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Why the BBC banned Radiohead's 1990s anthem 'Creep'


Few songs provide a collective groan from a fanbase like Radiohead’s loner anthem ‘Creep’. Widely derided by the group’s diehard fans, the song has transcended their work as artists and become a staple of almost every indie film worth it’s salt. Add to that its perennial airplay on college radio, and there’s a good reason ‘Creep’ is still considered one of the undying moments of the 1990s.

While the song is given ample airtime on today’s radio airwaves, there was, for a time, a moment when the BBC banned it for being a little too expressive about the loneliness one can feel. While it’s easy to make a sweeping assertion about a song that essentially hinges on alienation, it still feels a little paltry to stop the track from being played.

Of course, the Beeb can be thanked for giving some of our favourite artists their first shot at the big time; even the broadcasters themselves would agree that, over the course of history, the BBC has been a traditionalist. It meant that the BBC banned some incredible stars like David Bowie and The Beatles. The reasons those songs were banned usually hung on a ridiculous notion of self-importance but for Radiohead, it was an even more ludicrous reason.

The reason it was banned was that it was deemed “too depressing”. As well as including ‘the f-word’, the track was taken off airplay on the natwork’s major channel lists and the song suffered because of it, unable to find the audience the song deserved. The track was then re-released in 1993 where it reached number seven in the UK charts and effectively launched the band’s career on both sides of the Atlantic.

The simple fact is, to ban a song because it is too much of one feeling is tad bit thin, even for the BBC. But that’s exactly what happened to Radiohead with their 1992 classic. While Radiohead may be happy to never hear the song again, instead preferring their more elevated sonic structures back in 1992, it was a critical hit that the track was banned.

We don’t really know why Radiohead hate ‘Creep’ but what we do know is that only one year later, Radiohead would write and record ‘My Iron Lung’ a song about the misery of playing a track over and over, despite it being the very thing that gave you life in the first place. Thankfully, the BBC didn’t ban that one.

In more recent times, Radiohead have found it in their hearts to give their wider audience a taste of ‘Creep’ in a live setting, having shunned the track for so long. Below, watch as they deliver a powerful rendition of the song for the Glastonbury Festival in 2017.