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
Length 3:59
Radiohead singles chronology
"Anyone Can Play Guitar"
Music sample

"Creep" is a song by the English alternative rock band Radiohead. Radiohead released "Creep" as their debut single in 1992, and it later appeared on their first album, Pablo Honey (1993). During its initial release, "Creep" was not a chart success. However, upon re-release in 1993, it became a worldwide hit. 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, called "Craigavon Under Age Drinkers Rule".[5]

Background and recording

According to Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood, Thom Yorke wrote "Creep" while studying at Exeter University in the late 1980s.[6] Guitarist Jonny Greenwood said that the song was inspired by a girl that Yorke had followed around who showed up unexpectedly during a show by the band.[7]

In 1992, during rehearsal sessions with producers Sean Slade and Paul Q. Kolderie, Radiohead spontaneously performed "Creep". Yorke described "Creep" to the producers as "our Scott Walker song"; Slade and Kolderie mistook the singer's remark and believed the song was a cover.[8] After tension arose due to unsatisfactory attempts at recording other songs, Slade and Kolderie tried to improve morale by requesting Radiohead to play "Creep" again. The band recorded the song in a single take; after the performance everyone in the room burst into applause. Once the band assured Kolderie that "Creep" was an original song, he called EMI to tell them to consider the song as Radiohead's next single.[9] While the recording had minimal overdubs and the band did not intend to release it, the producers were impressed with the song.[6][10]

Due to similarities to "The Air That I Breathe", a song recorded by the Hollies in 1973, Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood are credited as co-writers of "Creep".[11][12] "Creep" uses a chord progression used in "The Air That I Breathe" in its verse and a melody from "The Air That I Breathe" in the bridge following the second chorus.[13]

Composition and lyrics

Ostinato from Radiohead's "Creep" features modal mixture, common tones between adjacent triads (B between G & B, C and G between C & Cm, see: Macro analysis), and an emphasis on subdominant harmony (IV = C in G major).[14] Play 

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".[14] 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".[15]

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".[7] 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."[16] 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.[17]

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."[18] Jonny Greenwood said the song was in fact a happy song about "recognizing what you are".[7]

The version issued for US radio play replaced 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.[7] 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.[19]

Release and reception

Despite initial reluctance, staff at EMI ultimately grew enthusiastic about "Creep", and the label decided to issue it as a single.[20] "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.[21] "Creep" reached number 78 on the UK Singles Chart, selling only 6,000 copies.[22] The band soon moved onto 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" incessantly on Israeli radio. He had been introduced to the song by a local representative of EMI. The song soon became a national hit. Radiohead quickly set up tour dates in the country to capitalise on the success.[23] "Creep" had similar success in New Zealand, Spain, and Scandinavian countries.[24] 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.[6] 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".[21]

Radiohead initially did not want to reissue "Creep" in the United Kingdom, but eventually 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".[25] The 1993 reissue reached number seven on the UK Singles Chart.[26] 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".[7][27] In December 2007, the song was ranked at #31 on "VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of the 90's".[28] In June 2008, "Creep" reentered the UK Singles Chart at number 37 after its inclusion on the compilation album Radiohead: The Best Of.[29]


After mid-1998, Radiohead did not play the song live at all until the final encore of a 2001 hometown concert at South Park, Oxford, when they played it in a seemingly impromptu decision after an equipment failure on the organ just after the start of "Motion Picture Soundtrack".[30] Thom Yorke commented that they would be playing a "slightly older song... I think."

