HISTORY OF A LEGENDARY HIT: RADIOHEAD – CREEP
There are songs that remain hits out of time. They do not age, do not go out of fashion, pass with us through the years, give inspiration, joy and consolation.What are the stories behind these songs? How were they created?
In our new section, we will try to reveal this secret and learn more about the immortal hits of all time.
Today we will tell you about the debut single of the legendary Radiohead – ‘Creep’, which brought them worldwide fame.
Originally released in 1992, the song was not a big hit, but became a worldwide hit when it was re-released in 1993 to promote their first album Pablo Honey. The song peaked at number 7 on the UK Singles Chart and number 34 in the US.
‘Creep’ became such a massive hit that at concerts, fans asked the band to sing it countless times, while other songs didn’t interest them as much.
Thom Yorke’s unrequited love
Radiohead bassist Collin Greenwood told how Thom Yorke wrote “Creep” as a student in the late 1980s when he was in love with a girl who ignored him. He wanted to meet her, but he mustered up the courage only when he was drunk, and the girl refused him.
Yorke says ‘Creep’ tells a story about a man trying to get a woman’s attention by stalking her. But in the end, he lacks the self-confidence to feel worthy of her, because he constantly feels that he is not good enough. He literally puts this woman on a pedestal and sees her as special, while he considers himself the most ordinary guy. ‘There are wonderful people, and there are all the rest,’ said York.
How it all began
The recording of the track was no less interesting. In 1992, during rehearsals for their first album with producers Sean Slade and Paul Q. Kolderie, Radiohead spontaneously performed Creep.
Yorke jokingly called it a ‘Scott Walker song’ (60s British singer) and the producers mistook it for a cover.
After some unsuccessful attempts to record other songs, the producers suggested that Radiohead play Creep again. They recorded the song on the first try and everyone in the room burst into applause. And those same dull guitar sounds that became a feature of the composition, Jonny Greenwood originally played to spoil it.
After the band explained to the producers that ‘Creep’ was not a cover but their own original song, the producers called EMI to say they had just recorded Radiohead’s first single.
Radio rejections and low ratings
Creep was enthusiastically received by the EMI sound label and released as a single in September 1992.
However, Creep met with little success in the UK. Radio 1 called the song too depressing and depressing and refrained from airing it. The song peaked at number 78 on the UK Singles Chart and sold only 6,000 copies.
On the album version, Thom Yorke sings: ‘You’re so f—king special’. For the radio, I had to sing: ‘You’re so very special’. Yorke stated that this violated the ‘feeling of the song’. According to him, the song lost its anger as a result.
How did the song become a hit?
By the end of 1992 DJ Yoav Kutner was frequently playing Creep on Israeli radio and it eventually became a national hit. Radiohead’s management promptly released tour dates for the band in Israel to capitalize on this success.
The song became more and more popular around the world, and in 1996 the group conquered America, speaking as the opening act for Alanis Morissette.
‘Creep’ appeared in the cartoon ‘Beavis and Butthead’. Then, while promoting the album ‘Pablo Honey’ in the US, the American label Capitol reminded of this in an advertisement, and the following ad read: ‘Radiohead is better than Butt-head!’
‘Side effect’ of popularity
Fans found ‘Creep’ very similar to Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood’s ‘The Air That I Breathe’ (1972).
When ‘Creep’ was released and gained popularity, Albert and Mike sued for copyright infringement – and Radiohead had to share the song’s copyright. So, yes, Creep is not only owned by York, but also by Hammond and Hazelwood.
From love to hate
The song became popular all over the world. Yorke even began to receive fan mail from prisons, whose criminals said that the song was close to them. One killer even wrote that the song literally made him commit the crime.
And the more the song was asked to be performed at concerts, the more the group began to dislike it, and over time even felt real hatred for their hit. They even made a song called ‘My Iron Lung’ about their hatred of ‘Creep’ and started calling it ‘Crap’.
When Radiohead toured in support of their third album ‘OK Computer’ (1997), they were pretty tired of ‘Creep’ and tired of living in its shadow. Naturally, they didn’t want to be branded as a ‘one-hit band’. It got to the point that the musicians went on stage and said that this is a bad song and there is nothing good in it.
York was so angry when the song was mentioned in an interview that he flatly refused to perform it. Radiohead played ‘Creep’ less and less live.
From 1998 to 2001, and then from 2009 to 2016, they completely ignored their first hit in performances.
Numerous famous artists covered their covers of ‘Creep’.
In April 2008, Prince sang at the iconic Coachella ‘Creep’ festival. A recording of his cover appeared online as a bootleg (unofficial version) but was blocked at the request of Prince. After York found out about it, he said, ‘Well, tell him to unlock it. This is our song.
Korn, Tears For Fears, Damien Race, Anberlin, Scarling, The Pretenders, jazz musician Frank Bennett, Amanda Palmer and many others also presented their versions of the legendary hit.
In 2008, the song was featured on the Radiohead: The best of compilation and returned to high chart positions again, peaking at number 37 in the U.K. singles chart.
Radiohead is now playing Creep again in concert. And fans, 25 years later, still go crazy with love for her!