Creep (Radiohead song)
|Single by Radiohead|
|from the album Pablo Honey|
|Released||21 September 1992|
|Recorded||1992 at Chipping Norton Recording Studios in Oxfordshire, England|
|Radiohead singles chronology|
"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 after being rereleased in 1993. The members of Radiohead grew weary of the song in later years, and refused to perform it for a period. It is included in the Radiohead: The Best Of compilation album.
Background and recording
According to Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood, singer Thom Yorke wrote "Creep" while studying at Exeter University in the late 1980s. Guitarist Jonny Greenwood said that the song was inspired by a girl that Yorke had followed around and who unexpectedly attended a Radiohead performance.
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. 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. While the recording had minimal overdubs and the band had not intended to release it, the producers were impressed.
The version issued for radio play replaces the line "so fucking special" with "so very special". Radiohead worried that issuing a censored version would be selling out, but decided it was acceptable since their idols Sonic Youth had done the same thing; nonetheless, Jonny Greenwood noted the British press "weren't impressed". During the recording session for the censored lyrics, Kolderie convinced Yorke to rewrite the first verse, telling him he thought Yorke could do better.
The middle eight originally featured a guitar solo from Jonny Greenwood. When guitarist Ed O'Brien pointed out that the chord progression was the same as "The Air That I Breathe", a 1972 song by the Hollies, Yorke wrote a new middle eight, copying that song's vocal melody. According to Greenwood, "It was funny to us in a way, sort of feeding something like that into [it]. It's a bit of change."
Composition and lyrics
The G–B–C–Cm chord progression is repeated throughout the song, only 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". 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".
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". 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." 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 result.
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." Jonny Greenwood said the song was in fact a happy song about "recognizing what you are".
Release and reception
EMI released "Creep" as a single in September 1992, when it reached number 78 on the UK Singles Chart, selling 6,000 copies. Radio 1 found the song "too depressing" and refrained from playing it. Radiohead band moved to a second single, "Anyone Can Play Guitar", to promote 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 EMI representative, and it became a national hit. Radiohead quickly set up tour dates in the country to capitalise on the success. "Creep" had similar success in New Zealand, Spain, and Scandinavian countries. 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 released 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. 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".
Radiohead initially did not want to reissue "Creep" in the UK, 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." The 1993 reissue reached number seven on the UK Singles Chart. The release was bolstered by a September 1993 Top of the Pops performance, which drew criticism from the music press and other artists: Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher said 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".
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". After the tour, Radiohead did not perform "Creep" until the encore of their 2001 hometown concert at South Park, Oxford, after an equipment failure halted a performance of another song.
After the 2009 Reading Festival, Radiohead did not perform "Creep" 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.'" They performed the song during the encore of their headline performance at the Glastonbury Festival that year.
O'Brien said of "Creep" 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'."
"Creep" has been covered by artists including Frank Bennett, Haley Reinhart and Postmodern Jukebox, Sarah Geronimo the Pretenders, and Kelly Clarkson. 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."
The chord progression and melody in the "Creep" verse is similar to that of "The Air That I Breathe", a 1972 song recorded by the Hollies. Songwriters Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood sued and received co-writing credits and a percentage of the song's royalties. 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."
In January 2018, American singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey stated on Twitter that Radiohead were taking legal action against her for allegedly plagiarising "Creep" with the track "Get Free" from her album Lust for Life (2017), asking for 100% of publishing royalties instead of Del Rey's offer of 40%. She denied that "Creep" had inspired "Get Free". Radiohead's publisher Warner/Chappell Music confirmed that it was seeking songwriting credit for "all writers of 'Creep'", but denied that a lawsuit had been issued or that Radiohead had demanded 100% of royalties. Performing at Lollapalooza Brazil in March, Del Rey told the audience that "my lawsuit's over, I guess I can sing that song any time I want".
- UK original release
- "Creep" – 3:55
- "Lurgee" – 3:07
- "Inside My Head" – 3:12
- "Million Dollar Question" – 3:18
- (Cassette - Promo)
- "Creep" – 3:56
- "Faithless, the Wonder Boy" – 4:10
- UK re-release (CD)
- "Creep" (album version) – 3:58
- "Yes I Am" – 4:25
- "Blow Out" (remix) – 4:00
- "Inside My Head" (live) – 3:07
- UK re-release (12" vinyl)
- "Creep" (acoustic) – 4:19
- "You" (live) - 3:39
- "Vegetable" (live) - 3:07
- "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.
- "Creep" – 3:56
- Digital re-release
- "Creep" 3:56
- "Inside My Head" 3:12
- "Million Dollar Question" 3:18
- "Yes I Am" 4:26
- "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
|Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)||15|
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)||37|
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)||8|
|Canada (Canadian Hot 100)||30|
|Germany (Official German Charts)||50|
|Netherlands (Single Top 100)||13|
|New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)||19|
|Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)||39|
|UK Singles (Official Charts Company)||7|
|US Billboard Hot 100||34|
|US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks||2|
|US Billboard Album Rock Tracks||20|
|US Billboard Mainstream Top 40||39|
|Canada (Music Canada)||Gold|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Platinum|
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