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(Credit: Takahiro Kyono / YouTube)

How Neil Young inspired Coldplay's biggest hit

Certain publications might begin this piece with a line about how much of a dad rock combination that Coldplay and Neil Young are. However, it is both a genre and derogatory tag that I don’t quite understand. A fair chunk of the world’s population are dads so it seems like quite a wide scope for starters, and, secondly, the derogatory overtone associated with the label just doesn’t seem to stick on some of the undeniably epic tunes that it is attached to.

Ultimately, Neil Young is a master songsmith with some of the greatest songs ever written to his name and a slew of high-profile admirers under his belt. You can say what you like about Coldplay, but there is no doubting that everyone likes at the very least one of their tracks. 

Therefore, it is no surprise that when the two forces met, it produced a mammoth hit. Speaking to Rolling Stone, Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin explained the huge role that Young played in the origins of ‘Yellow’.

“I had this guitar tuned in some strange way to play another song actually called ‘Shiver,’ which was supposed to be our big hit single,” Martin explained. “And we were in Wales, recording it. And what sort of frightens me is, it was just a complete accident. I was waiting around, and our producer, Ken, was talking about how beautiful it was outside because of the stars. And then while I was waiting to do a take at the guitar, I was just messing around: [Sings] ‘Look at the stars/Look, they shine for you/They were all yellow’.”

He went on to tell Howard Stern that Young almost mystically transposed himself onto this barebones beginning of the song, “I was thinking about Neil Young and I was starting to do a Neil Young impression just to try and make everyone giggle,” Martin recalled. 

From this whimsical little moment in the studio, while listening to the Neil Young album Harvest, the song suddenly began to take shape. The group had been struggling up until that point but, thanks to the coincidental inspiration of Young, they made the breakthrough: “As soon as that song ‘Yellow’ appeared, I was like, ‘OK, this sounds like a big hit single to me,” he recalled.

The song became one of those ubiquitous hits that you simply can’t get away from and has now sold well over half a million copies in the UK alone. 

Below, you can check out the video painstakingly shot at a fast shutter speed to achieve slow motion. In order for Martin to sing along, he had to lip-sync to the song played at double speed.

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