"Clocks" is a song by English alternative rock band Coldplay. It was written by all members of the band for their second album, A Rush of Blood to the Head.
"Clocks" emerged in conception during the late stages in the production of Coldplay's second album, A Rush of Blood to the Head. Vocalist Chris Martin came in the studio late one night. A riff popped into Martin's mind and he wrote it on piano. According to Martin, "Clocks" was inspired by the English rock band Muse. Martin presented the riff to guitarist Jonny Buckland who then added guitar chords to the basic track: "He picked up his guitar [a sure sign that he likes a song] and played these brilliant chords ... It was like a chemical reaction process."
Before writing "Clocks", the band had already made 10 songs for the album. They thought it was too late for the song's inclusion in the album since it was near completion. So they recorded a demo version of the track and saved it with other unfinished tracks, labeling it "Songs for #3"; the band projected these tracks for their third album, X&Y.
By June 2002, Coldplay were ready to present the album to Parlophone, their record label. However, Martin felt it was "rubbish"; they were not completely satisfied of the album. So, the band and Parlophone concerted to delay the release. After a headlining tour, Coldplay went on working "Songs for #3". Phil Harvey, a friend of Martin and the band's manager, heard it and urged him to rework "Clocks" immediately. With lyrics that speak of urgency, Harvey pointed out that its meaning would contradict Martin's idea of stashing the track. Martin was persuaded by Harvey and then further developed "Clocks" while other band members supplemented their ideas based on the main piano track, adding a bass and drum figure. Coldplay recorded the song very quickly, since they were running after the postponed schedule of A Rush of Blood to the Head, which was released two months later.
Coldplay released "Clocks" in Europe on 24 March 2003 as the album's third single. The single was pressed with two B-sides: "Animals", which was one of the band's favourite songs performed on tour but was not included in the album, and "Crests of Waves".
A music video was filmed in support of the song. It was directed by British film maker Dominic Leung, and shot at Docklands' ExCeL Building in London. It features the band performing the song, with a laser show, in front of a staged audience, mostly local college students. Stage effects and blue-red light transitions give the video a surreal feel, not to mention the stoic crowd that make up the audience.
Throughout 2003, "Clocks" was featured in various commercials, movies and television programs: from WWE promos featuring the return of American professional wrestler Kurt Angle, to the 2002 Irish drama film In America, and an episode of the American medical drama television series ER. The song was played in its entirety during the ending credits for the 2003 film Confidence, and was also featured in the American television drama series The Sopranos and Third Watch. In late 2003, the song was used in a trailer for the movie Peter Pan. This song was also used in the 2006 Disney film, The Wild.
Critics were positive towards the song. Rob Sheffield, in his review of the album for Rolling Stone magazine, said: that "[guitarist] Buckland shines in excellent psychedelic rockers such as ... 'Clocks'". David Cheal of The Daily Telegraph said that "Clocks" features a "hypnotic piano riff, a pounding, almost frantic rhythm, and a contagious tune, all building to a gorgeously serene climax with Martin's floaty voice singing". "Clocks" won the Record of the Year at the 2004 Grammy Awards. It was nominated for Best Single at the 2003 Q Awards. "Clocks" was ranked at number 68 on Pitchfork's Top 100 Singles of 2000-04.
The single was successful on the radio throughout in 2003, and has charted at several singles chart worldwide. In the United Kingdom, the song has peaked at number nine. In the United States, "Clocks" has peaked there at number 29. It has also reached number seven in Canada. Although it wasn't as successful as expected in Australia (charting at #28), it did get a lot of radio play.
"Clocks" is regarded as one of the finest achievements of Coldplay; the song's piano progression remained the band's signature creation. According to The New York Times, the opening piano arpeggios of "Clocks" has been widely sampled. Also, many of the songs in X&Y feature influences from "Clocks". Brian Cohen of Billboard magazine noted that "Clocks" served as a "launching pad" to songs featured in X&Y, "several of which echo that track either in structure or feel".