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 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.
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 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. 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.
"Creep" shares a chord progression and melody with "The Air That I Breathe", a 1972 song recorded by the Hollies. The song's writers Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood sued and received cowriting 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."
Composition and lyrics
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". 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". 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." 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.
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
Despite initial reluctance, staff at EMI ultimately grew enthusiastic about "Creep", and the label decided to issue it as a single. "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. "Creep" reached number 78 on the UK Singles Chart, selling only 6,000 copies. 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.
"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 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. 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 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." 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 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".
In December 2007, the song was ranked at #31 on "VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of the 90s". In June 2008, "Creep" reentered the UK Singles Chart at number 37 after its inclusion on the compilation album Radiohead: The Best Of. "Creep" has been listed as the third best indie song of all time in the 'All Time Indie Top 50' 
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" 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".
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."
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.'" 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.'" Later that year, the band performed the song during the encore of their headline performance at the Glastonbury Festival.
- 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 Hot Modern Rock Tracks||2|
|US Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks||20|
|US Billboard Pop Songs||39|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Gold|
|Canada (Music Canada)||Gold|
- In 1996, Frank Bennett's big band version of "Creep" was voted into the 1996 Triple J Hottest 100 list.
- In 2013, Argentinian lounge singer Karen Souza's cover of "Creep" was used extensively in the film The Zero Theorem
- In 2015, a jazzed-up cover by Haley Reinhart and Postmodern Jukebox was released on YouTube in April to critical acclaim and quickly reached 6 million views and the number 1 position on the iTunes Jazz Chart.
Live Cover performances
- Sarah Geronimo performed the song on her 24/SG Concert in 2013. A concert review noted the performance as the highlight of the show.
- 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. This version featuring Chrissie Hynde has had 5 million plays since it was uploaded on YouTube in 2007.
Appearances in other media
- The song was covered by Clint Mansell and Coco Sumner, and played at the end of the film Filth starring James McAvoy.
- The Scala and Kolacny Brothers' cover version was later featured in a trailer for the 2010 film The Social Network. Their atmospheric performance of the song helped the trailer amass millions of views.
- The Brazilian actor and singer Wagner Moura recorded a version of "Creep" to a soundtrack for the movie O Homem do Futuro.
- A cover of "Creep" by Karen Souza is used as a theme song in Terry Gilliam's 2013 movie The Zero Theorem.
- The animated film The Book of Life includes the chorus of "Creep", sung by Diego Luna over acoustic guitar.
- Appears in the film the French film, Ils se marièrent et eurent beaucoup d'enfants; Translation: They married and had many children.
- In Season 5 of Community, an a cappella version of the song is performed by the sons of character Shirley Bennett.
- The song appears in the finale of E4's television series My Mad Fat Diary
- Chilean singer Américo covered the song in Canal 13 late show Buenas Noches.
- Actress and comedian Mary Lynn Rajskub performed the song on the show The Comedy Jam.
- Rap artist Chino XL sampled the chorus lyrics and the title for his 1996 single "Kreep."
- Reising (2005), p.210
- "Creep" single liner notes
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- Capuzzo ibid. Also quotes Ross 2001, 118.
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- Randall, p. 90-91
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