Yes, they did (though in England they call it "university"). Chris Martin and guitarist Johnny Buckland first met in 1996 during orientation week at University College in West London. Martin studied ancient history, Buckland studied "maths." They soon met bassist Guy Berryman (engineering). Rounding out their lineup with drummer and multi-instrumentalist Will Champion (anthropology), the band began playing gigs around Camden under various names, including Pectoralz and Starfish. They changed their name to Coldplay in 1998.
Who are their biggest influences?
U2, REM, Radiohead, Radiohead, and Radiohead. In 2008, Martin said: "Sometimes I feel like they [Radiohead] cleared a path with a machete, and we came afterward and put up a strip mall. I would still give my left [testicle] to write anything as good as OK Computer." He's pretty open about his Bono obsession too; his friends even jokingly call him "Crono."
I know Parachutes was their first successful album. Was it their first release?
No, but don't feel bad if you haven't heard their early work. They only printed up 500 copies of 1998's Safety EP, and most of those were given away for free. Their next EP, Brothers & Sisters, got a little more attention, reaching No. 92 on the British charts. That was followed by another EP, The Blue Room; one of the songs on that disc, "Don't Panic," was later re-recorded and became the third single from Parachutes. None of these records were all that great, as the band was still basically aping their above-mentioned heroes.
After "Yellow" became a hit, was there a Coldplay backlash?
There was. Oasis manager Alan McGee called them "bedwetters" and said their warm, lyrical Britpop sound was "careerist rock and roll." In 2007, a woman leapt on the stage in a Seattle karaoke bar and attacked a fellow patron for singing "Yellow," She apparently yelled out, "Oh, no, not that song. I can't stand that song!"
How has their sound evolved over the years?
Parachutes was like Radiohead's alienated classic The Bends only with human emotion, sometimes maybe a little too much emotion. 2002's A Rush of Blood to the Head was where they learned how to be a full-tilt rock band, an open stab at a stadium-sized, and at times edgier, sound. 2005's X&Y tried to scale things back to a more intimate comfort zone but mainly sounded like Rush of Blood with the wind taken out of its sails. 2008's Viva La Vida was a total left turn and a huge success; produced by Brian Eno, the bald genius behind classics by Talking Heads and U2, it incorporated world music and classical music, all without abandoning Coldplay's signature, surging rock melodies.
They worked with Jay-Z, right?
Martin wrote a song for Jay-Z, called "Beach Chair," that appeared on Jay's 2006 comeback album Kingdom Come, though the song was kind of a letdown. And Jay returned the favor by appearing onstage with Coldplay at the 2009 Grammys to freestyle over "Viva La Vida." The hip-hop connection doesn't end there. Martin also worked with hip-hop production god Timbaland for a track on Nelly Furtado's 2006 album Loose and he sings background vocals on "Homecoming" from Kanye West's third disc, Graduation.
How did Martin meet Gwyneth Paltrow?
Doing what he does best: playing a show. Paltrow went to see Coldplay in 2002 and dug the singer. Using her famous person's all-access pass, she made her way backstage and the two hit it off. They were married in 2003 in a private ceremony in Southern California. Their daughter Apple Blythe Alison Martin was born in 2004. Their son Moses Bruce Anthony Martin was born in 2009
Apple? And Moses?
Martin came up with the names and Paltrow loved them: "Apples are so sweet and they're wholesome," she said. "And it's Biblical and I just thought it sounded so lovely." Moses is likely named after the Coldplay song "Moses," an ode to Paltrow that appears on Coldplay's 2003 live album.
They're really into politics, right? What are their pet causes?
Everything from the environment to gun safety to global poverty and fair trade. Martin's cause-craziness stems in part from a 2004 trip he took to Haiti with the relief agency Oxfam. Since then, the plight of third-world farmers has been an obsession. "I felt like a third-rate Bono," Martin said in his early activist days. "Hopefully, it'll escalate until I feel like a full-on Bono." Martin was a harsh critic of George Bush and he shouted an endorsement of Barack Obama during an October 2008 performance on Saturday Night Live.
How many records have they sold?
About 35 million. And they maintain their best work is yet to come. Martin recently said, "We still don't think we've delivered our masterpiece, so we're still trying to do it. As long as we feel like that and we're hungry... that's all that matters."