What groups have influenced the sound of Five Fingertips?
Five Fingertips very much likes Sly and the Family Stone. He is also fond of the Melvins, the Ozma album in particular. Five Fingertips is captivated by P.J. Harvey, and digs Giovanni Battista Sammartini more than a little. He notes with consternation that, for several decades now, the world has slept on Creedence Clearwater Revival's Pendulum. "Pagan Baby" blisters all speakers. John Fogerty is not lyrically at the top of his game for this record. But Fogerty is better at his worst than most are at their best. Doug Clifford's kick-drum on the outro to "It's Just a Thought" is a stutter-step worthy of the Meters' Joseph "Zigaboo" Modeliste. Listen to "It's Just a Thought," then to the Meters' "Soul Machine." Feel the affinities. If you wish to extend the affinities further, listen to the outro of Five Fingertips' "The Poster Children." This is known as "influence," on a good day. On a bad day, we call it "filching."
Tripod: Chamber Music of Commerce
Gliding along, Five Fingertips once listened to Medeski, Martin, and Wood's Combustication so many times, the mp3s got scratched, like some old vinyl record. We didn't even know that was possible. The mp3s then self-destructed, leaving a pile of feathers and ash atop the iPod. Nothing that a Dustbuster and some Windex couldn't clean up. That same stutter-step kick-drum (noted above) shows up on Medeski, Martin, and Wood's "Start-Stop." Whole lotta love, influence, filching going on. But as Public Enemy's Flavor Flav once wisely said, "Ya'll can't copyright no beats." On that particular PE track -- "Caught, Can We Get a Witness?" -- Terminator X samples the classic guitar riff from Isaac Hayes' Shaft. Or is it actually the Bar-Kays' "Son of Shaft"?
Hard to tell. Influence is a beast. A hall of mirrors. The Bar-Kays performed that tune at the Wattstax Festival of 1972. You can savor their jaw-dropping rendition on the Wattstax DVD documentary. Five Fingertips purchased his copy at the Stax Records Studio / Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. "Ladies and Gentlemen, right about now...." You can watch Woodstock if you prefer. We'd personally rather go to sleep on a bed of feathers and ash than suffer through a set by the Grateful Dead. Plus, the Woodstock filmmakers didn't dedicate enough footage to the true headliner of that hippy sleaze fest: Sly Stone, who was then at the height of his powers. Truly a travesty. We say "sleaze fest" because you did see what those mucky New York farm fields looked like on the final day, when Jimi Hendrix came down from the mountain, and performed for the roadies, right? Peace, love, dove, consumerism. Influence is a beast. A hall of mirrors.
Iggy Says: "Fun House"
Occasionally, for centuries at a time, Mr. Fingertips listens in loop to all five discs of Miles Davis' The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions, but finds the original album release from 1971 (A Tribute to Jack Johnson) quite boring. Why Miles ever got so excited about "Right Off" -- which is essentially a bland blues hardly worthy of the Animals, much less one of the greatest musicians of the twentieth century -- is a mystery. Meanwhile, back on the ranch, Al Green's Gets Next to You is just plain wonderful. The tuxedo Green wears on the album cover is alone worth the price of admission. Yet the music is even better than the tuxedo. Looking for a piano excursion into the great beyond? Five Fingertips presses play on Gonzalo Rubalcaba's The Blessing, which is reminiscent on many levels of the pyrotechnics of Art Tatum's "Willow Weep for Me." It is perhaps by fate that his very name -- Rubalcaba -- shares the same root as rubato, since Gonzalo has mastered the Art of "robbing time." We just make this stuff up as we go along. We aren't professional etymologists. Prefer more placid piano? Something more mellow maybe? Opt for the sonate of Baldassare Galuppi performed by Peter Seivewright.
To be clear, Five Fingertips does not consider himself on a par with any of these artists. The question is about "influence," dear reader, not "peers." Neither does Five Fingertips consider himself a jazz or classical musician. He has too much respect for the practitioners of those genres. (Please see our "Sounds" Section for a swell and swollen diatribe on musical genres.) As a wee lad, Five Fingertips did take five years of piano lessons, one year for each finger of the left hand. As a guitarist, he is self-taught. The only guitarists he has ever "studied" -- meaning, bothered to sit around and figure out what they were playing -- were two. First, he studied a few songs off some Lightning Hopkins' records on the Arhoolie label. "Mojo Hand" is quite a jingle, if you can find the right recording. We recommend the version found on the album Lightnin'! It's bare-knuckled. They've changed the cover art, though. The original was much better. Consider also "Ain't It Crazy" and "Lightnin's Boogie." Or anything where he plays with a drummer. It makes you feel like you've wandered into some straw-floored juke joint in the Texas hinterland. Second, Five Fingertips studied various tunes off Freddie King's Just Pickin'. We wish you luck in finding that last one on mp3. You probably wouldn't like it anyway.