After the 2009 Reading Festival, "Creep" was not heard live for seven years until 2016, when the song was performed several times throughout the tour promoting their ninth studio album, A Moon Shaped Pool. Thom Yorke got the idea of bringing it back when someone spent the majority of a concert shouting for it. He stated, "We just said, ‘Let’s see what the reaction is, just to see how it feels."[31]

In April 2008, American musician Prince covered "Creep" at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. This version was captured on a video from a concert-goer's mobile phone, uploaded online, and shared through Reddit. However, it was quickly taken down at Prince's request. After being told of the situation in an interview, Yorke said "Well, tell him to unblock it. It's our song."[32][33]

Track listing

UK original release
  1. "Creep" – 3:55
  2. "Lurgee" – 3:07
  3. "Inside My Head" – 3:12
  4. "Million Dollar Question" – 3:18
(Cassette - Promo)
  1. "Creep" – 3:56
  2. "Faithless, the Wonder Boy" – 4:10
UK re-release (CD)
  1. "Creep" (album version) – 3:58
  2. "Yes I Am" – 4:25
  3. "Blow Out" (remix) – 4:00
  4. "Inside My Head" (live) – 3:07
UK re-release (12" vinyl)
  1. "Creep" (acoustic) – 4:19
  2. "You" (live) - 3:39
  3. "Vegetable" (live) - 3:07
  4. "Killer Cars" (live) - 2:17
  1. "Creep" – 3:56
Digital re-release
  1. "Creep" 3:56
  2. "Inside My Head" 3:12
  3. "Million Dollar Question" 3:18
  4. "Yes I Am" 4:26
  5. "Blow Out (Remix)" 4:19

The original versions of "Lurgee", "Blow Out", "You" and "Vegetable" are all taken from the album Pablo Honey.


Chart performance

Chart (1992/1993) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[34] 6
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[35] 15
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[36] 37
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[37] 8
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[38] 30
Denmark (Tracklisten)[39] 18
France (SNEP)[40] 17
Germany (Official German Charts)[41] 50
Ireland (IRMA)[42] 13
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[43] 13
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[44] 19
Norway (VG-lista)[45] 3
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[46] 35
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[47] 39
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[48] 7
US Billboard Hot 100[49] 34
US Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks 2
US Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks 20
US Billboard Pop Songs 39


Region Certification
Australia (ARIA)[50] Gold
Italy (FIMI)[51] Platinum
United Kingdom (BPI)[52] Gold
Canada (Music Canada)[53] Gold


Live Cover performances

Appearances in other media



  1. Reising (2005), p.210
  2. Forbes and Reisch (2009)
  3. Tate (2005), p.137
  4. Clover (2009), p.82
  5. "Creep" single liner notes
  6. 1 2 3 Marzorati, Gerald. "The Post Rock Band". The New York Times. 1 October 2000. Retrieved on 28 July 2008.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 Kempf, Christi. "The Radiohead Vision Creeps Onto Airwaves". Chicago Sun-Times. 7 June 1993.
  8. Randall, p. 83
  9. Randall, p. 83-84
  10. Sprague, David. "Contagious Creep". Billboard. 15 May 1993.
  11. Wardle, Ben. "Get off Coldplay's case – similar songs can co-exist peacefully". 12 May 2009. Retrieved on 22 September 2010.
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  13. English, Tim (2007). Sounds Like Teen Spirit: Stolen Melodies, Ripped-Off Riffs, and the Secret History of Rock and Roll, p.149. ISBN 9781583480236.
  14. 1 2 Capuzzo, Guy. "Neo-Riemannian Theory and the Analysis of Pop-Rock Music", p.186–87, Music Theory Spectrum, Vol. 26, No. 2, pp. 177–199. Autumn 2004.
  15. Capuzzo ibid. Also quotes Ross 2001, 118.
  16. CD Inlay Archive. 1993
  17. Randall, p. 98
  18. Sullivan, Jim. "Creep stumbles onto fame". The Boston Globe. 8 October 1993.
  19. Randall, p. 99
  20. Randall, p. 84-85
  21. 1 2 Jennings, Dave. "Creepshow". Melody Maker. 25 September 1993.
  22. Randall, p. 88
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  24. Randall, p. 90-91
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  26. Randall, p. 118
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External links

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