Pity the poor student videographers who decide to dedicate their life to filming the careers of bands that go nowhere. Judging by the fact that every major band seems to have had a college mate sticking a camera in their faces from their first handshake, there must be thousands of hopeful film-makers squandering valid career opportunities and blowing their trust funds on Ginsters to follow whichever equivalent of The Drums went to their school around the world for five years, only to be left with endless unusable footage of half empty clubs, broken down tour vans and tear-stained record contracts being flushed down toilets.
One in several hundred thousand, though, strike gold. Take Coldplay’s college friend Mat Whitecross, who’s new film A Head Full Of Dreams is a moving, inspirational, exhilarating and revealing – not to say as colourful as a drive-by paintball attack on Mr Tumble’s house – documentary tracing the story of the band back to their University College London roots and beyond, using footage Mat has been filming since their very first rehearsal. As it heads to cinemas for one night only on November 14, here’s what we learned from a preview screening last week…
Chris Martin is clairvoyant
Well, he could certainly see Coldplay’s future in the stars. From their very first gig he was telling the crowd “it’s lucky you can to see us now before we get Bon Jovi massive”, and at one point, head full of dreams and mouth full of braces, he stared down the lens and claims that “four years from today, we’re going to be absolutely huge”. Four years later, almost to the day, Coldplay headlined Glastonbury for the first time. Snow Patrol and Mumford & Sons must thank their lucky stars that Chris didn’t just play the lottery that week.
They couldn’t be any other band
As university mates, Coldplay knew they were going to be a band before they were a band. There’s copious footage of Chris (nicknamed ‘The Stallion’), Jonny Buckland (“the stoned guy in the corner”), Guy Berryman and Will Champion – who wasn’t a drummer and only sat in because his flatmate, who had a drumkit, didn’t show up for the recording of an early demo session – dancing around at college balls and strumming away at student flat parties together, convinced of their world-beating potential before they’d written a note. And it was a bond that would remain sacrosanct – when Chris sacked Will during the fraught ‘The Blue Room’ sessions for his inadequate early stick skills, he ended up begging him to come back, and they’ve been a strict democracy ever since. Just watch Chris biting his tongue raw in the track-list meeting for the latest album as his bandmates kill his babies one by one, then improvising acoustic sing-alongs in the studio about how Guy and Will always veto his favourite songs. Passive-aggressive much?
Beyonce recorded her part for ‘Hymn For The Weekend’ in Chris’s daughter’s bedroom
Although they tarted it up to look a bit more diva.
Brian Eno made them play blindfolded
When Coldplay turned to Brian Eno to help them get more experimental on 2008’s art-rock masterstroke ‘Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends’, Eno insisted that every song sounded different. Hence shots of the band trying out all manner of odd studio practices in search of inspiration, whether playing blindfold or putting drums on their heads while Will played them. Nurse! The sandpit!
They’ve had their fair share of ‘issues’
Previous Coldplay documentaries have hinted at darkness behind Coldplay’s scenes, but A Head Full Of Dreams is the first to capture them on camera. Guy admits to an alcohol problem. They visibly go off the rails recording ‘X&Y’ without the guiding hand of their “invisible” fifth member Phil Harvey, Chris’s friend, bandmate in pre-Coldplay outfit Flaming Honkies and the former Coldplay manager who quit before the album, only to return as an adviser later. They struggle through demoralising early nu metal tours of America, and Chris’s devastation over his conscious uncoupling from Gwyneth Paltrow is laid painfully bare. Most surprising at all, though, is the footage of Chris losing his shit during the encore break of a bad gig, yelling down a roadie and threatening to split the band at the end of the tour. It’s like watching the Andrex puppy savage a toddler.