29th August 1993. Radiohead cancel their appearance at the Reading Festival at the last minute, in the week before Creep is re-released as a single; it’s still a relatively rare thing for a record company to do so soon after the original release, which was only just under a year ago. The ever-suspicious British music press are dubious, but have to give in and praise the quality of the song.
Creep is starting to get a bit more airplay on BBC Radio 1. On 3rd September, the band play a gig in Glasgow, organized by Radio 1’s Evening Session as part of their Music Quest talent search.
Blur, who have just released For Tomorrow (the first single from what will be their breakthrough album, Modern Life Is Rubbish, which followed in November 1993), will be the headline act at the Barrowlands. Radiohead and a band called The Candy Ranch are the supports. The show is only announced a few days before it takes place and barring a few mentions by Steve Lamacq and Jo Whiley on their show, one small advert in the back of the NME is the only fanfare.
I have by this time, tentatively accepted a place at Glasgow University. Having persuaded my parents that I have to get used to doing things on my own, I get on a train to Scotland, with the thinly veiled excuse of going on a recce for student accommodation and visiting my cousin who already studies in the city.
I set out early to find the Barrowlands. For the first time I walk through Glasgow city centre and into the East End. There are a couple of girls already waiting by the doors and a contingent of blokes having an out of tune sing-along. There is a large Radio 1 recording van (the gig is going to be taped for The Evening Session) and a frosty windowed tour bus. I stay put in the queue for a while but it doesn’t get very busy. I look up and realise that Ed and Phil have just walked straight past me.
Inside, the Barras is a large wooden floored ballroom, it must hold at least 1000 but tonight there is plenty of room, the opening band, who are not local, perform a lacklustre set. A few more people turn up afterwards and move a bit closer to the stage, where I have already stationed myself on the barrier, slightly to the right of the centre of the stage. There is a guy next to me in a Pablo Honey T-shirt. Before the band appear, he turns to his mate and says, “Watch the guitarist, he’s fucking amazing.”
Thom and Jonny look striking in stripy blue and white tops, and I have a decent view of both of them. They open with “Benz” and Prove Yourself then to the crowd’s delight play “the one with the expletive”. They also perform two new songs, Nice Dream and Yes I Am. During Anyone Can Play Guitar, Thom lets himself be dragged into the crowd. He keeps on singing and somehow makes it back on stage with his shirt hanging off his shoulder staring into the crowd while Jonny batters his guitar.
After Radiohead have finished their set, Blur play songs from their forthcoming album, they’re good but they have a completely different sort of energy to Radiohead. They seem like a more straightforward band. I move back in the crowd as people start to mosh and jump about.
The next day, I am stiff all over from fighting to stay upright in the crush and once again my ears are ringing from the volume. I spend the next couple of days in Glasgow exploring the record shops.
On the Monday (September 6th) Creep is re-released. I get the gatefold 12” and the cassette single in the city centre HMV. The tape goes into my Walkman for the train journey home. I like the new B-side Yes I Am and I can hear Thom snatching his breath in the live version of Inside My Head.
I tune in my FM radio and try to listen to the Evening Session broadcasting the gig, but there are too many tunnels on the East Coast line and I can’t get a decent reception. I’ll get to hear it later on.
The only remaining working record player (the cheap beige one didn’t last long) is now at my Granny’s house. I wait until she is out and take the 12 inch and my headphones to listen to the new songs. Just when I thought that if I heard the daytime DJ Jackie Brambles play it one more time in its edited version the magic would leave me, I hear this acoustic version of Creep and it sounds like Thom’s soul and an acoustic guitar. It becomes a beautiful, wrenching thing all over again. The other live tracks are just what I want them to be and Killer Cars makes me cry.
On the Wednesday I get some post, the second issue of Pop Is Dead fanzine (hereafter referred to as PID) and I recognise the handwriting on the other envelope.
Thom has pre-empted me and written again. I open it up and find a single sheet of spiral bound notepaper. At the top, a doodle with the lyric of Pop Is Dead that I’d not been able to make out. “One final line of coke… sustains many flagging rockers at one time or another. Not me though – nasty stuff, much too eighties!”
Thom explains that they’ve been “doing alright in the US of A as you may have heard,” he even has a gold disc for half a million sales waiting for him to pick up next time he is there. “Pretty strange stuff. And not to be taken seriously”.
He wonders if MTV will be as keen to play the video for a re-recorded version of Stop Whispering they’ve made especially for the American market. He explained what happened at Reading Festival. He lost his voice. It was like a bad dream.
They’re going back to the USA to tour with Belly and then back for more shows in Europe, though he’s not sure of the dates yet. “Then at last we get to disappear and start work on the new stuff. I’ve got a working title for the second album: Ex Pat Glitterati. What do you think? hmmm”.
He signs off with another doodle and a “write soonish”.
Over the weekend Creep makes it into the charts. I’d been expecting them to make it into the Top 20 if they were lucky , so I’m shocked to hear it at number 7, stuck between Dutch techno novelty act 2Unlimited and Billy Joel’s River of Dreams.