Radiohead’s Creep: the desperate cry of the outcasts

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How often do we feel strange, misplaced, unable to understand the world around us and its dynamics?

If the answer is “many times”, then it will happen often to you, as it happens to me, that you release a figurate scream against this feeling of alienation. And in those moments, you can easily reflect yourself on the phrase “I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo”.

But I’m a creep
I’m a Weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don’t belong here
I don’t belong here

Musically, the distinctive character of Radiohead’s Creep is represented by the “Dead Notes” played on the guitar, in the passage from the verse to the chorus. Ghost Notes, or Dead Notes, or Phantom notes, are unplayed notes that emit a distinct sound. They are obtained when the left hand of the musician stops the strings, touching them slightly, avoiding to make them vibrate, in order to produce a percussive sound with an undefined height. Greenwood, the guitarist, said that he did it because he didn’t like the quiet atmosphere of the song, so he hit the strings strongly, producing that unusual, peculiar noise. We could say that, trying to ruin it, he made the track. Those blocked and distorted notes have become, in fact, the most recognizable trait of the song.

But what is this song about? Easy: it’s about the torment of its author.

To creep means “to move slowly and carefully, in order to avoid being heard or noticed”. It’s crawling. Things that crawl are scary, and then this term becomes a noun that indicates the person who causes an unpleasant feeling. A creep is someone we would rather not have close to us, someone who embarrasses us. We are not, however, referring to an external person, to a woman (as many have interpreted and as the lyrics would let you think), but rather to the part of our character that we don’t want to see. We spend our lives trying to appear as pure light, but we also have our shadows. We want to appear as angels, but we have our demons as well.

Here is the deep sense of this passage: your ego that talks to yourself, in a desperate cry destined to remain unhearded.

Thom Yorke said in many interviews that he doesn’t want to sing this song anymore, because the man who wrote it, the one who experienced it and represented it, no longer exists. He ceased to perceive those feelings, those same feelings that continue to dominate today’s young generation, resigned and humiliated by the society that we built. Those feelings that make them take the guitar and start singing, often producing an authentic version of Creep. It would be foolish today to ask Thom Yorke to play it. He is no longer that young creep forced by the congenital eye problem to see things as they were in a kaleidoscope, where shapes, colors, nuances and combinations change, evolve and then destroy themselves.

He is no longer the boy who had to learn to live with his broken blinds, pretending to be a pirate to justify his isolation, his loneliness, keeping the hope alive.

The vision problems made Thom Yorke more sensitive to sounds and noises. He learned to listen to the streets, the trees, the cries of the soul and the voices of humanity. In the lyrics of his songs, he often raised those blinds, looking out and wondering if he belongs to another world, if this actually isn’t his place and how, as an alien, he would have seen and described earth.

For that reason, he ideally elevated himself and he looked down, seeing many isolated individuals, all busy in filling their lives with empty sensations. He saw those who realised that they lost everything, those who lost their hearts, unable to reach a real feeling. A world full of plastic, with prepackaged music, served to the public as in a fast-food.

In front of the show that we see every day, it can be easy and comfortable to lower the blinds, to forget all that noise from the head and embrace the darkness.

The music saved him, offering an alternative to darkness, because it’s the only art able to express the vision of both eyes.

In the video above, the song is the soundtrack of a scenes from the French movie Ils Se Marièrent et Eurent Beaucoup d’Enfants.

Among the many existing covers, I propose you the one made by Daniela Andrade, a young Canadian artist. For the delicacy it impresses, it is among my absolute favorites. She managed with elegance and poetry to transform a violent and, form many aspects, rough cry, into something fragile and sweet.

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Dario Giardi loves music, photography and writing. He is the author of “Trip among the notes. The Secrets of Musical Theory and Harmony”. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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