Frank Turner

Acoustic-strumming folk-punk pub-rocker Frank Turner is big enough to headline arenas in the UK, and he grabbed some headlines last week when Gigwise published a quote from Turner saying Radiohead should play “Creep” at live shows. “There’s something kind of petty about not playing it to me,” Turner said. “The world is full of bands that wish they had one song that everyone wanted to hear, you’ve got one, enjoy it.” Apparently he’s been paying for his candor in the form of harassment from Radiohead fans, which he described as “indie Beliebers” today in a follow-up blog post on the matter. “My friends warned me not to do it – don’t get involved in any kind of internet spat with Radiohead fans, they said; they’re basically indie Beliebers, they said,” Turner begins. “And yet here we are.”

Turner’s post explains that he is a big Radiohead fan and that he understands Radiohead has the right to put on whatever show they want to, but he thinks they shouldn’t forget they are entertainers as well as artists. He notes that when he did see Radiohead play “Creep” at Reading Festival in 2009, it was tremendous. He also says he should have shit on Bob Dylan instead, which is right and proper because Dylan’s intentionally confounding shows these days are dreadfully unsatisfying. Here’s the rest of Turner’s post:

I’m taking the piss, obviously, though I have received a fair amount of flak in the last few days thanks to a comment I made about Radiohead in a recent interview. The comment was lazily put, which is my bad, and it was promoted to click-bait headline status (slow news day, guys?), and it left me wanting to elaborate a little on what I was trying to say in the first place.

First up, I’m a huge Radiohead fan. “Creep” is far from my favourite song of theirs, and for my money “In Rainbows” was one of their best records yet (though “King Of Limbs” didn’t do so much for me). Taken as a pair, “Kid A” and “Amnesiac” are probably my favourite albums. I’ve seen them a handful of times, and in fact have seen them play “Creep” (at Reading), and very good it was too.

Secondly, every band has (or should have) artistic autonomy, and no one can tell them what to do, whether it’s label bosses, “the fans” or snarky shitheads like me. Radiohead can play whatever set they want to play, and I’ll most likely enjoy it, and even if I didn’t, so what, right? Also (and I’d like to think this was obvious, but apparently not to some people, so here it is) I am not comparing what I do to Radiohead. Not in the same league, creatively or commercially (who is?).

The point I was trying to make, however, is that bands are not just artists. When you’re playing a live show and charging money for people to come, you’re also an entertainer, whether you like it or not. You can handle that role any number of different ways – you can just play “the hits,” or you can play none of them; you can talk to the audience, or not; you can play for four hours (Springsteen) or roll around in glass and shit (GG Allin). It’s your stage.

My frustration is with bands who see that description, “entertainer,” as some kind of slight. In some cases it’s almost like the audience is an imposition on their sacred creative act. If that’s how you feel, don’t play shows and charge people to come to them, stick to the studio. Perhaps a better example than Radiohead and “Creep” (if I’d taken the time to think before I speak, imagine that!) is Bob Dylan. When I saw him play it was just shit, and he was pretty openly trying to piss the audience off – shit setlist, played piano throughout, sang terribly and changed all the melody. Well, fine, but I won’t be coming back again, not at £60 a ticket.

I guess what I’m saying is, there’s a middle way between being slavishly populist in your set list choices, and only playing weird obscure B-sides. Dropping a song that everyone in the room wants to hear every now and again isn’t “selling out” or whatever, it’s entertaining, and that’s at least part of the job description.

Plus, the world is full of people (like me) who wish they had just one song that was that great. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Radiohead play a single song off “The Bends,” and that’s just a shame to me – they’re great songs, some of the best ever written, and I don’t want to see other people play them if Radiohead are still a touring band.

Of course, as I said, every band is free to think differently about it and play whatever the fuck they want; Radiohead won’t read this, and if they ever did they have no obligation to give a shit. Fine. Personally, I’ll continue to write my set lists to include the songs from early records that I know people want to hear. Each to their own.

This seems like as good a time as any to reignite this classic debate, so: What do you guys think? Should Radiohead be more conscious of fans’ desire to hear older material? Is Turner right to class “Creep” so much higher than the rest of the band’s work? Is there another ancient Radiohead track you’d rather they dig up sometime? Ponder that while you watch that “Creep” performance from Reading 2009.

Comments (51)
  1. I’ve always felt that the artist should get to have the final judgment on that front. Sure, it’s great to hear old songs, but it’s their band and their show. Would it be cool if they played what I want? Sure. But I think it’s sort of silly to expect a band to fulfill your desire to relive summer ’92 by playing that one song you like. Get over it.

