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Thursday, 22 February, 2001, 18:24 GMT
Coldplay's university challenge
Coldplay
Coldplay: Swift route to success
Five years ago, when it looked like Oasis would conquer the world, Coldplay were just a group of students in London - a bunch of mates who had never even thought of forming a band.

Now their debut album has sold well over a million copies, their music is everywhere - but you would still be hard-pressed to recognise them in the street.

And the man who made Oasis stars - Alan McGee - is furious. He calls them "bedwetters", and has dubbed their sound "careerist rock and roll".

Coldplay
Chris Martin (vocals)
Jonny Buckland (guitar)
Guy Berryman (bass)
Will Champion (drums)
But anthems like Yellow and Trouble have clearly struck a chord, as the album Parachutes remains in the top 10, seven months after it was released.

The four members of the band were all living in the same halls of residence at University College in the West End of London in 1996.

One day, Chris Martin, who was studying ancient history, got chatting to engineering student Guy Berryman.

Martin had also been writing with maths student Jonny Buckland, and later Will Champion (anthropology) joined in to add complete what would, two years later, become Coldplay.

First signing

It's little more than a mile up the road from University College to Camden, London's Mecca for all aspiring superstars, and the band were quickly noticed.

Coldplay
The band are bemused by critics who say they are dull
The group issued their self-financed debut EP Safety in May 1998, with most of the run of 500 going to friends or prospective record companies.

Later that year they landed a one-off deal with independent label Fierce Panda, which had also played a temporary home to acts like Supergrass, Catatonia, Stereophonics and the Bluetones.

There, they released the single Brothers & Sisters before being snapped up by Parlophone Records.

But the foursome stayed on at university to complete their finals before entering the recording studio.

Degrees under their belts, their first major release was The Blue Room EP in November 1999. Shiver was a minor hit in March 2000, by which time the band were beginning to tour heavily round the UK.

The band's reputation grew rapidly. Yellow followed a performance at Glastonbury, and entered the charts at number four. The album Parachutes, released in July, entered at number one.


The more people that like us, the more people seem to hate us, and it's something nobody tells you how to deal with

Chris Martin
Parachutes was almost immediately nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, and it won the best album prize at the Q magazine awards in October.

But Chris Martin's triumph was overshadowed by the antics of Liam Gallagher - who spent the ceremony insulting Robbie Williams.

However much Gallagher shouts, though, it seems Oasis' laddish style has been replaced in the public's affections by the fragile sounds of acts like David Gray and Coldplay.

"Maybe we don't offend too many people, so we're the lowest-common denominator. Maybe we're the new Lighthouse Family," Chris Martin says of his band's appeal.

Bemused

As for the "bedwetters" jibe, Martin is bemused by the band's critics.

"We're starting to feel that everyone's out to get us. The more people that like us, the more people seem to hate us, and it's something nobody tells you how to deal with," he said at the time.

"A lot of people seem to take it really personally that we're doing well, and I hate being criticised for just doing songs. We're not evil politicians trying to swindle the whole world."

Having completed their first degree in conquering the British pop business, they now go onto their master's degree - cracking the US.

The band are confident - and have already picked up glowing reviews from their debut tour in February. They are coming back for more shows and TV appearances in the spring.

A follow-up to Parachutes is due out in 2002 - but beyond that, Coldplay have no plans.

"As far as I'm concerned, we only want to make one more record before we get too cynical to carry on," says Martin.



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