I get it, people either love or hate Coldplay. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who said “Coldplay are okay” (Except a certain gentleman from Across the Pond, although I highly suspect he hates them). For whatever reason they are a polarizing band. I’ve always loved Coldplay and from the initial time I heard them on a couch on the outskirts of London, I knew they were a band for me.
There are moments in everyone’s life when a certain song acts as the soundtrack of that particular moment in time. Music has the ability to enhance the feeling of love, give comfort in a time of need, or act as a catalyst for inspiration. Music, for some unknown reason, possesses mystical and magical powers. I can think of no other medium that also acts as a real life time machine, transporting you back in your mind and soul to the precise time of your life when that song meant something much more meaningful.
It was the end of August 2000, when I arrived in London for a week of travel and to spend time with extended family before I would start my semester abroad in Edinburgh. After surviving Y2K, I began counting down the time when this journey would begin. I was going out on my own, truly independent, traveling to my Father’s birthplace (more or less) to experience a similar but vastly different culture. In my mind, this would be much different than getting dropped off for my Freshman year of College. I looked at this trip as a journey of my own choosing. I had to go to college after high school, but I was not required to study abroad. In my mind this was my “one shot” to learn who I was and to be completely on my own.
In London, I went out to explore areas that were known to me mostly from The Clash and NME magazine. No Buckingham Palace, No Tower of London, No Double Decker bus tours, I was looking for The Guns of Brixton and my very own Rainy Night in Soho. In my mind I was seeing and experiencing the “real London”, whatever that meant. I searched these London neighborhoods for something, although I am still not exactly sure what it was, but I think that was the point. I was determined to go off the beaten path and lean over the ditch, to see how real people lived in London. Days would be spent searching CD and record shops, followed by nights at dingy pubs and questionable establishments. I was doing exactly what I wanted to do, no schedule, no one to tell me where or what to do or see, it was amazing. After a few nights of traveling in the shadows of London, I wanted to experience something different with more life and youth, the nightclub scene of London.
September 5, would be my last night out and I would spend the night seeing Lou Reed live at Shepherd’s Bush followed by a few “trendy” clubs in Camden. A week in and I still had no fucking clue what I was doing, but it was exciting and exhilarating. The entire summer leading up to my trip, I had envisioned Londoners (women) being impressed with my NY accent and finding me irresistible, as I quickly learned, nothing could be further from this expectation. My killer pickup line which I practiced time and time again of “Hi I’m Peter, from NYC” would be like kryptonite to the women of London. This line would have been perfect if my goal was to achieve complete silence from the opposite sex or the response “Right…Good for you Peter from NYC! hehehe” My summer expectations of London heartthrob were quickly and completely smashed that night in Camden. I also began to realize that my time was literally hours from coming to an end in London, and my prediction of finding something unique and exhilarating had not been met. Although I was doing exactly what I wanted to be doing, I didn’t feel gratified at the end for some reason. Instead I wondered, “Why the hell didn’t I go to the Tate, or do something more cultured?” My dreams from the previous 9 months of meeting amazing, hip people and the adventures we would have in London quickly vanished. I had spent a week in London, really doing, seeing and meeting no one of consequence. I ordered a Redbull and vodka (maybe 5 or so), and completely checked out for my last night as the bass pounded away in Camden.
The next morning I woke up and began recovering from my over indulgences, and slowly pieced together my broken ego and sense of regret from my time in London. I was completely defeated, and I was questioning what the hell I was doing in Britain. My short time in London didn’t boost my sense of independence and confidence in who I was, but conversely revealed the true cracks in my confidence and left me kind of home sick, the 5 Redbull and vodka’s from the night before definitely were not helping. Looking back, I guess no one really knows what to expect at 20yrs old traveling on your own in a different country, but I had all these ridiculous fantasizes that had been playing out in my head for months about what my time in Britain would be like. It only took a short week in London, which slapped me with a dose of reality like an ice bucket of water being thrown in my face, to realize my great expectations were only that, reality would be different. I quickly surmised that after a night of being rejected, alone and now hung over to holly hell, this was no time for any further self-reflection and introspection. I quietly accepted the past week, and started to quietly dread the semester abroad….this was starting to feel like a big mistake.
Wrapped in a blanket in the fetal position on my cousin’s couch, I was awoken and drawn to a sound coming from the television. From this low point I would first encounter Coldplay. The video for Yellow was playing on BBC, and I was mesmerized by this goofy guy running around a beach in rain gear, singing about the color Yellow. I wasn’t sure what the song meant, or what Yellow was in reference to but for some reason this song was speaking directly to me. The line “Look at the Stars, Look how they shine for you” kept repeating in my head. I felt as if I Coldplay were picking me up off that couch, brushing me off and putting me back on my journey. The soaring chorus and piercing guitars, made me feel as if I had been given a second chance. There was no reason to let the past week shape the next few months. The feeling of dread was dissipating and I jotted down the name of the band to make sure I bought the CD for my train trip to Edinburgh later that day. Feeling reborn, I went in to my cousin’s kitchen and poured a big glass of Ribena, not knowing it needed to be diluted with water. I took a huge gulp…. gagged, ran to the bathroom, and released £100 of drink from the night before. I was purged of my disappointing, rough start and was ready for the next step which would ultimately be one of the greatest times of my life.
Coldplay and the song Yellow will always have a special place in my heart. Although I know Yellow’s lyrics have nothing to do with what I was feeling at that moment, I don’t care….music means what you want it to mean to you. Although I am not crazy about some of their newer tunes, I still highly respect them as a Band. This Saturday I will be seeing them at Metlife Stadium in New Jersey. I know from the initial opening notes when Coldplay begins playing Yellow where my mind will go, but I’ll probably be laughing out loud about how dumb I was then, and still am. I mean what idiot dreams of visiting and exploring Brixton!!! Thanks Coldplay for “Everything you do”, see you Saturday!