Eddy Says

Eddy Says: I don’t care if he dances like an uncle at a wedding (or The day I met Coldplay)

By | Published on Tuesday 1 November 2011


Last week Eddy wrote about Snow Patrol. This week he tackles another band who can, shall we say, rub people up the wrong way. With their new album just released, Coldplay hate is back on the up. But, asks Eddy, why do bands like Snow Patrol and Coldplay attract such strong negative reactions? Are people genuinely that offended by the music they create, or is there some other reason for this bile?

Funny that after last week’s piece about the early days of Snow Patrol (thank you very much for all the positive comments on that!), I ended up watching ‘Later… with Jools Holland’, which was last week book ended by Coldplay, and I was reminded of a nice little story involving Chris Martin and Co.

It was the year 2000, and I’d just got what would be my last properly salaried job, Head Of Programming for Done & Dusted, a fantastic production company specialising in huge, televised gigs from Robbie Williams to The Prodigy. They wanted me to come up with ideas for quirky, edgy TV music shows and pilot them on the web, which was just starting to catch on in those days. One of the numerous things we piloted online was a music and entertainment show that was made entirely in my flat.

One of the strands of this show was to get bands in to be interviewed on the sofa in my sitting room (the same scuzzy orange one that Gary Lightbody sat on in last week’s anecdote) and to play a live version of one of their songs, but only with the instruments they found in that room. These included my Takamine acoustic guitar, my tiny Pignose electric guitar with a speaker in the body, and various Fisher Price baby instruments that belonged to my son Tone, then only few months old, such as a tiny one and a half octave ‘piano’, a kazoo, and a blue ‘shaky egg’ shaker.

The basic idea was that a band would be invited to my flat, I’d make them tea or coffee, and they’d bring biscuits. Them bringing the biscuits, we thought, would get the interview started – my theory was, and still is, that you can tell a lot about a person simply by what biscuits they choose. We needed to make a pilot edition, so we booked a band we liked, who’d had an independent single out and had just signed to EMI, but who were still waiting to have that elusive hit. That band was Coldplay.

The TV crew brought with them so many lights that my little flat turned into a blinding electronic alien womb, covered in cables. I think I’m still paying the electric bill from that day. The band turned up with nice manager Phil, and apologised for the absence of one, it was their drummer, Will Champion, who had tragically just lost one of his parents that week. But the rest of them were there, all smiles and wonder, the novelty of it all still reflected in their wide eyes.

Chris was slack jawed and looked around, like a kid who’d just been let into the Cadbury’s factory. His blazing eyes came to rest on the one side of the entire room that was covered, floor to ceiling, in CDs and vinyl. Then he looked at my decks and mixer set up, on a mad bit of furniture I’d inherited from my MTV days. He looked at me and said almost the same thing that Mike Myers said in ‘Wayne’s World’ when he saw Rob Lowe’s flat. Something like, “I’m so gonna get a place like this when I move out of my parents’ house!”

The band sat down, I made a round of hotties and the interview began, with them offering their biscuits to go with the tea. Chris revealed his choice first and handed them over with a big grin. Cadbury’s Boasters. I remarked that this was the choice of a confident man, a quality choice, a buttery biscuit with reassuring chunks of chocolate and nuts. Chris laughed and we all started to gel in the interview.

I can’t remember what guitarist Jonny Buckland whipped out, but Guy Berryman made me hoot when he gingerly handed over a pack of pink wafer biscuits. I obviously ribbed him a bit about that being the most light-loafered biscuit ever and the rest of the band joined in, clearly used to this vein of humour and bass player piss-taking.

I found all three of them delightful and Chris to be charming, erudite, intelligent and both self-aware and self-deprecatory. The interview was a real pleasure and passed off in such a good natured way that when it came time to do the live track, in the absence of Will, they asked me to play the shaky egg.

