Release date: August 2002
A Rush of Blood to the Head is the second studio album by English rock band Coldplay. Released on 26 August 2002 through the label Parlophone in the UK, the album was produced by the band and British record producer Ken Nelson.
The band started recording the album in London a week after the September 11 attacks in the United States, during which their "poignant songs ... garnered larger audiences". Since the band had never stayed in London before, they had trouble focusing. They decided to relocate in Liverpool, where they recorded some of the songs on Parachutes. Once there, vocalist Chris Martin said that they became obsessed with recording.
"In My Place" was the first song recorded for the album. The band released it as the album's lead single because it was the track that made them want to record a second album following a "strange period of not really knowing what we were doing" three months after the success of Parachutes. According to Martin "one thing kept us going: recording 'In My Place'. Then other songs started coming." The band wrote more than 20 songs for the album. Some of their new material, including "In My Place" and "Animals", was played live while the band were still touring Parachutes. The album's title was revealed through a post on the band's official website.
During initial recording sessions in Liverpool, vocalist Chris Martin and guitarist Jonny Buckland worked alone, and only on weekends. Each Monday they would present the song ideas they had developed to their band mates. With A Rush of Blood to the Head nearly completed, Martin went into the studio late one night and wrote a piano riff that he has stated "just came out". The band recognised that this early version of the song that would become "Clocks" was special the first time Martin played it to them. Reasoning that it was too late to include the song on the album, they recorded a demo version and included it on a CD marked "Songs for #3", featuring unfinished tracks they intended to work on for their third studio album.
By June 2002, the band completed A Rush of Blood to the Head, but thought their output sounded "rubbish" and reached an agreement with the label to postpone the release of the album until they were completely satisfied.
Subsequently many songs were discarded because they sounded like they could have been on Parachutes. Martin has claimed that it would have been uninteresting: "It would have shown that we're happy to sit back on what we'd done, and we're not. For us it was important to progress and try to improve upon our abilities as musicians." Such ambitions put the band under strain: "sometimes practice sessions ended abruptly with one or more members of Coldplay threatening to quit". After headlining 2002's Glastonbury Festival, Coldplay returned to the studio and worked on some tracks from the "Songs for #3" they had produced earlier. Phil Harvey, the band's manager, heard "Clocks" and urged them to rework it immediately: "No, you must do that song now 'cause you're going on in the lyrics about urgency, and you're talking about keeping this song back. That doesn't make sense."
Martin has stated that the album's title track is an homage to American singer-songwriter Johnny Cash, whom he considered one of "the greatest ... men with just guitars".
The album includes ballads and acoustic songs featuring extensive use of guitar and piano. The U2-esque epic rock of the album's opening track "Politik", the piano-driven "Clocks", and the loud guitars of "A Whisper" were seen as an extension of the band's musical range.
Recording the 4th album after the September 11 attacks gave the band a fresh perspective: "The new songs are reflective of new attitudes. They tell listeners not to be frightened. Anybody can achieve whatever they want to." Most of the song lyrics are about urgency. Martin has commented that previous songs were more relaxed since they were in a comfortable state of mind: "Perhaps there's a bit more urgency on some of these songs. And that's born from all the places we've been and the things we've experienced." Martin has explained, in relation to the theme of urgency, that the album's title means "doing something on impulse". Several songs on the album are about relationships. These tracks are based on reality, but according to Martin, they were written with a fictional twist: "Songs are like fairy tales: they have a beginning and an end and you can make it all work perfectly. Real life doesn't work like that".
The album was made available in August 2002, two months after its original release date. Record label Parlophone released the album on August 26 in the United Kingdom. It was released on August 27 in the United States through Capitol Records. In 2008, Capitol released a remastered version of the album on a 180-gram vinyl record as part of the "From the Capitol Vaults" series.
The cover art for A Rush of Blood to the Head was designed by photographer Sølve Sundsbø. Sundsbø had been hired by fashion magazine Dazed & Confused in the late 1990s to produce something with a "technological feel, something all white". As an artist, he tried to do "stuff that hasn't been done before, which is virtually impossible"; he suggested taking shots using a three-dimensional scanning machine.
The model for the shot wore all-white makeup because it produces the "best results"; for the image, the model wore a twill-coloured cape. The computer could not read the colours so it was replaced with spikes, and the head in the image was chopped because the machine only scanned 30 centimetres. The editor of the magazine liked the image and eventually featured it in one of their publications.
Martin saw the image in the magazine and approached Sundsbø for permission to use the image as the cover of A Rush of Blood to the Head. For the album's singles, Martin asked Sundsbø what he could do; the latter suggested scanning the head of each member of the band.
The album cover was among the ten chosen by the Royal Mail for a set of "Classic Album Cover" postage stamps issued in January 2010.
A Rush of Blood to the Head debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart, moving 273,924 copies. The British Phonographic Industry has since certified the album eight times platinum for its accumulated sales of over 2.6 million copies. With the subsequent release of "Clocks" and "The Scientist", the album spent over one year on the chart. A Rush of Blood to the Head has been placed at number seven on the list of United Kingdom's 20 biggest-selling albums of the 21st century, published by the British trade paper Music Week.
The album debuted at number five in the United States with 144,000 copies sold initially, stronger than its predecessor, Parachutes, which debuted at number 189 in December 2000. It has since been certified four times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America with sales of over 4,650,000 copies. It has been certified five times platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association, having accumulated shipments of over 350,000 units, and four times platinum by the Canadian Recording Industry Association for shipments of over 400,000.
A Rush of Blood to the Head has earned the band several awards from both the domestic and international music press. In 2002, it was awarded Best Album at the Q Awards. In the same year, the band won two Grammy Awards: Best Alternative Music Album and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for the song "In My Place". In 2003 A Rush of Blood... won Best British Album at the BRIT Awards, and the following year the band earned their first Grammy Award for Record of the Year for the song "Clocks".
The album was chosen in 2002 as Billboard magazine's Critics' Choice. The following year, it was ranked number 473 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In 2007, The National Association of Recording Merchandisers and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame released a list of what they term "The Definitive 200 Albums of All Time"; A Rush of Blood to the Head ranks at number 65 on the list. The album was nominated for BRIT album of 30 years at the 2010 BRIT Awards.