September/October 1992. The promo poster at the top of this posting shows the extent of the UK tour undertaken by Radiohead, as part of the promotional activity to support the release of Creep. You’ll note that they were supporting The Frank and Walters, an indie-pop band from Cork, Ireland who, on the surface at least, didn’t take themselves too seriously.
It’s a period when dance/house music was all the rage and when guitar-music was again largely out of fashion, unless your band came from America. There were exceptions, with the likes of Manic Street Preachers, Ride, PJ Harvey and Teenage Fanclub all on the bill at the Reading festival the previous month (The Wonder Stuff, Public Enemy and Nirvana had been the respective headliners on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday).
I was at the Frank and Walters shows in both Edinburgh and Glasgow in 1992. I recall enjoying the support act, but not being entirely convinced they had quite enough about them to ensure some fame and fortune. Maybe the fact that their hard-edged guitars, use of profanity and downright moodiness being so out of sync with all almost that was going on among UK musicians at the time that ensured it would be a total flop. I was in my very late 20s, and it really was still all about going out, with either my new partner or with a group of friends, having a good time before getting home safely with a smile on your face. My days of angst-ridden music were firmly in the rearview mirror, so that’s my excuse for not going out and picking up a copy of Creep.
But I wasn’t alone. Very few folk bought it. It seems around 6,000 copies, mostly on CD, were shifted in September 1992. Those who sought out the 12″ vinyl, can now get £200 on the second-hand market if they were now inclined to sell. The follow-ups, Anyone Can Play Guitar and Pop Is Dead, each spent two weeks in the Top 75, albeit the former sold enough copies in the first week of release in February 1993, to enter at #32.
By the middle of 1993, Creep had become an underground hit in the USA, thanks to MTV and a number of alt-rock/student radio stations putting it on heavy rotation. It even got to the stage where Radiohead performed it on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, the main talk show to be broadcast across the country by NBC.
In September 1993, EMI reissued Creep in the UK. It went to #7 and provided Radiohead with the first step to megastardom. The band hadn’t been terribly keen to have the single reissued, feeling that it totally overshadowed anything else they had written or released to this point. I actually saw for myself what they meant as on 1 December 1993, I caught them as the support for James at Glasgow Barrowlands, a gig where their performance, to my ears, blew away the headliners, but which was met with huge indifference until they performed Creep. But as soon as they got onto the next song, the audience’s attention had again drifted….this was James at the beginning of their stadium rock era and Radiohead’s more artful and less accessible music wasn’t what most folk wanted to hear.
It’s really hard to get my head around the fact that next year will mark the 30th anniversary of those shows supporting The Frank & Walters. As I said, I’d love to be able to claim that I latched on immediately, but I’d be lying. It was that Barrowlands performance just over a year on that made me acknowledge that Radiohead were, as the song goes, so fucking special.
mp3: Radiohead – Creep
Here’s the other songs from the 1992 release:-
Some of you night know this, but I wasn’t aware until doing a wee bit of research for this post.
Creep had quickly become a song hated by Radiohead, but there was an acceptance that it had to be played live at every show in order to keep things sweet with the label bosses and their fanbase. The band then wrote My Iron Lung, purposely about their hatred of Creep.
The next time I went to see Radiohead was March 1995 at the Garage in Glasgow, on their own headlining tour to promote the release of The Bends. I was sure, despite the claims that they hated the song by then, that Creep was played that night. A check of the set list indicates that it was…..followed immediately by My Iron Lung. It must have designed that way to provide a sort of therapy for everyone involved.