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Creep (Radiohead song)

"Creep" is a song by the English alternative rock band Radiohead, released as their debut single in 1992. It appeared on their first album, Pablo Honey (1993). "Creep" was not initially a chart success, but became a worldwide hit after being rereleased in 1993. Radiohead took elements from the 1972 song "The Air That I Breathe"; following legal action, Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood are credited as cowriters. The members of Radiohead grew weary of "Creep" in later years, and refused to perform it for a period. It is included in Radiohead: The Best Of.

Radiohead original creep cover.jpg
Single by Radiohead
from the album Pablo Honey
Released21 September 1992
StudioChipping Norton Recording Studios in Oxfordshire, England
Radiohead singles chronology
"Anyone Can Play Guitar"
Audio sample

Writing and recordingEdit

According to Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood, singer Thom Yorke wrote "Creep" while studying at Exeter University in the late 1980s.[2] Guitarist Jonny Greenwood said the song was inspired by a girl that Yorke had followed around and who unexpectedly attended a Radiohead performance.[3]

In 1992, during rehearsals for their first album, Pablo Honey, with producers Sean Slade and Paul Q. Kolderie, Radiohead spontaneously performed "Creep". Yorke jokingly described the song as the band's "Scott Walker song", which Slade and Kolderie mistook to mean the song was a cover.[4] After some failed attempts to record other songs, Slade and Kolderie suggested Radiohead play "Creep" again. They recorded it in a single take; after the performance everyone in the room burst into applause. After the band assured Kolderie that "Creep" was an original song, he called EMI to tell them to consider it as Radiohead's first single.[5] While the recording had minimal overdubs and the band had not intended to release it, the producers were impressed.[2][6]

The middle eight originally featured a guitar solo from Greenwood. When guitarist Ed O'Brien pointed out that the chord progression was the same as "The Air That I Breathe", a 1972 song by the Hollies, Yorke wrote a new middle eight, using that song's vocal melody. According to Greenwood, "It was funny to us in a way, sort of feeding something like that into [it]. It's a bit of change."[7]

The version issued for radio play replaces the line "so fucking special" with "so very special". Radiohead worried that issuing a censored version would be selling out, but decided it was acceptable since their idols Sonic Youth had done the same thing; nonetheless, Jonny Greenwood noted the British press "weren't impressed".[3] During the recording session for the censored lyrics, Kolderie convinced Yorke to rewrite the first verse, telling him he thought Yorke could do better.[8]

Composition and lyricsEdit

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).[9] Play 

The G–B–C–Cm chord progression is repeated throughout the song, only 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".[9] 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".[10]

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".[3] 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."[11] 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 result.[12]

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."[13] Jonny Greenwood said the song was in fact a happy song about "recognizing what you are".[3] According to Guardian critic Alexis Petridis, "Creep" has an "almost complete lack of resemblance to the music [Radiohead] went on to make".[14]

Release and receptionEdit

EMI released "Creep" as a single in September 1992,[15] when it reached number 78 on the UK Singles Chart, selling 6,000 copies.[16] Radio 1 found the song "too depressing" and refrained from playing it.[17] Radiohead moved to a second single, "Anyone Can Play Guitar", to promote Pablo Honey, and released a non-album single, "Pop Is Dead".

Towards the end of 1992, DJ Yoav Kutner played "Creep" often on Israeli radio, having been introduced to the song by a EMI representative, and it became a national hit. Radiohead quickly set up tour dates in the country to capitalise on the success.[18][19] "Creep" had similar success in New Zealand, Spain, and Scandinavian countries.[20] 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 released 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.[2] It remains Radiohead's highest-charting single in the Billboard Hot 100. 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.[17]

Radiohead initially did not want to reissue "Creep" in the UK, but 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".[21] The 1993 reissue reached number seven on the UK Singles Chart.[22] The release was bolstered by a September 1993 Top of the Pops performance, which drew criticism from the music press and artists including Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher.[3][23] In the US, "Creep" was aided by its appearance in a 1994 episode of the MTV animated series Beavis and Butt-Head; Capitol, Radiohead's US label, used the endorsement in a marketing campaign with the slogan "Beavis and Butt-Head Say [Radiohead] Don't Suck".[24]


Following the release of Pablo Honey, Radiohead spent two years touring in support of Belly and PJ Harvey. They performed "Creep" at every show, and came to resent it. O'Brien recalled: "We seemed to be living out the same four and a half minutes of our lives over and over again. It was incredibly stultifying."[24] Yorke said the band felt they were being judged on a single song and had to move on.[24] In 2015, drummer Philip Selway said that the success of "Creep" had given them more freedom with their record company, but that they had "other ideas" they wanted to explore.[25] The 1994 song "My Iron Lung" was written in response to the reaction to "Creep"; the song contains the lines: "This is our new song / just like the last one / a total waste of time".[24]

During the tour for Radiohead's third album, OK Computer (1997), Yorke became hostile when "Creep" was mentioned in interviews and refused requests to play it, telling a Montréal audience: "Fuck off, we're tired of it."[26] He dismissed fans demanding to hear it as "anally retarded".[26] After the tour, Radiohead did not perform "Creep" until the encore of their 2001 hometown concert at South Park, Oxford, after an equipment failure halted a performance of another song.[27]

