Creep (Radiohead song)

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Radiohead original creep cover.jpg
Single by Radiohead
from the album Pablo Honey
Released 21 September 1992
Recorded 1992 at Chipping Norton Recording Studios in Oxfordshire, England
Length 3:59
Radiohead singles chronology
"Anyone Can Play Guitar"
"Anyone Can Play Guitar"
Audio sample

"Creep" is a song by the English alternative rock band Radiohead, released as their debut single in 1992; it appeared on their first album, Pablo Honey (1993). "Creep" was not initially a chart success, but became a worldwide hit on its rerelease in 1993. Attendees of Radiohead's early gigs often exhibited little interest in the band's other songs, causing the band to react against "Creep" and play it less often during the mid-to-late 1990s. It is included in the Radiohead: The Best Of compilation album. The artwork for the single is a painting by Maurice Burns, Craigavon Under Age Drinkers Rule.[2]

Background and recording[edit]

According to Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood, singer Thom Yorke wrote "Creep" while studying at Exeter University in the late 1980s.[3] Guitarist Jonny Greenwood said that the song was inspired by a girl that Yorke had followed around and who unexpectedly attended a Radiohead performance.[4]

In 1992, during rehearsals for their first album with producers Sean Slade and Paul Q. Kolderie, Radiohead spontaneously performed "Creep". Yorke jokingly described the song as the band's "Scott Walker song"; Slade and Kolderie mistook this to mean the song was a cover.[5] After some failed attempts to record other songs, Slade and Kolderie suggested Radiohead play "Creep" again. They recorded the song in a single take; after the performance everyone in the room burst into applause. After the band assured Kolderie that "Creep" was an original song, he called EMI to tell them to consider it as Radiohead's first single.[6] While the recording had minimal overdubs and the band had not intended to release it, the producers were impressed.[3][7]

The version issued for US radio play replaces the line "So fucking special" with "So very special". The group was worried that issuing a censored version would be a "bit of a sellout" according to Jonny Greenwood, but they decided it was acceptable since their idols Sonic Youth had done the same thing. Nonetheless, Greenwood noted the British press "weren't impressed" by the action.[4] During the recording session for the censored lyrics, Kolderie convinced Yorke to rewrite the first verse, telling him he thought the singer could do better.[8]

"Creep" shares a chord progression and melody with "The Air That I Breathe", a 1972 song recorded by the Hollies.[9][10] The song's writers Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood sued and received cowriting credits and a percentage of the song's royalties.[11] According to Hammond, "Radiohead agreed that they had actually taken it ... Because they were honest they weren't sued to the point of saying 'we want the whole thing'. So we ended up just getting a little piece of it."[12]

Composition and lyrics[edit]

Ostinato from Radiohead's "Creep" features modal mixture, common tones between adjacent triads (B between G & B, C and G between C & Cm, see: Macro analysis), and an emphasis on subdominant harmony (IV = C in G major).[13]About this sound Play 

The G–B–C–Cm chord progression is repeated throughout the whole song, just alternating between arpeggiated chords in the verses and last chorus and loud power chords during the first two choruses. In G major, these may be interpreted as "I–III–IV–iv".[13] According to Guy Capuzzo, the ostinato musically portrays "the song's obsessive lyrics, which depict the 'self-lacerating rage of an unsuccessful crush'." For example, the "highest pitches of the ostinato form a prominent chromatic line that 'creeps' up, then down, involving scale degrees ....[while] ascend[ing], the lyrics strain towards optimism...descend[ing], the subject sinks back into the throes of self-pity...The guitarist's fretting hand mirrors this contour".[14]

When the song shifts from the verse to the chorus, Jonny Greenwood plays three blasts of guitar noise ("dead notes" played by releasing fret-hand pressure and picking the strings). Greenwood said he did this because he did not like how quiet the song was; he explained: "So I hit the guitar hard—really hard".[4] Ed O'Brien said: "That's the sound of Jonny trying to fuck the song up. He really didn't like it the first time we played it, so he tried spoiling it. And it made the song."[15] During the song's outro, Jonny Greenwood plays a piano figure. Kolderie forgot to add the piano part during the final mix until the end of the song, but the band approved of the final result.[16]

According to Yorke, "Creep" tells the tale of an inebriated man who tries to get the attention of a woman to whom he is attracted by following her around. In the end, he lacks the self-confidence to face her and feels he subconsciously is her. When asked about "Creep" in 1993, Yorke said: "I have a real problem being a man in the '90s... Any man with any sensitivity or conscience toward the opposite sex would have a problem. To actually assert yourself in a masculine way without looking like you're in a hard-rock band is a very difficult thing to do... It comes back to the music we write, which is not effeminate, but it's not brutal in its arrogance. It is one of the things I'm always trying: To assert a sexual persona and on the other hand trying desperately to negate it."[17] Jonny Greenwood said the song was in fact a happy song about "recognizing what you are".[4]

Release and reception[edit]

Despite initial reluctance, staff at EMI ultimately grew enthusiastic about "Creep", and the label decided to issue it as a single.[18] "Creep" met with little success in the UK when it was first released in September 1992. Radio 1 found the song "too depressing" and refrained from playing the song.[19] "Creep" reached number 78 on the UK Singles Chart, selling only 6,000 copies.[20] The band soon moved on to a second single, "Anyone Can Play Guitar", to promote the album Pablo Honey, and released a non-album single, "Pop Is Dead".

