|Single by Radiohead|
|from the album Pablo Honey|
|Released||21 September 1992|
|Studio||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. Radiohead took elements from the 1972 song "The Air That I Breathe"; following legal action, Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood are credited as cowriters. The members of Radiohead grew weary of "Creep" in later years, and refused to perform it for a period. It is included in Radiohead: The Best Of.
According to Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood, singer Thom Yorke wrote "Creep" while studying at Exeter University in the late 1980s. Guitarist Jonny Greenwood said 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, Pablo Honey, with producers Sean Slade and Paul Q. Kolderie, Radiohead spontaneously performed "Creep". Yorke jokingly described the song as the band's "Scott Walker song", which Slade and Kolderie mistook 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 it 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 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."
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 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". According to Guardian critic Alexis Petridis, "Creep" has an "almost complete lack of resemblance to the music [Radiohead] went on to make".
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 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. It remains Radiohead's highest-charting single in 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 artists including Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher. In the US, "Creep" was aided by its appearance in a 1994 episode of the MTV animated series Beavis and Butt-Head; Capitol, Radiohead's US label, used the endorsement in a marketing campaign with the slogan "Beavis and Butt-Head Say [Radiohead] Don't Suck".
Following the release of Pablo Honey, Radiohead spent two years touring in support of Belly and PJ Harvey. They performed "Creep" at every show, and came to resent it. O'Brien recalled: "We seemed to be living out the same four and a half minutes of our lives over and over again. It was incredibly stultifying." Yorke said the band felt they were being judged on a single song and had to move on. In 2015, drummer Philip Selway said that the success of "Creep" had given them more freedom with their record company, but that they had "other ideas" they wanted to explore. The 1994 song "My Iron Lung" was written in response to the reaction to "Creep"; the song contains the lines: "This is our new song / just like the last one / a total waste of time".
During the tour for Radiohead's third album, OK Computer (1997), Yorke became hostile when "Creep" was mentioned in interviews and refused requests to play it, telling a Montréal audience: "Fuck off, we're tired of it." He 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.
Radiohead performed "Creep" as the opening song of their headline performance at the 2009 Reading Festival. They did not perform it again until 2016, when they played 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 also performed the song during the encore of their headline performance at the Glastonbury Festival that year; according to Guardian critic Alexis Petridis, "Given Radiohead's famously fractious relationship with their first big hit ... the performance of Creep [was] greeted with something approaching astonished delight." In 2017, O'Brien said: "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." 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'."
In December 2007, VH1 ranked "Creep" the 31st greatest song of the 1990s. In June 2008, "Creep" re-entered the UK Singles Chart at number 37 after its inclusion on Radiohead: The Best Of. As of April 2019, it was the UK's most streamed song released in 1992, with 10.1 million streams.
"Creep" has been covered by artists including Frank Bennett,Haley Reinhart and Postmodern Jukebox, the Pretenders,Kelly Clarkson and Tears for Fears on their Rule The World Tour. 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." A cover of performed by Scala & Kolacny Brothers accompanied the trailer for the 2010 film The Social Network.
The chord progression and melody in "Creep" is similar to that of the 1972 song "The Air That I Breathe", written by Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood. According to Hammond, Rondor Music, the publisher of "The Air That I Breathe", sued Radiohead for copyright infringement, and Hammond and Hazlewood received cowriting credits and a percentage of the royalties. He said Radiohead "were honest" about re-using the composition, and so the songwriters agreed only "a little piece" of the royalties.
In January 2018, American singer Lana Del Rey said on Twitter that Radiohead were taking legal action against her for allegedly plagiarising "Creep" on her 2017 track "Get Free", 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 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. 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".
The original versions of "Lurgee", "Blow Out", "You" and "Vegetable" are taken from the album Pablo Honey.
|Canada (Music Canada)||2× Platinum||160,000|
|Denmark (IFPI Denmark)||Gold||45,000*|
|Italy (FIMI)||2× Platinum||100,000|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Platinum||600,000|
*sales figures based on certification alone
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