning track was hailed as a victory, and became their biggest hit to date.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Cyclist who knocked down three-year-old girl says his life has been 'destroyed'
- 2 Chelsea victory parade: Chelsea mocked on Twitter as 'tens of fans' pack the streets of London
- 3 US warned by Chinese media to stop meddling or 'war will be inevitable'
- 4 Woman, 21, dies after taking contraceptive pill that 'caused fatal blood clot'
- 5 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
The New York Times sparks criticism after releasing an all-white reading list
Glastonbury lineup 2015: The Women's Institute to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
Dheepan, film review: Palme d'Or prize goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Game of Thrones, The Gift, Season 5, Episode 7: Why two of the show’s most iconic characters just met
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote