Both Radiohead and Conan O’Brien were in a strange place back in 1993. They were both on the verge of something huge: Radiohead’s first single ‘Creep’ was gaining chart success thanks to a re-release, while O’Brien was slated to take over the reins of the Late Night franchise after David Letterman’s exit. It stands to reason that both should have been excited about the future.
If you tuned in to the first episode of Late Night with Conan O’Brien, however, you would be forgiven if you thought that O’Brien didn’t exactly seem comfortable. Most of the jokes were aimed at his status as an unknown comedy writer or the giant shoes that he was filling, and even though the first interview with John Goodman went to some wonderfully wacky places, his demeanour with his second guest, Drew Barrymore, was far more stilted and strange.
At the same time, Radiohead were beginning to feel the weight of ‘Creep’ as it started to take off as the band’s first major success. Any and all promotional appearances were centred around the song, to the point that Radiohead were already getting tagged as one-hit wonders. Even worse, the British quintet had the misfortune of leading the second wave of grunge, becoming one of the main targets of perceived trend-chasing.
The two not-quite evolved entertainers crossed paths on September 14th, 1993, as O’Brien hosted his second-ever episode of Late Night. Since his first episode relied solely on interviews, Radiohead became the inaugural musical guest on the programme. O’Brien insists that he “really likes these guys”, even if gives them a backhanded compliment by claiming that they’ve “taken self-loathing and raised it to an art form”.
It took another 15 years for Radiohead to return to Conan’s studio, at which point O’Brien was preparing to make the leap to host of The Tonight Show. At that point, both O’Brien and Radiohead had evolved and become far more comfortable with themselves, making their reunion strangely warm and lovely.
Check out Radiohead playing ‘Creep’ on Late Night with Conan O’Brien back in 1993 down below.