The 1992 song “Creep,” Radiohead’s anthem of self loathing and unrequited love, was originally recorded in one take.
The song had been written several years earlier by singer Thom Yorke, when he was still a student at Exeter University. “When I wrote it,” Yorke said in an early interview, “I was in the middle of a really, really serious obsession. It lasted about eight months. And it was unsuccessful, which made it even worse. She knows who she is.”
The emotions were apparently still running deep when Yorke and his bandmates went into Chipping Norton Studios in their hometown of Oxford to record their debut album, Pablo Honey. The raw, cathartic quality of “Creep” caused an immediate stir, said producer Paul Kolderie. “Everyone in the studio applauded when it was done.”
The original take was largely retained, except for a few touch-ups. Yorke went back into the studio and recorded a rewritten first verse. He also agreed to change the sarcastic phrase “You’re so fucking special” to “You’re so very special” to make the song suitable for American radio. You can hear Yorke’s vocals from the sanitized version in the isolated track above. For the full arrangement, see the official video below.
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Pretenders version = BEST.
I have the highest respect for Radiohead and Tom Yorke, but I can’t understand how at least two generations of kids have fallen for this shameless depiction of a man rolling around in his own self-pity… It’s completely unbearable for me: It’s exactly the kind of despair that you’re not supposed to share with the rest of the world.
It is the fact that he DID share it that makes this song stand out, especially at the time of its release. It was a release of emotion into the realm of the socially uncomfortable that elevated what was, at the time, largely a glut of faux emotion throughout rock music. The fact that suddenly their burst something like this onto the scene that had raw emotion and made you react, however uncomfortably, that lifted the music being put out above into something more artful. In its baseness and depravity of an all out pity-party and emotional breakdown, really, was a look inside, which was against the external materialism of what rock music was at the time. This and songs like it lifted rock into the realm that could become emotionally satisfactory for its artists and consumers. That is why it lasts, that is why it broke through, and that is why it will become a large piece in every rock history course given.