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Radiohead - Creep

March 27, 2019

One of the common household band names in the modern rock era and when you think of a hit I hit by them the one that most often comes to mind is Creep. Although hardcore followers of the band do enjoy it; it can be seen as a bit misleading in terms of what the band really has to offer and the band members used to say the exact same thing too. They knew what they had to offer but were glorified as a one-hit wonder.

Now no band likes to be thought as of a one-hit wonder especially a band like Radiohead who as of 2016 published their 9


studio album ‘A moon shaped pool’ was so much more than just their biggest hit ‘creep’. You have to understand it was a huge song at the time becoming a milestone in the prompt grunge era where bands such as Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains’, Dirt and Nirvana quickly rose to commercial success. ‘Creep’ by Radiohead in many ways basically jump-started the band's career.

It’s a self-loathing song about an insecure man who tries to get attention from a girl by following her around this man was of course the vocalist himself Thom Yorke. The story takes place in Thom’s Uni days back home in England in the late 80’s before the band had even formed. York had an eye for this beautiful angel-like girl; the sad part is that he would never actually get to know her though as he never dared to go up to her and talk to her properly. Instead, he would continuously look at her and follow her around like you guessed it a ‘Creep’. But that’s not where the story ends this lasted about 8 months and his obsession ended up being a detriment to his own self-esteem at one point he got himself drunk to feel confident enough to go up to her but ended up frightening her in the process. As fate would have it she unexpectedly attended one of Radiohead’s live performances and according to guitarist Johnny Greenwood “Tom was mortified because he’s never spoken to her or anything and here she was he was very shaken up after that”.

The song opens with Yorke clearly explaining the atmosphere and the feelings he has for the girl. He’s attracted but intimidated by her looks (20 seconds into song) “When you were here before Couldn’t look you in the eye”. In the pre-chorus York goes onto distance himself even more from the girl he seems fully convinced that he’ll never have a chance with this girl (50 seconds into song) “I wish I was special You’re so very special”. And in the chorus, he puts the final nail in the coffin by sharing his very dark and grim self-image (58 seconds into song) “But I’m a Creep, I’m a weirdo, What the hell am I doing here?”

Now while later working in the studio to record their first EP, titled ‘Drill’, ‘Creep’ was just an afterthought, but was eventually added to the tracklist after a cheerful response among the producers. At first ‘Creep’ suffered from poor sales and critical reception with radio DJs excluding them from playing their playlist calling the music too depressing and while such a pessimistic and melancholic song would sound unlikely to be a hit. Thanks to ear play in the US during the rebellious grunge era ‘Creep’ eventually became a massive success for Radiohead eventually reaching number 7 on the UK Singles Charts and number 34 in the Billboard Top 100. Helping their debut album ‘Pablo Honey’ sell 2 million copies worldwide.

Despite putting Radiohead on the map the band eventually started to dislike the song after relentless pressure to come up with another hit single and an exhausting 2-year touring schedule. The recording of their follow-up album ‘Bends’ became a hectic nightmare with each member going through bouts of self-doubt and depression, after the critical success of their 3


and my personal favorite of album of theirs ‘OK Computer’. Radiohead outgrew the raw simplistic of creep in favor of more ambitious and abstract art rock becoming separate to the breakthrough success and critical acclaim of their work since.

About ‘Creep’ guitarist Johnny said “Thom just doesn’t like playing it- it’s his words, he can do what he wants with it. It’s like; he’s not in that emotional space anymore so he doesn’t like playing it. And one of the things that’s so good about him that he’s a performer with convictions.” And this I can attest to I saw them in middle school 2012 it was my second ever concert, this time in the Toyota Center. First one was blink 182 Cynthia Woods Pavilion 2011. But yeah Radiohead was amazing I remember the energy of the people and the excitement, it was a good show. What I think Johnny Greenwood meant by describing York as a musician with emotional is that he has to perform songs that feel true to him, if they don’t there’s no reason trying to perform them since they will come off dishonest and meaningless.

‘Creep’ was a song that the band themselves didn’t have much faith in to begin with so it’s easy to see why it must have felt strange and frustrating to be associated with something that your convinced isn’t your best work. To rebel against the fan-favorite Radiohead made ‘my iron lung’ a song featured on their third EP by the same name. The name refers to a mechanical respirator in patients that suffer from paralyzed lungs essentially helping them stay alive. Although it sounds great; the person using must live inside it which is basically huge this metal cylinder laid horizontally with windows on the side and wheels to move it around. The iron lung was therefore a very clever metaphor for ‘Creep’ it was a song that financially kept the band alive, but it bought them creative restrictions since fans now expected them to create similar material in future projects. As a result Radiohead just stopped performing ‘Creep’ towards the end of the ‘OK Computer’ world tour. Despite a few sporadic instances between 2001 and 9 Radiohead rarely added ‘Creep’ to their live set list.

It seemed like creep would never have another chance in their live shows but on May 21


of 2016 at a show in Amsterdam during their ‘Moon shaped pool’ Tour something special occurred between songs a heckler, or I’m not sure if you would call it that. An enthusiastic fan apparently kept asking for creep to whom Thom Yorke looked up into his mic and said: “This is for the funny guy shouting creep in the back” and started playing the main melody on his guitar. Although it might seem like a bit of a tease this moment essentially planted the seeds for Radiohead to embrace creep once again. When interviewed about this moment Yorke replied “I kind of wound him up by starting to play it. Which was a bad idea as it was like lighting a fire.” And the fire surely began to light up. As two days after the Amsterdam show creep made it on setlist in Paris making it the beginning of the songs’ return to the spotlight on stage. While Thomas apprehensive of continuing playing the song live guitarist Ed O’Brien has added “It’s a good song. 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 “. The band has since continued to play the song live, so is there anything special about creep? Well, it released during the middle of the grunge era with a lead front manlike Yorke which many could relate, his deadpan voice and with themes of alienation, confusion, and self-pity. Many people called the song a rip-off of Nirvana or even The Hollies although Radiohead like so many other bands hated being labeled “Grunge” and hated the genre in general, they eventually unfolded as one of the quintessential bands. Thanks to game-changing albums such as the ‘Bends’ and ‘OK Computer’ so I think in many people’s eyes creep was just a humble beginning of what was to come. It certainly doesn’t have the surreal melancholia ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ from their 2


album or the progressive song structure of ‘Paranoid Android’ from ‘OK Computer’ or the experimentation found in the song ‘The National Anthem’ but like many successful alternative rock songs of the 90’s. It’s a strong melodic hook painfully sincere lyricism and raw energy that sells the song the most and makes it resonate still to this day.

Jackson Caldwell & Freddie Garcia

Mauricio Hernandez

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