The Untold Story Behind Radiohead’s Hate for “Creep”

Radiohead’s “Creep” is undeniably one of the most iconic songs of the 90s, a timeless classic that has left an indelible mark on the music industry. However, beneath the surface of this beloved track lies a captivating story of ambivalence and unexpected fame. In this article, we delve deep into the intriguing narrative of why Radiohead harbored mixed feelings toward their breakthrough single and how it ultimately impacted their career.

On September 21, 1992, Radiohead unleashed “Creep” upon the world. Little did they know that this single would be a defining moment in their career. It was the opening salvo from their debut album, “Pablo Honey,” released the following year. While the song would eventually become synonymous with the band, its creation was far from conventional.

One of the enduring mysteries surrounding “Creep” is its inspiration. According to folklore, the song was born from an encounter Thom Yorke had with a captivating woman, possibly during his time at Exeter University. In the lyrics, Yorke paints a vivid picture of his infatuation:

“When you were here before
Couldn’t look you in the eye
You’re just like an angel
Your skin makes me cry.”

These lines reflect an intense attraction, yet Thom Yorke’s portrayal of himself as a “creep” and a “weirdo” who doesn’t belong adds a layer of complexity to the narrative.

Surprisingly, Thom Yorke never mustered the courage to approach the mysterious woman who inspired “Creep.” Instead, he confessed to following her like, well, a “creep.” The woman would later attend a Radiohead performance, a situation that left the frontman mortified.

In a revealing interview in 1992, when asked whether the song was based on a real person, Yorke reluctantly admitted, “Hmm… I’ll now just say yes to that, because I’ll get into trouble. Yeah. It was a pretty strange period in my life. When I was at college and stuff and I was really f***ed up and wanted to leave and do proper things with my life like be in a rock band.”

Despite becoming Radiohead’s biggest hit at the time and reaching the Top 10 of the UK singles chart upon reissue in 1993, the band had a complicated relationship with “Creep.” The reasons for their ambivalence were multi-faceted.

Stylistically, “Creep” stood apart from the rest of Radiohead’s oeuvre. Their debut album, “Pablo Honey,” featured a sound quite distinct from the experimental and progressive direction the band would later take. Radiohead members felt that “Creep” did not truly represent their vision for their musical journey.

In a candid moment, Thom Yorke expressed dissatisfaction with the song’s lyrics, believing them to be subpar. He openly admitted, “I wasn’t very happy with the lyrics; I thought they were pretty crap.” This self-critique added to the band’s complex feelings towards their breakout track.

Adding to Radiohead’s woes, “Creep” became embroiled in a plagiarism case. It was found to have borrowed elements from The Hollies’ 1972 single “The Air That I Breathe.” This legal battle resulted in co-writing credits being extended to Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood.

In the grand scheme of their illustrious career, “Creep” risked overshadowing Radiohead’s other remarkable achievements. Many perceived the band as a one-hit wonder, which belied their diverse and groundbreaking catalog.

Remarkably, “Creep” endures as a defining song of its era, making frequent appearances on music lists and remaining one of the most covered alternative songs of its time. It marked a milestone in Radiohead’s career, propelling them into the mainstream.

While “Creep” undoubtedly played a pivotal role in Radiohead’s early success, the band refused to be defined by it. They released eight more studio albums, each marked by innovation and critical acclaim. Albums like “The Bends,” “OK Computer,” and “Kid A” solidified their reputation as musical pioneers.

Radiohead’s journey has been one of evolution and artistic exploration. They have transcended the confines of a single hit song and outlived many of their contemporaries. For loyal fans, “Creep” remains a cherished classic, but the excitement lies in what the band will create next.

In conclusion, Radiohead’s “Creep” is not merely a song but a chapter in the band’s storied career. Its initial reception, the band’s complex relationship with it, and its enduring legacy all contribute to the rich tapestry of Radiohead’s musical journey.

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