I can dimly remember enjoying “Clocks” once. Now I can’t listen to it and hear anything but its ubiquity, the archetypal song with the life sucked out of it by radio and by TV soundtracks. It is the background. There’s a reason why it’s the song in Coldplay’s live set that gets the big laser show. The unexpected extra chime of guitar behind “closing walls and ticking clocks”, always a great ghost in its machine, is the only little flicker left in it these days.
One thing that is kind of fascinating about the ubiquity of “Clocks”, though, is its status as a staple of albums of non-pop music. Fuelled by the recognisability and simplicity of its piano loop, it’s ready to be vaguely familiar in all kinds of different settings. I think that you really have to actually see and hear the scale of its spread to quite get a feel for it, and so I present… the first 25 versions of “Clocks” on Spotify:
Ed Alleyne-Johnson (from Echoes. Sounds like you would expect from the album cover, which is bright purple and features a long-haired guy with an electric violin. My favourite since Rhythms Del Mundo.)
Airflow (from 50 Best of Chill & Lounge. Yet another chillout version that settles into the background and OH NO THE VOCALS! NOT THE VOCALS!)
Sunny Choi (part of a “Yellow”/”Clocks”/”Viva La Vida”/”Fix You”/”Speed of Sound” solo piano medley. Ponderous.)
Pat Farrell (Big Room Mix. Surprised it took this long to get to the first BOSH CLOCKS. It uses the original more as a garnish than the main part of its offering, which is a sweet relief at this point)
The Gym All-Stars (from Music for Sports: Easy Running. I refuse to believe that anyone could run to this. It is feeble.)
The Camden Towners (from Best of Britpop, a covers album which stretches its title past breaking point by including “Bohemian Like You”)
Sweet Little Band (from Babies Go Coldplay. What, you thought three lullaby versions was enough? This one has pan pipes.)
DJ Style (from Chill n’ Lounge. For if you prefer your “Clocks” sung by a woman who appears to have a heavy cold.)
There are loads more where those came from, too. So there you have it – write something recognisable but not too noticeable, get yourself on TV, become known as ‘relaxing’, and the world of utility music for babies and recovering clubbers is yours.
Look, it’s a list that doesn’t suck/isn’t vapid! (This entire Coldplay week is well worth reading, too, even if — especially if — you are Coldplay-intolerant.)