The song they chose was ‘Yellow’, their next single, a track I was already in love with, and the tune that would prove to be their breakthrough hit. Guy played the bass line on my Takamine, Jonny played that gorgeous bendy-string guitar line on my electric Pignose, which sounded the dog’s bollocks as I recall. Chris played Tone’s tiny piano and I sat on percussion duties with my plastic egg.

When it was all over, Chris shook my hand and said, looking at his manager, then back to me: “That was great, I’m really glad we did this”.

The next time I saw Chris, it was backstage at Glastonbury and he was a fully-fledged popstar with a few hits under his belt, an ascension that has continued and always warmed my heart, thinking back to that eager young guy sitting on my sofa.

I’ve ended up defending Coldplay ever since, to friends, colleagues, girlfriends, total strangers in bars. I can see why they rub people up the wrong way, when I saw them on ‘Later…’, I was reminded that Chris has a way of dancing that brings to mind that mad uncle that every quality wedding has. But still, I find his enthusiasm infectious and he is an undeniably great singer with enviable pitching.

Snow Patrol too have a similar tendency to infuriate people. I’m often shocked how much these bands are such a focus of hatred. “Oh but they’re so mediocre”, the detractors say. “They can’t rock!” Or even, “I’d rather boil my own head than see them play”.

But surely you’d never go and see a band like Coldplay if you wanted to rock. But that doesn’t mean there’s no reason to go and see them at all. Life is a rich and splendid tapestry, with so many shades of colour and texture, why cut one route of entertainment off in favour of another?

I love Snow Patrol AND I love Tool.
I love Coldplay AND I love Deftones.
I love Embrace AND I love Nine Inch Nails.

For some reason, a lot of people seem to find this weird. Or at least that’s what they say. Whatever, the disproportionate hatred that these ‘nice’ bands get still makes me slightly suspicious.

Yes, when bands become successful they always get that much more hate. Yes, some people feel they cannot publicly like a certain band because they feel that band is not cool enough to suit their image or job. Yes, these bands occupy a middle ground, a path of least resistance, and some people don’t like that. But I just get the feeling there’s too much hate out there, and that the negative side of the imbalance doth protest too much.

I think there’s more to this than the simple fact that the universe is in perfect balance. That for everyone who loves something, there is someone who hates that same thing. I truly feel that bands like Coldplay and Snow Patrol act like putting a mirror up to people. It’s not as simple as being the case that nice people like these bands and horrid people don’t. I think it’s deeper than that. Nice bands have some horrid fans, just as noisy, dark bands have some utterly lovely ones.

I read some horridness towards Snow Patrol from Manics bassist Nicky Wire recently. But I know Nicky to be an extremely nice man, very clever and well informed, well read and extremely affable with it. So when Nicky says: “Snow Patrol are the most boring band in Britain”, while I’m no psychologist, it occurs to me that maybe Nicky, deep down, feels bored himself and that the Patrol diss may have been a form of projection.

Bands like these are so utterly nice, and deal in such uplifting melody, and can tackle melancholia with such a beautifully light touch. So, if you take personal feelings about people involved out of the equation, what’s not to like about Coldplay or Snow Patrol? I suspect that most people who say they hate these bands are not hateful people, they are just people who are in some way, deep in their own self, unhappy.

I am both notoriously happy and painfully honest, to the point of annoyance, I’m told. I’m also completely devoid of any sense of coolness. That leaves me free to love any band that reach me on any level. Therefore the sense of unbridled joy I experienced last Thursday night when I saw Snow Patrol live for the first time since they were famous, was intoxicating, as enthralling and mesmeric as the darkest Tool or Nine Inch Nails gig. The flipside of the same coin, if you will.

I’m not trying to convert everyone here. I understand, to the core of my Zoroastrian roots, that some people need to dislike these bands for the universe to work properly. I’m just asking a question, and it’s a question that demands unflinching honesty and self-awareness: Do you truly, honestly, deeply, dislike a band like that because of something in front of you, or do you dislike that band because of something inside you?

X eddy