Having said all this, please be aware that you'll encounter little to absolutely no blues influence on our forthcoming record. Five Fingertips finds the 12-bar blues excruciatingly dull in structure, but especially in lyrical content: "You left me, baby! You left me in the midnight cold! I said, you left me, baby! You left me in the midnight cold!" Stop! Please! Enough! As Joe Strummer once said about pop music in general: "Too many songs have been written about love already. The subject's covered." Lightning Hopkins does breathe fresh life into the genre and the theme of "love," when he sings things like: "Give me back that wig I bought you, black woman. Let your dog-gone head go bald." Now that's fresh. That's creative. That's original. Lead Belly goes several steps better with "The Bourgeois Blues." Social commentary! All this grumbling about the blues is not to dismiss them outright. It's just that you must eventually part company with your idols, lest ye be destroyed by them. You mustn't be too "influenced." Eternally respectful, Five Fingertips wanted us to tell you that he once saw Johnny Shines, he who knew Robert Johnson, play live. Despite the frailty of his body at his age -- he couldn't even stand up -- a power of the blues that is never (and never will be) captured in studio recordings was manifest, when Mr. Shines let the vocals rip, like thunder and lightning at the crossroads. Galvanizing it was. As galvanizing as it was to see Yellowman perform "Nobody Move Nobody Get Hurt," once upon a time. To be clear, we were trying to discuss the blues, but, since somebody brought up reggae, we will point you, since everybody already knows Bob Marley, in the direction of: "Stepping Razor" and "Till Your Well Runs Dry," by Peter Tosh; Night Nurse, by Gregory Isaacs; and Jerusalem and Cocody Rock, by Alpha Blondy. You should be aware, though, that you won't find any reggae influence on the new Five Fingertips record, either.
Girder 04 B
Despite his lack of formal music training, Five Fingertips has learned much about song structure from listening for years on end to Georg Friedrich Händel's Concerti Grossi, Op. 6, just as much as he has learned from those caterwauling Liverpuddlians known as the Beatles. Listen to anything long enough and it will come out in your music. It is curious that each individual movement by Händel lasts all of about two to three minutes, like a good pop or punk song should. Beethoven's Eroica Symphony -- great though it certainly is, "heroic" even -- is as much to blame as Led Zeppelin's longer and less inspired late œuvre for the dead-end that was progressive rock (prog-rock), wherein traditional symphonic/song forms were shattered and elongated to absurd proportions. We're joking, of course, but never completely, nor ever without purpose. For a true lesson in finely-chiseled sonic structures and breathtaking brevity, lasting not even two minutes, try on for size the First Movement ("I. A tempo giusto") of Händel's Concerto Grosso in G major, Op. 6, No. 1, HWV 319. (We prefer the interpretation by the Collegium Musicum 90, conducted by Simon Standage, on the Chandos label.) This is what is known as being "taken to school," or "being schooled." If this were basketball, it would be the equivalent of Michael Jordan owning you in the paint, while wearing a powdered wig of the royal court. Or something like that. These same points about structure and brevity can be made, more or less, for the first forty-odd symphonies of Joseph "Papa" Haydn, as well as those of Sammartini noted above. Just don't confuse Giovanni Battista with his less inspired brother: Giuseppe Baldassare Sammartini. You'll be disappointed.
Mentioning classical music in the same breath as pop music is not as absurd as it may seem. Classical and later romantic composers borrowed liberally from folk song forms and melodies. And George Martin (The "Fifth Beatle") pushed modern folk songs in the direction of the conservatory tradition. You can listen to the second side of Yellow Submarine, if you want, with all its "influence" from Stravinsky, Grieg, and others. But we suggest instead cueing up "Because" from the Abbey Road album. Make it to the one-minute forty-five-second mark, and then immediately play the "Second Movement: Andante" of Haydn's Symphony No. 104 in D Major, also known as the "London Symphony," from the middle sections to the end. See it? Hear it? Feel the affinity? It's fleeting, but it's there. That same motif returns in a variant guise across the "Third Movement." Please note, too, that "Because" is performed on a synthetic harpsichord, and introduces a song suite that sweeps across the remainder of the Abbey Road record. The last Haydn symphony? London? The last Beatles record? London? Get it? Remember: Let It Be was recorded before, but released after, Abbey Road. Get it? Get back. We didn't read this in a book. We aren't Beatle-maniacs, either. We actually prefer the Rolling Stones, especially from 1968 (Beggars Banquet) to 1973 (Goats Head Soup). We just listen widely and attentively, and so should you.
If you can fret a guitar with passable competence, and listen to anything long enough, good or bad, it will stick in your head and come out in your music, some how, some way. Influence is a beast. A hall of mirrors. That's why it's important to avoid elevators, to take the stairs in tall buildings, and to wear earplugs when you're "all lost in the supermarket," shopping for groceries in the U.S. of A. It's astounding that much of this mainstream radio pop pap from the 1980s was ever recorded in the first place. The songs were bad. The production values were atrocious. Completely dumbfounding is the fact that it's still force-fed (now as "classic") to the broader populace here in the twenty-first century. As for those who voluntarily embrace music of the 1980s and even dare wear Members Only jackets out in public, we pray for them nightly, before curling up on our bed of feathers and ash. "Kitsch" is just another synonym for "bad." And the belief that if "something is so bad, it's actually good" on some kitschy level, like a rotten episode of Knight Rider -- this is a most spurious way of thinking and living. As a public service announcement, we would enjoin you that: idols, fetishes, and totems should be chosen with considerable care. If you are creating your own personal totem pole at home, which we highly recommend, please, consider carving freely from the artists noted above, as well as those scattered about this website. We did. Then, at some point, burn the totem down. We did that, too. Nothing that a Dustbuster and some Windex couldn't clean up.