Creep (Radiohead song)

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Radiohead original creep cover.jpg
Single by Radiohead
from the album Pablo Honey
Released21 September 1992
Recorded1992 at Chipping Norton Recording Studios in Oxfordshire, England
Radiohead singles chronology
"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 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.

Writing and recording[edit]

According to Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood, singer Thom Yorke wrote "Creep" while studying at Exeter University in the late 1980s.[2] Guitarist Jonny Greenwood said that the song was inspired by a girl that Yorke had followed around and who unexpectedly attended a Radiohead performance.[3]

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.[4] 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.[5] While the recording had minimal overdubs and the band had not intended to release it, the producers were impressed.[2][6]

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".[3] During the recording session for the censored lyrics, Kolderie convinced Yorke to rewrite the first verse, telling him he thought Yorke could do better.[7]

The middle eight originally featured a guitar solo from 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, using 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."[8]

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).[9]About this sound Play 

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".[9] 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".[10]

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".[3] 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."[11] 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.[12]

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."[13] Jonny Greenwood said the song was in fact a happy song about "recognizing what you are".[3]

Release and reception[edit]

EMI released "Creep" as a single in September 1992,[14] when it reached number 78 on the UK Singles Chart, selling 6,000 copies.[15] Radio 1 found the song "too depressing" and refrained from playing it.[16] 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.[17][18] "Creep" had similar success in New Zealand, Spain, and Scandinavian countries.[19] 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.[2] 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".[16]

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".[20] The 1993 reissue reached number seven on the UK Singles Chart.[21] 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".[3][22]

In December 2007, VH1 ranked "Creep" the 31st greatest song of the 1990s.[23] In June 2008, "Creep" re-entered the UK Singles Chart at number 37 after its inclusion on Radiohead: The Best Of.[24]


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".[25] 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.[26]

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".[27] They performed the song during the encore of their headline performance at the Glastonbury Festival that year.[28][29]

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."[30] 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'."[30]

Cover versions[edit]

"Creep" has been covered by artists including Frank Bennett,[31] Haley Reinhart and Postmodern Jukebox,[32] Sarah Geronimo[33] the Pretenders,[34] and Kelly Clarkson.[34] 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."[35][36] In 2011, the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps performed a version of "Creep" as a part of their program "Brave New World." In 2010, a cover of the song performed by Scala & Kolacny Brothers accompanied the trailer for the film The Social Network.[37]

Copyright infringement[edit]

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.[38][39] Songwriters Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood sued and received co-writing credits and a percentage of the song's royalties.[40] 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."[41]

In January 2018, American singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey stated on Twitter that Radiohead were taking legal action against her for allegedly plagiarising "Creep" on 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".[42] Radiohead's publisher Warner/Chappell Music confirmed it was seeking songwriting credit for "all writers" of "Creep", but denied that a lawsuit had been brought or that Radiohead had demanded 100% of royalties.[43] 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".[44]

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)[45] 6
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[46] 15
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[47] 37
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[48] 8
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[49] 30
Denmark (Tracklisten)[50] 18
France (SNEP)[51] 4
Germany (Official German Charts)[52] 50
Ireland (IRMA)[53] 13
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[54] 13
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[55] 19
Norway (VG-lista)[56] 3
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[57] 35
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[58] 39
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[59] 7
US Billboard Hot 100[60] 34
US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks 2
US Billboard Album Rock Tracks 20
US Billboard Mainstream Top 40 39
Charts (2018) Peak
France (SNEP)[61] 4


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia (ARIA)[62] Gold 35,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[63] Gold 40,000^
Italy (FIMI)[64] 2× Platinum 100,000double-dagger
United Kingdom (BPI)[65] Platinum 600,000double-dagger

