Thursday, May 17, 2012

Emma Hath a Song: "Creep"

Some people consider Radiohead to be the mother of modern independent rock. It's interesting to realize that they made such a powerful introduction to the world as "Creep."

Thom Yorke wrote "Creep" in the late 80s, while attending Exeter University, before the formation of Radiohead. Yorke gave a demo version to bassist Colin Greenwood, to get him to help put the band together. When initially released, "Creep" performed horribly in the charts, and only received considerable attention when it was re-released a year later. When the band recorded "Creep," they referred to it as their "Scott Walker" song, making the producers think it was a cover. Guitarist Jonny Greenwood thought the song was too quiet, and he tried to mess it up by playing the hard noises just before the chorus. Yorke loosely based the melody of the song on "The Air That I Breathe" by The Hollies. After "Creep"'s release, Radiohead gave credit to Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood as co-writers due to the similarity.

Yorke has said that the song is about a man who tries to get a woman's attention by following her. Supposedly, Yorke wrote the song from his own point of view. The concept of not feeling good enough for someone you have a crush on is easy enough to understand, but Radiohead have reportedly received fan mail from murderers, telling the band how much they could relate to the song.

Radiohead were reluctant to create the radio-friendly version of "Creep," feeling it would imply that they were selling out and that it would disturb the sentiment of the song. Yorke felt the song lost its anger due to the edit.

"Creep" has been covered many times in many varying styles. As early as 1995, The Pretenders performed a moving cover for The Isle of View, almost making it sound like it could have been written by Chrissie Hynde.

More recently, "Creep" has been covered by artists from Kelly Clarkson to Prince. Youtube artist Tom Milsom performed it on the harp at the first Vidcon online video conference. A haunting choral version by Scala & Kolacny Brothers was used in the trailers for The Social Network.

The public remains interested in this song, and in covering this song for fairly obvious reasons. Whatever stalker qualities it might have, "Creep" comes from a deep emotional place, one that many people have either been in or can empathize with. The melody, however simple, is moving.

And that's all that I hath for now.

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