Features: Bruce Hornsby (piano, vocals, synthesizer); J.V. Collier (bass); John Molo (drums); J.T. Thomas (organ); John Dearth (trumpet); Bobby Read (saxophone).
The opening part of the song sets the scene: “So nice to be here, with all you good people” – it suggests a gig to me, and indeed Bruce has used these opening lines on a few of live taped gigs I’ve heard.
The rest of the song is about a piano lick which seems to involve hitting the same note as many times as you can as quickly as possible. The next verse involves a lot of innuendo, which is surprising given that Hornsby is obviously still a Virgin…ian.
“I can show you on a table I can show you on a chair It’s best shown on the black and whites I know I can take you there”
Hornsby gives us a demonstration of this technique, and then the song seems to break into “Get up, get on up” before winding down, although the instrumental end seems highly compatible with “Jacob’s Ladder”, as has been proven with the two songs being occasionally linked in live gigs.
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January 27 1996
Elyce adds: Apparently, the song is named after a nickname that was bestowed upon Bruce by the Deadheads. The story goes something like; Molo was having dinner in a restaurant in a city where the Dead were playing. At the table behind him were a bunch of Heads who were talking about a show they had seen recently and they were hoping that Bruce would ‘do that Spiderfingers like he did at the (fill in date and city here) show’. I know I’m not 100% on my retelling of this story, but it’s something like that. Anyway – Molo didn’t have a clue what they were talking about, so he got a copy of the show they had mentioned and played it for Bruce. Together they figured out what technique they were talking about.
The song is, in part, about that inspiration and also in part about how in the old days of the “Steak and Ale” there were many times when he and his band would be up on stage, ‘givin’ it up for the folks’ with his Jazz licks and such, but the ‘pop-oriented’ people would be sitting there with their drinks ignoring them. He refers to this kind of thing in several songs, Spider Fingers and The Changes come to mind immediately.