Towards the end of 1992, DJ Yoav Kutner played "Creep" often on Israeli radio, having been introduced to the song by a local EMI representative, and it became a national hit. Radiohead quickly set up tour dates in the country to capitalise on the success.[21][22]

"Creep" had similar success in New Zealand, Spain, and Scandinavian countries.[23] Around the same time, the San Francisco, California radio station KITS added the song to its playlist, and soon other radio stations along the American West Coast followed suit. A censored version of the song was made available to radio stations, and, by the second half of 1993, the song had become a hit nationwide, charting at number 34 on the Billboard Hot 100.[3] By the time Radiohead went to the United States, they were surprised by the success of the song. Yorke told Melody Maker in 1993 that many journalists misunderstood the song, asking him if it was a "joke".[19]

Radiohead initially did not want to reissue "Creep" in the United Kingdom, but relented; bassist Colin Greenwood said that "after doing so well in America, there was this tremendous pressure from radio people, the press, the record company, even our fans, to put it out."[24] The 1993 reissue reached number seven on the UK Singles Chart.[25] The release was bolstered by a September 1993 Top of the Pops performance, which drew criticism from the music press and fellow artists: Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher opined that Radiohead were willing to appear on the show and alter the lyrics to reflect the clean edit of the song "because it made them more money".[4][26]

In December 2007, the song was ranked at #31 on "VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of the 90s".[27] In June 2008, "Creep" reentered the UK Singles Chart at number 37 after its inclusion on the compilation album Radiohead: The Best Of.[28] "Creep" has been listed as the third best indie song of all time in the 'All Time Indie Top 50' [29]


By the time Radiohead were touring in support of their third album, OK Computer (1997), they had tired of "Creep". Yorke became hostile when the song was mentioned in interviews and refused requests to play it — telling a Montréal audience: "Fuck off, we're tired of it" — and dismissed fans demanding to hear it as "anally retarded".[30] After the tour, Radiohead did not perform "Creep" again until the encore of their 2001 hometown concert at South Park, Oxford, after an equipment failure halted a performance of the Kid A (2000) track "Motion Picture Soundtrack".[31]

In April 2008, American musician Prince covered "Creep" at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. A bootleg recording was shared online, but removed at Prince's request. After being informed of the situation in an interview, Yorke said: "Well, tell him to unblock it. It's our song."[32][33]

After the 2009 Reading Festival, Radiohead did not perform "Creep" again until 2016, when they performed it several times on tour for their ninth studio album, A Moon Shaped Pool. After a fan spent the majority of a concert shouting for it, the band decided to play it to "see what the reaction is, just to see how it feels.'"[34] O'Brien said of the song in 2017: "It's nice to play for the right reasons. People like it and want to hear it. We do err towards not playing it because you don't want it to feel like show business. But we started throwing it in last year." In the same interview, Yorke said: "It can be cool sometimes, but other times I want to stop halfway through and be like, 'Nah, this isn't happening.'"[35] Later that year, the band performed the song during the encore of their headline performance at the Glastonbury Festival.[36][37][38]

Track listing[edit]

UK original release
  1. "Creep" – 3:55
  2. "Lurgee" – 3:07
  3. "Inside My Head" – 3:12
  4. "Million Dollar Question" – 3:18
(Cassette - Promo)
  1. "Creep" – 3:56
  2. "Faithless, the Wonder Boy" – 4:10
UK re-release (CD)
  1. "Creep" (album version) – 3:58
  2. "Yes I Am" – 4:25
  3. "Blow Out" (remix) – 4:00
  4. "Inside My Head" (live) – 3:07
UK re-release (12" vinyl)
  1. "Creep" (acoustic) – 4:19
  2. "You" (live) - 3:39
  3. "Vegetable" (live) - 3:07
  4. "Killer Cars" (live) - 2:17
  • Note: All tracks recorded live at the Metro in Chicago by JBTV on June 30, 1993, except A1 recorded live for KROQ Radio on July 13, 1993.
  1. "Creep" – 3:56
Digital re-release
  1. "Creep" 3:56
  2. "Inside My Head" 3:12
  3. "Million Dollar Question" 3:18
  4. "Yes I Am" 4:26
  5. "Blow Out (Remix)" 4:19

The original versions of "Lurgee", "Blow Out", "You" and "Vegetable" are all taken from the album Pablo Honey.


