The Boston Globe, october 8th 1993

Creep stumbles onto fame
by Jim Sullivan

It's barely noon, but Radiohead's Thom Yorke has been awake for a very un-rock 'n' roll-like four hours. This certainly can't be one of the perks of nascent stardom. He's been in his hotel room staring at the TV, getting rudely acquainted with US televangelists' custom of begging for dollars. He's feeling sorry for all those people dialing in to pledge.

But why did the young Englishman rise with the roosters in Norfolk, Va., anyway?

Yorke, on the phone, mutters something about being tossed off the tour bus at an ungodly hour, but adds with a laugh, "I don't quite know why. I don't have complete control of my fate at the moment."

Success will do that and, at the moment, the young band is in a very enviable position: The group's debut album, "Pablo Honey," just turned gold, signifying sales of 500,000 copies. "Creep," the first single, has become a from-out-of-left-field hit.

Sings a fragile, envious Yorke: "I wish I was special/You're so expletive special/But I'm a creep/I'm a weirdo/What the hell am I doing here?/I don't belong here." Jonny Greenwood's scraping, stuttering guitar licks explode into a full-throttle frenzy as Ed O'Brien and Yorke join him. It's an anthem for anyone who has ever felt left out of the mix or cast aside. Hurt, but verging on hostile.

"Creep" first found a home on alternative radio, but it has crossed over to the pop charts (up to No. 29) and album-oriented rock stations. When played on the latter format, its delicate chords, nervous arrangement and self-loathing viewpoint provide a rather sharp contrast to the strutting, testosterone-prone fist-waving bands that dominate.

"Actually," says Yorke, with a laugh, "live, there are elements of that strutting stuff in us. But still, at the same time, we're fully aware of it. I have a real problem being a man in the '90s, anyway. 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's one of the things I'm always trying: To assert a sexual persona and on the other hand trying desperately to negate it."

"Creep" is a most inadvertant hit. Bostonians Paul Q. Kolderie and Sean Slade were in England, producing "Pablo Honey" with Radiohead. The band ran through the song in the studio to allow the engineers to set the proper levels. "It was an old song", explains Yorke. There was no plan to even record it until Kolderie and Slade said they thought Radiohead had something there. And, they had the tape rolling.

"It was just a song we were doing that hadn't worked very well in rehearsals," says Yorke. "We didn't really have an angle on it. And then we discovered we didn't need an angle on it, except maybe Jonny's guitar... 'Creep' just grabbed people by the throat. It wasn't intentional."

The inspiration, Yorke suggests, came from the fact that Radiohead was an untested entry in this vast "alternative" rock field. Did the five belong? "It was at a crossing point in my songwriting," Yorke says. "Because I'd gone from writing songs in my bedroom to being somebody who had huge record company figures over my shoulders listening to me." In other words, he was a potential commodity.

Fans of "Creep" are no doubt pleased that it's not the only worthy song on "Pablo Honey." And fans of "Pablo Honey" may be pleased to hear that, in concert, Radiohead has improved over its early recording days: more fury, more clamor, more hypnotic guitar bliss. "That's simply a question of since we started we must have done 400 gigs and you learn quite fast what works and doesn't work," says Yorke.

Radiohead's "Stop Whispering" is moving up the alternative charts. All this success - the band co-headlines with pals, Belly - has forced the band members to reconsider their relationship to the music industry.

"There's very much the British feeling of 'I'm not worthy, why am I here?' " says Yorke. "Certainly, there's an implicit neurosis about how the press is going to treat you. . . . And when we signed with our record company there were a lot of weird political things going on. It's learning to actually isolate yourself from relying on people around you. I'm kind of a kid about things like that. It stresses me out. I'd like to go back and play with my building blocks and just let my parents worry about the record."