The Snakey Wake (AKA, Lament) is a single (and later album) released by The Residents in 1988 through their UWEB. fan club. It features a studio version of a live performance the group conceived in August 1987, as a tribute to their recently deceased friend Philip "Snakefinger" Lithman.
Philip "Snakefinger" Lithman was a long-time friend and collaborator with The Residents working with them since their earliest days. He had most recently performed with them on their 13th Anniversary Show tour from 1985 - 1987, when he unexpectedly died of a heart attack. The group were unable to attend his funeral, disrupting the ever important grieving process.
With that in mind, the group held their own memorial for Lithman, referred to as "The Snakey Wake", in San Francisco on August 24th 1987. The Residents arrived dressed in black, wrapped in black netting, carrying black umbrellas (depicted on the cover art of the EP). Snakefinger's friends supplied mementos, which were packaged and tied to large black balloons The Residents had inflated during the laments. The balloons were released into the sky at the end of the night. The wake also included the final performance from the elderly N. Senada.
The band created a studio version of the performance, and released it as a limited edition single through their fan club UWEB later in 1988.
An album version of the single was released in 2015.
Single Version (1988)
- Lament (20:09)
- Six More Miles
Album Version (2015)
UWEB edition (1988) and Secret Records edition (2017)
The Residents met Philip Lithman in 1969. They became immediate friends and began playing music together. Hippies tend to do that when they aren't growing hair or smoking bananas. It was, no doubt, some of those very bananas that caused a photo of Philip's hand playing the "fiddle" to be given the rubbery interpretation of "Snakefinger", a name which stuck despite Philip's reluctance to accept it gracefully.
But stick, it did, as did the friendship between these very different but obviously compatible humans. The number of appearances of Snakefinger on Residents projects, as well as the involvement of The Residents on Snakefinger albums, bears testament to the strength and commitment of their visionary alliance.
1986 was a particularly good year for their working together. "The 13th Anniversary Show" had necessitated a tour of Japan, Australia, North America and Europe. Plans were made to tour together again in 1989. Fate decreed otherwise. Snakefinger died July 1, 1987 while on a European tour with his band, The Vestal Virgins... silenced by a heart attack.
Philip "Snakefinger" Lithman was buried in London. The word "Snakefinger" was never uttered as they lay him in the ground. His grave neglects the name by which he is loved by millions. The many friends in San Francisco consoled each other, but the death of a friend so far from home is difficult to accept. The Residents organized a party... a wake... for their lost friend. The party was called "The Snakey Wake". It was so named due to Mr. Fingers' strange form of speaking in double rhymes.
The Residents arrived in black. More black net wrapped around their bodies and each carried an open black umbrella. They went to their instruments without introduction and hurled into an eerie version of Hank Williams' "Six More Miles To The Graveyard". A series of electronic renditions of old English laments followed as two of The Residents inflated several large black balloons with helium. These balloons were wrapped in more black net and open umbrellas. Then friends approached with mementos of Snakefinger and these items were combined into a package that was attached to the giant bobbing black mass. As the final lament was sung, the whole structure was launched into the clear night sky and watched by all until it was no longer visible.
The loss of this working companion has been difficult for The Residents, but the loss of Snakefinger as a friend is an empty space that will forever remain.
The Snakey Wake was released in Mid-December 1988, following the release of Santa Dog '88 earlier that month. It was re-issued later that month.
An album version of the single was released in 2015, which featured two additional tracks from the 2010 digital MiniAlbum, 'Live At The Snake Wake'. Two years later, the album was released as an LP by Secret Records, in five variations, on black vinyl, blue vinyl, cyan vinyl, white/blue swirl vinyl, and a signed test pressing.
- Music Performed by: The Residents
Additional Credits (From Later Pressings)
- 2015 CD
- 2017 LP
- 2017 Remaster by: Carl Saff
- Design by: Luluweird