  • Thom Yorke – lead vocals
  • Colin Greenwood – bass guitar
  • Jonny Greenwood – lead guitar, piano
  • Ed O'Brien – rhythm guitar
  • Philip Selway – drums

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1992/1993) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[39] 6
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[40] 15
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[41] 37
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[42] 8
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[43] 30
Denmark (Tracklisten)[44] 18
France (SNEP)[45] 17
Germany (Official German Charts)[46] 50
Ireland (IRMA)[47] 13
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[48] 13
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[49] 19
Norway (VG-lista)[50] 3
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[51] 35
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[52] 39
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[53] 7
US Billboard Hot 100[54] 34
US Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks 2
US Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks 20
US Billboard Pop Songs 39


Region Certification
Australia (ARIA)[55] Gold
Italy (FIMI)[56] Platinum
United Kingdom (BPI)[57] Gold
Canada (Music Canada)[58] Gold


Live Cover performances[edit]

  • Sarah Geronimo performed the song on her 24/SG Concert in 2013.[63] A concert review noted the performance as the highlight of the show.[64]
  • The Pretenders performed a cover of the song before a live audience at Jacob Street Studios, London, in May 1995 which Spin News ranks among the top 10 Radiohead covers.[65] This version featuring Chrissie Hynde has had 5 million plays since it was uploaded on YouTube in 2007.

Appearances in other media[edit]


  • Rap artist Chino XL sampled the chorus lyrics and the title for his 1996 single "Kreep."