Radiohead performed "Creep" as the opening song of their headline performance at the 2009 Reading Festival.[28] They did not perform it again until 2016, when they played it several times on tour for their ninth studio album, A Moon Shaped Pool. After a fan spent the majority of a concert shouting for it, the band decided to play it to "see what the reaction is, just to see how it feels".[29] They also performed the song during the encore of their headline performance at the Glastonbury Festival that year; according to Guardian critic Alexis Petridis, "Given Radiohead’s famously fractious relationship with their first big hit ... the performance of Creep [was] greeted with something approaching astonished delight."[14] In 2017, O'Brien said: "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."[30] In the same interview, Yorke said: "It can be cool sometimes, but other times I want to stop halfway through and be like, 'Nah, this isn't happening'."[30]

In December 2007, VH1 ranked "Creep" the 31st greatest song of the 1990s.[31] In June 2008, "Creep" re-entered the UK Singles Chart at number 37 after its inclusion on Radiohead: The Best Of.[32] As of April 2019, it was the UK's most streamed song released in 1992, with 10.1 million streams.[33]


"Creep" has been covered by artists including Frank Bennett,[34] Haley Reinhart and Postmodern Jukebox,[35] the Pretenders,[36] Kelly Clarkson[36] and Tears for Fears on their Rule The World Tour.[37] In April 2008, American musician Prince covered "Creep" at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. A bootleg recording was shared online, but removed at Prince's request; after being informed of the situation in an interview, Yorke said: "Well, tell him to unblock it. It's our song."[38][39] A cover of performed by Scala & Kolacny Brothers accompanied the trailer for the 2010 film The Social Network.[40]

Copyright infringementEdit

The chord progression and melody in "Creep" is similar to that of the 1972 song "The Air That I Breathe", written by Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood.[41] According to Hammond, Rondor Music, the publisher of "The Air That I Breathe", sued Radiohead for copyright infringement, and Hammond and Hazlewood received cowriting credits and a percentage of the royalties.[42] He said Radiohead "were honest" about re-using the composition, and so the songwriters agreed only "a little piece" of the royalties.[43]

In January 2018, American singer Lana Del Rey said on Twitter that Radiohead were taking legal action against her for allegedly plagiarising "Creep" on her 2017 track "Get Free", asking for 100% of publishing royalties instead of Del Rey's offer of 40%. She denied that "Creep" had inspired "Get Free".[44] Radiohead's publisher Warner/Chappell Music confirmed it was seeking songwriting credit for "all writers" of "Creep", but denied that a lawsuit had been brought or that Radiohead had demanded 100% of royalties.[45] Performing at Lollapalooza Brazil in March, Del Rey told the audience that "my lawsuit's over, I guess I can sing that song any time I want".[46]

Track listingEdit

Original UK 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
Dutch release (CD)
  1. "Creep" (Album Version) – 3:59
  2. "Yes I Am" – 4:26
  3. "Inside My Head" (live) – 3:07
  4. "Creep" (live) – 4:19
  • Note: All tracks recorded live at the Metro in Chicago by JBTV on June 30, 1993, except A1 recorded live for KROQ Radio on July 13, 1993.
  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 taken from the album Pablo Honey.


  • Thom Yorke – lead vocals
  • Colin Greenwood – bass guitar
  • Jonny Greenwood – lead guitar, piano
  • Ed O'Brien – rhythm guitar
  • Philip Selway – drums



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[71] Gold 35,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[72] 2× Platinum 160,000 
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[73] Gold 45,000*
Italy (FIMI)[74] 2× Platinum 100,000 
United Kingdom (BPI)[75] Platinum 600,000 

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
 sales+streaming figures based on certification alone


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  2. ^ a b c Marzorati, Gerald. "The Post Rock Band". The New York Times. 1 October 2000. Retrieved on 28 July 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d e Kempf, Christi. "The Radiohead Vision Creeps Onto Airwaves". Chicago Sun-Times. 7 June 1993.
  4. ^ Randall, p. 83
  5. ^ Randall, p. 83-84
  6. ^ Sprague, David. "Contagious Creep". Billboard. 15 May 1993.
  7. ^ "Creeping into the Limelight". Fender Frontline. Fall 1993.
  8. ^ Randall, p. 99
  9. ^ a b 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. Capuzzo uses "+" to indicate major and "-" to indicate minor (C+, C-).
  10. ^ Capuzzo ibid. Also quotes Ross 2001, 118.
  11. ^ CD Inlay Archive. 1993 Archived 29 June 2012 at
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  13. ^ Sullivan, Jim. "Creep stumbles onto fame". The Boston Globe. 8 October 1993.
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  • Clover, Joshua (2009). 1989: Bob Dylan Didn't Have This to Sing About. University of California Press. ISBN 052094464X.
  • Forbes, Brandon W. and George A. Reisch (2009). Radiohead and Philosophy: Fitter Happier More Deductive. Open Court Publishing. ISBN 0812696646.
  • Jones, Carys Wyn (2005). "The Aura of Authenticity: Perceptions of Honesty, Sincerity, and Truth in 'Creep' and 'Kid A'". In Joseph Tate (ed.). The Music and Art of Radiohead. Ashgate. ISBN 0754639797.
  • Randall, Mac. Exit Music: The Radiohead Story. Delta, 2000. ISBN 0-385-33393-5
  • Reising, Russell (2005). Speak To Me: The Legacy Of Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 0754640191.
  • Reynolds, Tom (2008). Touch Me, I'm Sick: The 52 Creepiest Love Songs You've Ever Heard. Chicago Review Press. pp. 47–51. ISBN 9781556527531.

External linksEdit