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Album photograph from Night of Desirable Objects
Album photograph from Night of Desirable Objects
Background information
Birth namePhilip Charles Lithman
Born17 June 1949
Tooting, London, England
Died1 July 1987(1987-07-01) (aged 38)
Linz, Austria
Years active1971–1987

Philip Charles Lithman (17 June 1949 – 1 July 1987), who performed under the stage name Snakefinger, was an English musician, singer and songwriter. A multi-instrumentalist, he was best known for his guitar and violin work and his collaborations with The Residents.


Lithman was born in Tooting, South London, and came from the British blues scene. He moved to San Francisco in 1971 and became associated with the avant-garde group The Residents. It is said he was given the name 'Snakefinger' by The Residents themselves based on a photograph of Lithman performing, in which his finger looks like a snake about to attack his violin.[1]

In 1972 Lithman returned to England and formed the pub rock band Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers with Martin Stone, ex-member of Mighty Baby and a fellow ex-member of Junior's Blues Band. As a duo, they released the album Kings of Robot Rhythm. In 1974, as a full band and popular live act in Britain, they released Bongos Over Balham.[2]

Chilli Willi lasted until 1975, their last record not selling well, and by 1976 Lithman was back in the United States, this time in Los Angeles, California,[2] seeking a recording contract, shopping his rock-style demos.

After a few years, Lithman moved back to San Francisco, reconnected with The Residents, and performed and recorded with them.[1] Lithman's solo records, recorded under the name Snakefinger, were released by their record label Ralph Records.

His first album on Ralph was Chewing Hides the Sound in 1979, featuring original material co-written with The Residents as well as esoteric covers like Kraftwerk's "The Model".[3] The songs showcased Lithman's distinctive slide guitar playing[3] and often surreal imagery. This album was followed by Greener Postures in 1980, which included his first solo compositions as Snakefinger.

While on tour in Australia in 1980, Lithman had a heart attack that left him hospitalised for six months.[4]

In 1982, Lithman formed his backing band The Vestal Virgins with former Captain Beefheart sideman Eric Drew Feldman. Snakefinger and The Vestal Virgins released Manual of Errors on Ralph in 1982. This was followed by the blues cover album Snakefinger's History of the Blues: Live in Europe in 1984. Lithman released his fourth and final album, Night of Desirable Objects in 1986,[5] which consisted of largely original material.

Lithman performed with The Residents on their 13th Anniversary Tour in 1986.[6]


On 1 July 1987, Snakefinger and his band, The Vestal Virgins, arrived in Linz, Austria, on the European Night tour. The next morning, he was found dead in a guestroom of the Posthof Club where the band had been due to perform. He had suffered a heart attack. His single "There's No Justice in Life" was released on the same day.[5]


Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers[edit]

  • Kings of the Robot Rhythm (Revelation LP, 1972)
  • Bongos over Balham (Mooncrest LP, 1974)
  • I'll Be Home (rarities compilation) (Proper Records CD, 1996)


  • The Spot (Ralph 7", 1978)
  • Chewing Hides the Sound (Ralph LP, 1979)
  • The Man in the Dark Sedan / Womb to Worm (Ralph 7", 1980)
  • Greener Postures (Ralph LP, 1980)
  • Manual of Errors (Ralph LP, 1982)
  • Against the Grain (Ralph LP, 1983)
  • Snakefinger's History of the Blues: Live in Europe (Rough Trade LP, 1984)
  • Snakefinger's Vestal Virgins: Live in Chicago (Ralph cassette, 1986; Tec Tones CD, 1996)
  • Night of Desirable Objects (Ralph LP, 1987, Tec Tones CD, 1993)
  • Snakefinger: A Collection (East Side Digital CD, 1988)
  • Philip Charles Lithman aka Snakefinger (UWEB CD, 1993)
  • Live at the Savoy 1981 (CD Presents, 2010)

Appearances on Residents albums[edit]

Appearances with The Club Foot Orchestra[edit]

  • Wild Beasts (Ralph LP, 1986)

Compilation albums[edit]

  • Savoy Sound – Wave Goodbye (CD Presents, 1981)
  • Potatoes: A Collection Of Folk Songs by Ralph Records (Ralph Records, 1987)
    • song: "The Ballad Of Sawney Beane/Sawney's Death Dance" by Snakefinger&His Midi-Evil Vestal Virgins
  • Beets (Tec Tones, 1990)
    • song: "Reptology"


John H Seabury (bass player) Member of Berkeley's Psycotic Pineapple


  1. ^ a b "Snakefinger - Greener Postures". Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  2. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Artist Biography by Stephen Thomas Erlewine". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Snakefinger - Chewing Hides the Sound". Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  4. ^ Skene, Gordon. "Snakefinger – Live At The Boarding House – 1979 – Past Daily Soundbooth". Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Snakefinger's Vestal Virgins - Night of Desirable Objects". Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  6. ^ "The Residents - 13th Anniversary Show - Live In The USA". Retrieved 19 December 2019.

External links[edit]