  1. ^ Reising (2005), p.210
  2. ^ "Creep" single liner notes
  3. ^ a b c Marzorati, Gerald. "The Post Rock Band". The New York Times. 1 October 2000. Retrieved on 28 July 2008.
  4. ^ a b c d e Kempf, Christi. "The Radiohead Vision Creeps Onto Airwaves". Chicago Sun-Times. 7 June 1993.
  5. ^ Randall, p. 83
  6. ^ Randall, p. 83-84
  7. ^ Sprague, David. "Contagious Creep". Billboard. 15 May 1993.
  8. ^ Randall, p. 99
  9. ^ English, Tim (2007). Sounds Like Teen Spirit: Stolen Melodies, Ripped-Off Riffs, and the Secret History of Rock and Roll, p.149. ISBN 9781583480236.
  10. ^ Locker, Melissa. "11 Suspiciously Sound-Alike Songs". Time. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2017-06-25. 
  11. ^ Wardle, Ben. "Get off Coldplay's case – similar songs can co-exist peacefully". 12 May 2009. Retrieved on 22 September 2010.
  12. ^ "Song info: 'Creep' Archived 11 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine.",
  13. ^ a b Capuzzo, Guy. "Neo-Riemannian Theory and the Analysis of Pop-Rock Music", p.186–87, Music Theory Spectrum, Vol. 26, No. 2, pp. 177–199. Autumn 2004.
  14. ^ Capuzzo ibid. Also quotes Ross 2001, 118.
  15. ^ CD Inlay Archive. 1993 Archived 29 June 2012 at
  16. ^ Randall, p. 98
  17. ^ Sullivan, Jim. "Creep stumbles onto fame". The Boston Globe. 8 October 1993.
  18. ^ Randall, p. 84-85
  19. ^ a b Jennings, Dave. "Creepshow". Melody Maker. 25 September 1993.
  20. ^ Randall, p. 88
  21. ^ "Never Forget Radiohead's Relationship With Israel Goes Way Back". Slate. Retrieved 2017-07-24. 
  22. ^ "Is this the reason Radiohead is playing Israel?". New York Post. Retrieved 2017-07-24. 
  23. ^ Randall, p. 90-91
  24. ^ Randall, p. 117
  25. ^ Randall, p. 118
  26. ^ Live Forever: The Rise and Fall of Brit Pop. 2003. Bonus interviews.
  27. ^ 100 Greatest Songs of the '90s Archived 14 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  28. ^ The Official UK Charts Company: Top 100 Singles Chart. 15 June 2008
  29. ^ "All Time Top 50 Indie Songs". Retrieved 2017-03-05. 
  30. ^ "Radiohead: "We were spitting and fighting and crying…" - Page 8 of 16 - Uncut". Uncut. 2016-03-18. Retrieved 2017-06-03. 
  31. ^ "Rapturous return for masters of misery". BBC News. 8 July 2001. Retrieved April 30, 2010. 
  32. ^ "Radiohead News - Yahoo! Music". 2008-05-30. Archived from the original on 3 June 2008. Retrieved February 14, 2011. 
  33. ^ Andrea DenHoed (23 April 2012). "A Rehabilitated "Creep"". The New Yorker. 
  34. ^ Michelle Geslani, Thom Yorke surprised at album's success
  35. ^ Greene, Andy (8 June 2017). "19 Things We Learned Hanging Out With Radiohead". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 8 June 2017. 
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  37. ^ "Radiohead - Acts - Glastonbury 2017". Retrieved 26 June 2017. 
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  40. ^ " – Radiohead – Creep" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  41. ^ " – Radiohead – Creep" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  42. ^ " – Radiohead – Creep" (in French). Ultratop 50. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  43. ^ "Red Hot Chili Peppers – Awards". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved February 16, 2013. 
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  46. ^ " – Radiohead – Creep". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  47. ^ "Chart Track: Week 18, 1993". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  48. ^ " – Radiohead – Creep" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  49. ^ " – Radiohead – Creep". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  50. ^ " – Radiohead – Creep". VG-lista. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  51. ^ " – Radiohead – Creep". Singles Top 100. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  52. ^ " – Radiohead – Creep". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  53. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  54. ^ "Radiohead Chart History (Hot 100)" Billboard. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  55. ^ "The ARIA Australian Top 100 Singles 1994". Australian Record Industry Association Ltd. Archived from the original on 2015-10-25. Retrieved 2015-10-27. 
  56. ^ "Italian single certifications – Radiohead – Creep" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved January 9, 2015. 
  57. ^ "British single certifications – Radiohead – Creep". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved January 19, 2014.  Enter Creep in the search field and then press Enter.
  58. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Radiohead – Creep". Music Canada. Retrieved June 27, 2016. 
  59. ^ ABC Broadcasting: "Hottest 100, History, 1996"
  60. ^ "Haley Reinhart's 'Creep' cover with Postmodern Jukebox is worth a listen". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 April 2015. 
  61. ^ "Beautiful rendition of 'Creep' incorporates old-school sound". Mashable. Retrieved 17 April 2015. 
  62. ^ "Haley Reinhart's "Creep" Cover is Climbing the Charts". Haley Reinhart News. Retrieved 17 April 2015. 
  63. ^ Viva Ent (2014-08-27), Creep [Live!], retrieved 2016-11-12 
  64. ^ Esteves, Patricia. "Concert review The Sarah G experience". Retrieved 2016-11-12. 
  65. ^ "The Pretenders, London, 1995 - In Their Right Place: Ranking 10 Radiohead 'Creep' Covers (Plus One Bonus Clip!) | SPIN". Retrieved November 4, 2014. 
  66. ^ Rosen, Christopher (15 July 2010). "The Social Network's First Full-Length Trailer is So F***ing Special". Movieline. Archived from the original on 30 July 2010. Retrieved July 30, 2010. 
  67. ^ Lipshutz, Jason (2 October 2010). "Rock Covers With A Twist". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media. 122 (39). ISSN 0006-2510. 
  68. ^ "Wagner Moura grava música do Radiohead para filme" (in Portuguese). Rolling Stone Brazil. 27 July 2011. Archived from the original on 11 May 2012. Retrieved 23 February 2013. 
  69. ^ "Wagner Moura faz versão de música para trilha de filme – O ator fez uma versão de 'Creep', do Radiohead, para trilha do filme O Homem do Futuro". UOL (in Portuguese). 27 July 2011. [permanent dead link]
  70. ^ "Terry Gilliam didn't know 'The Zero Theorem' theme 'Creep' was a Radiohead song | NME.COM". Retrieved November 4, 2014. 
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  • Clover, Joshua (2009). 1989: Bob Dylan Didn't Have This to Sing About. University of California Press. ISBN 052094464X. 
  • Forbes, Brandon W. and George A. Reisch (2009). Radiohead and Philosophy: Fitter Happier More Deductive. Open Court Publishing. ISBN 0812696646. 
  • Jones, Carys Wyn (2005). "The Aura of Authenticity: Perceptions of Honesty, Sincerity, and Truth in 'Creep' and 'Kid A'". In Joseph Tate. The Music and Art of Radiohead. Ashgate. ISBN 0754639797. 
  • Randall, Mac. Exit Music: The Radiohead Story. Delta, 2000. ISBN 0-385-33393-5
  • Reising, Russell (2005). Speak To Me: The Legacy Of Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 0754640191. 
  • Reynolds, Tom (2008). Touch Me, I'm Sick: The 52 Creepiest Love Songs You've Ever Heard. Chicago Review Press. pp. 47–51. ISBN 9781556527531. 

External links[edit]

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