    • Plus, if your enjoyment of a show is contingent on one or a handful of specific songs getting played, you should think very seriously about how much you actually like the band you’re seeing.

  2. If i’m at a Radiohead show, they have a limited number of songs they are going to play. If they /have/ to play older stuff, “Creep” should not be on that list. (Read: just play all of The Bends, for pete’s sake)

  3. “prove yourself”
    “faithless, the wonder boy”

  4. Who the hell is Frank Turner? Slow news day? OWWWOOOOOOO!

  5. I’ve seen Radiohead live twice and they played Creep both times

  6. I can see both sides here. I have read in interviews that Radiohead really doesn’t like the song and they have probably had to play it forever. They are big enough now that they have so many other songs and don’t have to play it. And I know that they probably want to progress and play more of their newer music and as an artist that is their decision. Nirvana started doing this when they were at the peak of their popularity because Kurt wanted to drive away fake fans that were only there to here the big hits.
    I also agree with Frank Turner. I personally love the song “Creep” and I would be a little disappointed if I got the opportunity to see Radiohead and they didn’t play it. I think it is a perfect example of 90′s indie rock. I was disappointed when I saw Bright Eyes and they didn’t play “First Day Of My Life”.
    Sometimes it is just a band’s personal choice to move on.

  7. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen Radiohead play a single song off “The Bends,” and that’s just a shame to me”

    if he was there in person to see them at reading 2009, then he saw them play street spirit and just. i think that pretty much disproves his point. it can truthfully be said that they don’t cling to the old material as much, but they do throw the audience a bone once in awhile.

    • yeah when i heard that i was like, wow, poser faux ‘fan’ moron, no way that was true.

      • Yeah, during their 2007 tour, they played “Planet Telex,” “The Bends,” and “Street Spirit,” so he must not have caught them on that tour. I can’t remember them playing anything from The Bends in 2011, but I distinctly remember “Paranoid Android” and “Pyramid Song.” I definitely agree that their setlists are nice mix of old and new material.

  8. On the last 2 tours they have cut back on The Bends but they STILL play a couple songs here n there, he must be on crack. I know Street Spirit was brought back from the dead lately, and even though i understand why they put Fake Plastic Trees to bed for awhile, that one definitely needs to make a more consistent comeback to the main set, it’s just too fucking good. But as must as i’ll forever love The Bends to death, I’m 1000x more horrified at the thought of losing OK Computer songs off the setlist…any less than 3 and i want to shoot myself. But Creep? In comparison to those songs? Fuck that, that songs been all but ruined by the billion cover versions, by people that don’t know shit about the band and their 200 better songs. Save Creep for the once in a blue moon pile, when they’re in the mood:)

  9. Luckily, Radiohead has other good songs. Now, MGMT not playing their hits is another story…

  10. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • DMB shows are very much geared towards the hard-core fans but have an evolutionary quality: They will play 3 or 4 songs from their most recent album and an assortment of back catalogue material with lots of jams. They are tight and talented and know what feeds the beast.

      Each Labour Day weekend, they play 3 nights at the Gorge in Washington and if you want to hear ‘Crash’ you might have to join the legions who go all three nights to bliss out to three (mostly) discreet set-lists.

  11. Despite how loaded Radiohead’s discography is, screaming “She’s…. running out the door” with ten thousand people would be trascendent. Whether they should play it isn’t my business. Would I want them to? Of course. As for your last question, I’d trade Idioteque (which is great) to hear Exit Music… and then Let Down. The latter is criminally underappreciated.

  12. I wanna see them resurrect “Happy Song”.

  13. Anne Frank Turner would not be an Indie Belieber.

  14. Radiohead is by far my favorite band, but I completely agree with this critique (about Radiohead and Dylan, actually).
    The best shows I’ve ever seen have walked that nice tightrope of crowd-pleasers and gestures towards the hardcore (Pearl Jam is really good about this). I saw Radiohead live a few years back, and while the show was exhilarating, it never really built to the level of gratification I’d expect from what I would consider the greatest band in the world. Does that mean that “Creep” needs to be in every show? Absolutely not, but fans want a show that’s representative of an artist’s career, making it a little selfish of them to keep “Creep” a live rarity.

    • Glad you brought up Pearl Jam – the best example of this “songs for the hardcore fans and songs for the relaxed fans” setlist agenda I’ve ever seen, which ended up making me a much bigger fan of theirs than I was when I attended my first PJ show.