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ Reising (2005), p.210
  2. ^ a b c Marzorati, Gerald. "The Post Rock Band". The New York Times. 1 October 2000. Retrieved on 28 July 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d e Kempf, Christi. "The Radiohead Vision Creeps Onto Airwaves". Chicago Sun-Times. 7 June 1993.
  4. ^ Randall, p. 83
  5. ^ Randall, p. 83-84
  6. ^ Sprague, David. "Contagious Creep". Billboard. 15 May 1993.
  7. ^ Randall, p. 99
  8. ^ Fender Frontline. Fall 1993. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Capuzzo ibid. Also quotes Ross 2001, 118.
  11. ^ CD Inlay Archive. 1993 Archived 29 June 2012 at
  12. ^ Randall, p. 98
  13. ^ Sullivan, Jim. "Creep stumbles onto fame". The Boston Globe. 8 October 1993.
  14. ^ Randall, p. 84-85
  15. ^ Randall, p. 88
  16. ^ a b Jennings, Dave. "Creepshow". Melody Maker. 25 September 1993.
  17. ^ "Never Forget Radiohead's Relationship With Israel Goes Way Back". Slate. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  18. ^ "Is this the reason Radiohead is playing Israel?". New York Post. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  19. ^ Randall, p. 90-91
  20. ^ Randall, p. 117
  21. ^ Randall, p. 118
  22. ^ Live Forever: The Rise and Fall of Brit Pop. 2003. Bonus interviews.
  23. ^ 100 Greatest Songs of the '90s Archived 14 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  24. ^ The Official UK Charts Company: Top 100 Singles Chart. 15 June 2008
  25. ^ "Radiohead: "We were spitting and fighting and crying…" – Page 8 of 16 – Uncut". Uncut. 2016-03-18. Retrieved 2017-06-03.
  26. ^ "Rapturous return for masters of misery". BBC News. 8 July 2001. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
  27. ^ Michelle Geslani, Thom Yorke surprised at album's success
  28. ^ "Radiohead – Acts – Glastonbury 2017". Retrieved 26 June 2017.
  29. ^ Petridis, Alexis. "Radiohead at Glastonbury 2017 review". Retrieved 26 June 2017.
  30. ^ a b Greene, Andy (8 June 2017). "19 Things We Learned Hanging Out With Radiohead". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  31. ^ ABC Broadcasting: "Hottest 100, History, 1996"
  32. ^ "Haley Reinhart's 'Creep' cover with Postmodern Jukebox is worth a listen". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  33. ^ Esteves, Patricia. "Concert review The Sarah G experience". Retrieved 2016-11-12.
  34. ^ a b "The Pretenders, London, 1995 – In Their Right Place: Ranking 10 Radiohead 'Creep' Covers (Plus One Bonus Clip!) | SPIN". Retrieved November 4, 2014.
  35. ^ "Radiohead News – Yahoo! Music". 2008-05-30. Archived from the original on 3 June 2008. Retrieved February 14, 2011.
  36. ^ Andrea DenHoed (23 April 2012). "A Rehabilitated "Creep"". The New Yorker.
  37. ^ Radio, Southern California Public (2010-08-26). "Cover of Radiohead's 'Creep' from 'The Social Network' trailer". Southern California Public Radio. Retrieved 2018-09-15.
  38. ^ English, Tim (2007). Sounds Like Teen Spirit: Stolen Melodies, Ripped-Off Riffs, and the Secret History of Rock and Roll, p.149. ISBN 9781583480236.
  39. ^ Locker, Melissa. "11 Suspiciously Sound-Alike Songs". Time. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2017-06-25.
  40. ^ Wardle, Ben. "Get off Coldplay's case – similar songs can co-exist peacefully". 12 May 2009. Retrieved on 22 September 2010.
  41. ^ "Song info: 'Creep' Archived 11 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine.",
  42. ^ Kim, Michelle. "Lana Del Rey Says Radiohead Suing Her for Copying "Creep"". Pitchfork. Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  43. ^ "Radiohead Publisher Issues Statement Refuting Lana Del Rey Lawsuit". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2018-01-10.
  44. ^ "Lana Del Rey Says Radiohead Lawsuit Is Over". Stereogum. 2018-03-26. Retrieved 2018-03-26.
  45. ^ " – Radiohead – Creep". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  46. ^ " – Radiohead – Creep" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  47. ^ " – Radiohead – Creep" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  48. ^ " – Radiohead – Creep" (in French). Ultratop 50. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  49. ^ "Red Hot Chili Peppers – Awards". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  50. ^ " – Radiohead – Creep". Tracklisten. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  51. ^ " – Radiohead – Creep" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  52. ^ " – Radiohead – Creep". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  53. ^ "Chart Track: Week 18, 1993". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  54. ^ " – Radiohead – Creep" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  55. ^ " – Radiohead – Creep". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  56. ^ " – Radiohead – Creep". VG-lista. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  57. ^ " – Radiohead – Creep". Singles Top 100. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  58. ^ " – Radiohead – Creep". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  59. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  60. ^ "Radiohead Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  61. ^ " – Radiohead – Creep" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
  62. ^ "The ARIA Australian Top 100 Singles 1994". Australian Record Industry Association Ltd. Archived from the original on 25 October 2015. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
  63. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Radiohead – Creep". Music Canada. Retrieved 27 June 2016.
  64. ^ "Italian single certifications – Radiohead – Creep" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved 24 September 2018.
  65. ^ "British single certifications – Radiohead – Creep". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 13 April 2018. Select singles in the Format field. Select Platinum in the Certification field. Type Creep in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.


  • 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]