a webstory by ExitMusicAr
"Creep" is the second song in Radiohead's debut album, Pablo Honey. It was released as the leading single of the album in 1992 to a poor radio reception. A year later, after the band's first tour around the UK and the US, it was reissued.
Despite the cold reception at home and lack of radio play, the song broke through in Israel and the United States, making stations and critics back in the UK change their minds about it.
The artwork for the single is a painting by Maurice Burns, called "Craigavon Under Age Drinkers Rule".
The band used to call the song "Crap" originally - emphasising their dislike of the song. It was also referred to by "our John Walker" song in the studio, which lead producers Sean Slade and Paul Q Kolderie to believe it was a cover song.
The song was recorded while the band was warming up before comitting to tape the bside "Inside my Head" and another album song, "Lurgee".
Jonny's attacks to his guitar right before the chorus are nowadays one of the song's trademark but they seem to have been his attempt at deliberately ruining the song: “That nervous twitch he does, that’s just his way of checking that the guitar is working, that it’s loud enough, and he ended up doing it while we were recording. And while we were listening to it, it was like ‘Hey, what the fuck was that? Keep that! Do that!'” (RollingStone, 1993)
"The song goes along and then you have that ‘fucking’ thing and then you have Jon’s ‘Ker-runch’ thing come in, and the song is like slashing its wrists. Halfway through the song it suddenly starts killing itself off, which is the whole point of the song really. It’s a real self-destruct song, there’s a real self-destruction ethic in a lot of the things we do onstage.” - The Zine, 1992
Lyrics-wise, Thom offered several explanations as the years went by: "Creep" is more the way people look at you. The guy in the song doesn't necessarily believe that he's a creep, but he's being told he is. But these things change. "Creep" is the term for someone who follows people around and drinks on his own in bars and stuff, but the idea came from a rocky relationship I was having. - Sunday Chronicle San Francisco, 1993
"When I wrote that song, I was in the middle of a really really serious obsession that got really out of hand. It lasted about eight months. And it was unsuccessful, which made it even worse. She knows who she is (...) It was all sad paranoia, completely in my own head; but I really thought I had to be somebody different. And I still want to be that person; I want to be happy; I want to look good, I want to command the situation I'm in. But that'll never happen" - [NME, October 1992]
I find it very disturbing that there are thousands and thousands of these wonderful love songs which aren't really wonderful at all, and it's evident that the people who were writing them have never even been close to anything resembling the emotions they represent. Love songs have been killed by mainstream music, and to actually write a love song is kind of a peculiar thing to do these days. - Sunday Chronicle San Francisco, 1993
The promo video for the song was recorded in The Zodiac, Oxford: "We filmed the video for Creep in there in 1992, playing two shows: the morning one was an all-ages show with 11-year-olds pogoing and their parents stood against the wall waiting for them to go home, and the later show in the evening had an older crowd. We went on a US tour after that video came out. As it was on heavy rotation, it felt like everywhere we went there was a little bit of Oxford with us" - Colin Greenwood
The band also taped a rendition of this song for MTV Beach House in 1993, a performance which remains in the fans' memory mostly because of how uncomfortable Thom looks.
Creep - MTV Beach House @ YouTube
The song was dropped from the regular setlists around 1998, and seldom played after that. However, the song made a comeback to the setlists in 2009, when Radiohead toured South America for the first time. They even kicked off a concert in Reading Festival with the song, fresh after the South American tour.
Creep - Live in Buenos Aires 2018
In 2021, Thom Yorke released "Creep - Very 2021 RMX" in digital platforms - a 9 minutes, slowed down remix of the acoustic version released in the EP "My Iron Lung". Thom created this version a few months earlier for a runway show of Undercover, Jun Takahashi's fashion brand.
Creep - Very 2021 RMX @ Spotify
Yorke isn’t sure what to make of the deep chord “Creep” has struck in certain listeners – “We’ve had some strange letters” – and already feels a bit removed from the song: “It’s like it’s not our song anymore; when we play it, it feels like we’re doing a cover.” - Rolling Stone, 1993
I first heard “Creep” on the radio, and it somehow felt different to me. Thom’s voice and that explosive guitar just really got me. So I went to track it down in this store in New Haven, bought a cassette of it and listened to it over and over (...) I didn’t suspect then that they were fans of my band, Miracle Legion. (...) The first time we met, Thom kept talking about how much he loved my song, “All For The Best”, so I wasn’t surprised that he did such a great version of it [on 2009 Mulcahy tribute album, Ciao My Shining Star]. What I’d really love to do someday is to record something together with Thom – I know our voices have something similar about them. - Mark Mulcahy, Uncut Magazine (2017)
All for the Best (Video)
Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood sued Radiohead, alleging that it sounded a lot like their 1972 ballad “The Air That I Breathe,” recorded by The Hollies. A deal was reached to give Hammond and Hazlewood songwriting credits and, of course, a cut of the royalties.
The Air That I Breathe - The Hollies