      With that said, I’ve seen Radiohead 3 times, and I’ve seen them play “Creep” twice, so I’m probably a bad sample. I get what Turner is saying, and I agree with him to a degree (especially his comments about Dylan, who is generally purposefully obtuse and dismissive of his fans), but every time I’ve seen RH they’ve played new stuff, b-sides and “hits,” which leads me to believe that they’re pretty good about catering to both types of fan.

  15. Every time I leave a Radiohead show there are just as many songs I think about wishing they had played but they are always, always opening the trove and pulling out little gems on each tour which I’d take over Creep any day. And, I love the song, too.

    They just aren’t that kind of band anymore and albeit we love most of their older albums, they’ve evolved into a band that if they were to pull out, say, Creep, it’d seem almost out of place?

    And as for this douche, Frank Turner…he shouldn’t bite the hand that is pretty much feeding his copycat music style. Seriously, love the mix of carefully placed tattoos & Skechers, dude.

  16. a) band publicly expresses hatred of 21-year-old song on numerous occasions
    b) band has 8 (EIGHT!) LPs, a huge catalogue of b-sides, and want to throw in a new song every now and then
    c) said song is vastly different in tone and style from pretty much their entire catalogue
    d) apart from pablo honey, every set they play contains material from every record they’ve released

    i fail to see how not playing creep is ‘petty’

    • …*especially* since it’s not like they never play it, anyway. lists it as their 9th most played live song ~ever~. they didn’t play it on the TKOL tour, but they played it a fair few times on the tour before. just, ugh.

  17. I like Turner’s perspective – It certainly balances the pros and cons. Still, I would expect that each artist/ entertainer has strong feelings about cranking out what got them to the top vs. creative licence. While Radiohead may (or may not be) bored to tears with playing ‘Creep’, many fans anticipate songs they love and feel wildly satisfied when their fandom is rewarded.

    I have seen Elvis Costello play many times in many configurations. While he still delivers the old charmers from an insanely large catalogue, they are often rearranged to suit the ensemble rarely played by rote. He is a consummate entertainer puts a great deal of effort into making each playing of ‘Watching the Detectives’ a treat.

  18. I’d enjoy hearing Radiohead’s “Creep” but wouldn’t use a setlist chip on it persay. I do think their most recent tour leaned a bit too heavily on King of Limbs/In Rainbows. I mean, to have the most acclaimed album of the 90′s under your belt and play ONE track from it each night is strange.

    The exact opposite problem is that of bands like the Foo Fighters. They have a great catalog but it’s the same stale greatest hits set every night.

  19. I think the real question here isn’t whether or not Radiohead should play “Creep,” it’s whether or not Radiohead fans are, in fact, “Indie Beliebers.” While I think it’s kind of apt –– Radiohead fans, after all, are pretty quick to jump on anyone that dares say that they think OK Computer is merely “pretty good” –– clearly, the real indie Beliebers are Lana Del Ray fans (Neo Tron: Never forget).

  20. i’m getting pretty sick of music websites turning into internet beef updates. that’s all i seem to see anymore.

  21. He’s never seen them play anything off of The Bends? Street Spirit is one of their classic set closers.

  22. Well, there you have it. 28 comments and counting. Bravo, Frank Turner, bravo. OWWWOOOOOOO!

  23. Creep has been played loads – the notion they NEVER play it is bollocks….I don’t care what bands play – if they choose a set of my faves like Soundgarden did last year, that’s great. But it shouldn’t be just a concession to the audience and giving them what they want.The audience should have to work too, it’s a symbiotic thang….This is why Swans on their tour last year were great while Blur went from the sublime to the hidious playing their Britpop crapola. If you want to hear Creep, it is on an album (& I don’t just mean The Very Best of The Hollies)

  24. Howling Wolf is my favorite Stereogum commenter. <3

  25. I can see both sides … I saw Dylan a couple of years back on the neverending tour or whatever it was called, and while the band was hot and the music sounded great, the songs were virtually unrecognisable. I was with a very, very big Dylan fan, and I had to keep turning to him to ask him, “what’s this one?” And most of them WERE hits or well-known songs … just not anything like you’re used to

    I can’t see any really big Radiohead fans hitting a Frank Turner gig anytime soon (although I love both and would happily go to either, so maybe I just disproved my own point….)

  26. who goes to see radiohead in 2014 and gives two shits about creep?

  27. Radiohead plays 23-25 songs per show, mixing up the setlist each night, half the set being “staples” that they play almost every night, the other half a rotating tap of back catalogue songs. That’s a pretty good system, especially when compared to bands like Tool, who play the exact same 11-12 songs EVERY show.

