Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’ Was Originally Inspired by Neil Young

Coldplay and Neil Young have had very different careers, however, Coldplay’s “Yellow” might not exist without Young. Specifically, Coldplay’s Chris Martin took inspiration from one aspect of Young’s music when creating “Yellow.” Here’s what Martin had to say — and how “Yellow” performed compared to Young’s songs.

Neil Young holding a guitar
Neil Young | Rick Diamond/Getty Images

How the original version of Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’ sounded like Neil Young’s music

During an interview with Rolling Stone, Martin discussed the creation of “Yellow.” “So 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 said. “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.”

“Yellow”

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During an interview with Howard Stern, Martin revealed the band was listening to Young’s album Harvest around the same time. “I was thinking about Neil Young and I was starting to do a Neil Young impression just to try and make everyone giggle,” he recalled.” Then, out of nowhere, he started singing the lyrics to the song, which he described as a tribute to all women rather than any specific woman with whom he fell in love. Martin didn’t like his Young impression and it sounds very different from the way he performed the song on record.

During the aforementioned interview with Rolling Stone, Martin said he didn’t feel like Coldplay would forever be a world-class band. However, he described “Yellow” as Coldplay’s breakthrough song. “As soon as that song ‘Yellow’ appeared, I was like, ‘OK, this sounds like a big hit single to me,” he recalled.

Chris Martin talking to Howard Stern

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How did Neil Young’s music perform on the charts compared to Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’ and its parent album

The connection between Young and “Yellow” raises an interesting question: Did “Yellow” perform better or worse on the charts than Young’s songs? “Yellow” reached No. 48 on the Billboard Hot 100. Only three of Young’s singles performed better on the Billboard Hot 100 than “Yellow”: “Heart of Gold,” “Old Man,” and “Only Love Can Break Your Heart.” Those singles reached No. 1, No. 31, and No. 33 on the chart, respectively. 

“Heart of Gold”

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However, Young performed better than Coldplay in a different way. Harvest, the album Martin listened to around the time he wrote “Yellow,” reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200. On the other hand, “Yellow”’s parent album, Parachutes, reached No. 51 on the Billboard 200. Martin drew inspiration from Young while writing “Yellow” — even if the album that included “Yellow” couldn’t compete with Harvest commercially.

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