Prince covered “Creep” at Coachella. Most folks know this. That said, it’s been difficult finding reliable footage of the Purple One’s take on the top of the Modern Rock 500, because Prince’s NPG people are extremely thorough about removing the clips, including the one’s we’ve tried linking. See, click on this for a real-life example. If Prince writes a song, and holds the copyright, he reserves the right to be as intense as we wants … even if it’s annoyingly draconian. Thing is, he didn’t write “Creep.” Radiohead did. Thom Yorke & Co. know this.
In a recent interview, Thom Yorke said he heard about Prince’s performance from a text message and thought it was “hilarious.” Yorke laughed when his bandmate, guitarist Ed O’Brien, said the blocking had prevented him from seeing Prince’s version of their song.
“Really? He’s blocked it?” asked Yorke, who figured it was their song to block or not. “Surely we should block it. Hang on a moment.”
Yorke added: “Well, tell him to unblock it. It’s our … song.”
YouTube prohibits the posting of copyrighted material. If the site receives a complaint from a copyright owner, it will in most cases remove the video(s). Whether the same could be done for a company not holding a copyright is less clear, but Yorke’s argument would seem to bear some credence according to YouTube’s policies. YouTube, which is owned by Google, declined to comment.
Prince also did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday…
When Prince performed at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif., on April 26, he prohibited the standard arrangement of allowing photographers to shoot near the stage during the first three songs of his set. Instead, he had a camera crew filming his performance.
Prince is not covering Radiohead here. He is, rather, making “Creep” a Prince song, which is to say he is bringing it within the Prince scheme of rhetoric. This is not merely an instrumental thing, nor even a stage gesture thing, though the gesturing offstage is pretty great. The particular moment it happens is at the end of the second verse.
Recall: here, Thom Yorke usually says “You’re so fucking special.” That “fucking” is key, because it’s supposed to sound snide. It’s an insult. Prince, on the other hand, does not say “fucking.” And not just because he doesn’t swear anymore; he could have said what Thom goes with in the radio edit, which is “very.” Instead, he changes the entire line, and in doing, he changes the entire meaning of the line. Prince says: “I think that you’re special.”
…So the fact that he changes that line then changes the line after it. When he yells “I’m a creep,” it really seems like he meant to say “freak.” He turns this chorus of self-loathing that even Thom Yorke was embarrassed about for a while into, well, a Prince song, a statement of sexual licentiousness. I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo, I get freaky baby, and you can get freaky with me. The weirdness that was a source of embarrassment for Yorke is, here, a source of pride. And when he changes “I don’t belong here” into “we don’t belong here,” it turns self-consciousness into “this party is lame, let’s go find something as fabulous as we are.” Prince brings you in, includes you in this fantastic Prince world that he has constructed.
What he’s done here, then, is turn a song that regards an object of desire with debasement and disgust into a song that regards an object of desire as something to be connected with, included, freaked. It is, I think, an absolutely astounding bit of pop magic, a slight of hand so deft as to reveal itself only with a wink.
Or maybe he forgot the words. Grad School is fun. Give it up for Borges.