    I think most Radiohead fans would prefer several other options over Creep when considering the options for earlier material, but the great thing about going to one of their shows is, you have this great sense of anticipation, waiting to hear what gems they pull out from their vast catalogue. Creep really doesn’t represent what Radiohead has achieved as a band so much as whole albums like OKC and Kid A do. Real fans prize dozens of songs over Creep due to the way Radiohead has progressed so far beyond the sound of Pablo Honey.

    Having said that, I recently saw Motorhead at Coachella, and they didn’t play Ace of Spades. They should be forced by law to close every set with that song. HOW COULD THEY NOT PLAY ACE OF SPADES??????

  28. One of the best shows I’ve ever seen was Sleater-Kinney on what would later be revealed as their final tour (to date) in 2005. They came out with a very confrontational attitude. They didn’t talk to the crowd at all. They played the entirety of THE WOODS, even though the crowd was constantly screaming out songs from earlier records. They had little patience for that. They did an encore with Danzig’s “Mother” and then – as their last track – played “Dig Me Out.” But the played it like it was a song off THE WOODS, quickly, loudly and almost perfunctorily, banging it out like a contractual obligation.

    I think they pissed off a load of fans who wanted to hear, well, anything but THE WOODS, considering it was a stylistic outlier that many of the punkers in the crowd seemed not to appreciate. But it was awesome nonetheless.

  29. If it was anyone else I’d probably care but he sucks so GOOD.

  30. “Creep” is Radiohead’s “Loser”.

  31. I don’t even consider “Creep” a Radiohead song. It technically is, but it feels more like a 90′s one hit wonder song that some washed up band should be playing in small venues, not a song one of the most talented and creative bands in history should be playing to arenas.

  32. None of the above comments seem to consider the differences between individual shows and festival appearances. I had a discussion with a part time Radiohead fan (Bends, OK Computer and that’s it) who was adamant that they can play what they like at an individual show which is obviously full of people specifically there to them, but should play all the crowd favourites at a festival appearance. As a huge Radiohead fan I kind of saw her point but was insistent that they can play what they like. Thinking about it though, was I just being selfish because it’s hard for them to play a song that I don’t like?

  33. He’s missing the point. Nobody wants to hear Creep.

  34. He’s 100% right about bands that only play “weird obscure b-sides” and think “the audience is an imposition on their sacred creative act”. Only trouble is, Radiohead categorically is not one of them.

    I’ve seen them a couple of times, plus seen them on TV and read setlists from shows, and they always play a ton of fan favorites. True enough that they don’t play too much stuff they wrote 20-25 years ago, but that’s kinda normal, isn’t it? It’s not like they’re coming out and doing a 45 minute version of a King of Limbs b-side and then refusing to do an encore.

  35. As much hate for Frank Turner on these comments, I hope everyone appreciates how his ‘indie belieber’ point is being made for him.

    I think his comments were more than fair so calling him a crackhead when he admits, “as I said, every band is free to think differently about it and play whatever the fuck they want; Radiohead won’t read this, and if they ever did they have no obligation to give a shit”… some commenters come off as a little petty themselves.

    Creep is a great song, Like it or not, it was a gateway drug for people to get into the band. Now, the tastes of those fans have matured and transform, just like the bands output. But, I would venture to say the trajectory of their career and the volume of their fans would be vastly different had it not be for Creep and Karma Police.

  36. I think it’s gotten to a point where people realize what they’re getting from a Radiohead show. I kind of appreciate the fact that they don’t play much from their back catalog, so on the off chance you do hear a song from The Bends or “Creep” or “Anyone Can Play Guitar” it’s a truly magical, incredible moment. And plus, they’ve gone so far away from the sound of their first two albums that in a lot of set lists, it would feel rather forced to play some of those songs. Of course, the most awkward of segues wouldn’t be enough to make me not want to hear “Just” live. Just once.

  37. An artist should have the final say as to their set list, but to be frank, Radiohead spent the last 15 years getting so abstract and boring that I can’t really blame folks for saying, “hey, why don’t you actually just play that one song we like.” Oh, and that bit about “indie beliebers” brings a joyous chuckle to me.

  38. This is much ado about nothing. I wish artists would stop explaining themselves. Fuck all them pretentious uber fans. I wish Radiohead would play shit from back in the day too, when I actually derived some joy out of their songs. “The Bends” to me is their best album. Had the best b sides too, like Bishops Robes and Banana Co. How can you be sure? Talk Show Host. Maquiladora.

  39. I’d like to hear Anyone Can Play Guitar and Ripchord one more time. Heard them on the Bends tour at Tramps (NYC, 1995). Tremendous.

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