From This Might Be A Wiki

song name Fingertips
artist They Might Be Giants
releases Apollo 18 (divided into 21 segments), Dial-A-Song: 20 Years Of They Might Be Giants, Flood + Apollo 18
year 1992
first played November 2, 2000 (625 known performances)
run time 4:34
sung by John Linnell & John Flansburgh; additional vocals by Peter Stampfel, Nicholas Hill, Elma Mayer, Brian Dewan and Amy Allison


  • Fingertips is actually a collection of 21 short (mostly 5 to 20 second) songs. See the full tracklisting at the page for Apollo 18.
  • According to the liner notes, Apollo 18 is "meant" to be listened to on shuffle, which means that the pieces of "Fingertips" get scattered among the other songs on the album when you listen to it.
  • Quotes from John Linnell:
'Fingertips' was one of those really worked-out things, in some ways like a logical extension of what we've been doing all along. It's hyper-arranged, practically that's what it is, an arrangement. All the little bits are extremely short and melodic. So it's a lot like everything else we've done, only even more so ... the apogee of one of our orbits.
The project was to write a bunch of choruses and nothing else. In other words, I had to restrain myself from writing any other parts of the songs. I wanted a collection of choruses that's something like what you see on TV late at night, like the old K-Tel commercials. I was thinking about how you know a lot of songs from these ads, but the only part you know is maybe one line, which is half the chorus. And yet they stick in your head in the way a whole song would. in a way, these tiny chips of songs seem complete, because you don't know the rest of the song. (from In Their Own Words: Songwriters Talk About the Creative Process by Bill DeMain)
Eugene Chadbourne (US improvisatory musician) gushed with enthusiasm over Fingertips. That was nice. Likewise (American comedian) David Cross. However at the record release party for Apollo 18 I remember (music writer) Ira Robbins from Trouser Press expressing sincere, friendly disappointment with it. He had high hopes for us and we had let him down with Fingertips. We’re still performing it in the live show, a quarter century later. The original inspiration came from a terrifying dream that my Dad told me he had had, which I then rewrote and altered until the source material was no longer recognizable.[1]
  • In the October 1992 issue of VOX Magazine, Linnell mentioned that his original demo of "Fingertips" was recorded before Flood was completed, but the song was held over to be recorded for Apollo 18 due to the amount of material already collected for Flood:
We had special people sing them; it took forever. Actually it was really fun recording it, the final recording and mixing of it was actually a pleasure — but putting it together took forever. It took a month to make the demo of it because, I was still kind of writing while I was assembling the demo. Working at home, with a razor blade and a tape recorder, so that was kind of a chore. I actually had it ready for Flood and we kinda had enough stuff already and I felt like, 'Well, I'll just forget about it for now.' It almost seemed like that was going to happen this time, and I thought, 'This should really go on this record.' Because I like the whole way the sequence of the record works now with "Fingertips" and "Space Suit," I think it really works in a cinematic way.[2]
Flansburgh: Notoriously, there was the Fingertips recording that we did for Apollo 18, that, y'know, John (Linnell) put together this very elaborate demo of the song, and then we kind of methodically blew up the arrangements to create this very hyper-contrasting collage, or montage of songs. I don't know which word better applies.

Linnell: People were calling it a suite, which irritated me at first, but it actually sort of seemed like a pretty good descriptive term. It's just a kind of string of very, very short mostly just choruses stuck together.
Flansburgh: And it was a different challenge back then, because the way you (Linnell) put it together, it seemed like it was really designed to just be heard in this linear way. So everything was kind of about contrasting one thing to the other.

  • On the European and Japanese Apollo 18 CDs, "Fingertips" is all one track instead of being divided into verses, so owners are unable to experience the shuffling joy. "Fingertips" is also a single track on the Dial-A-Song compilation and the 2013 2-pack reissue with Flood. "Fingertips" is also a single track on most streaming platforms, and is titled "Fingertips (Combined)".
  • This song was first performed in its entirety on November 2, 2000 at the Bowery Ballroom, and has been a staple of the band's live show since. Individual snippets of the song have been performed going back to 1992.
  • A project to 'flesh out' each Fingertip into whole songs was done by a band called They Might Be Gannets. It's available as a download here.

Song Themes

Accidents, Album Lead-Ins, Altered Voice, Body Parts, Colors, Death, Drinks, Fire, Food, Friendship, Funny But Sad, Loneliness, Love, Misanthropy, Non-John Vocals, Not In Common Time, Questions, Strangers, Transportation, Violence, Weather, Windows, Yes


Current Rating

You must be logged in to rate this. You can either login (if you have a userid) or create an account with us today.

Fingertips is currently ranked #61 out of 1010. (165 wikians have given it an average rating of 9.07)