"Fingers Of Love" as written by and Neil Finn....
Can you imagine that
An itch too sensitive to scratch
A light that falls through the cracks
An insect too delicate to catch?

I hear the endless murmur
Every blade of grass that shivers in the breeze
And the sound, it comes to carry me
Across the land and over the sea

And I can't look up
Fingers of love move down
And I can't look back
Fingers of love move down

Color is it's own reward
Color is it's own reward
The chiming of a perfect chord
Let's go jumping overboard

Into waves of joy and clarity
Your hands come out to rescue me
And I'm playing in the shallow water
Laughing while the mad dog sleeps

And I can't look up
Fingers of love move down
And I won't be helped
Fingers of love move everywhere
And there is time yet
To fall by the way

From the cradle to the grave
From the palace to the gutter
Beneath the dying rays of the sun
Lie the fingers of love

Into waves of joy and clarity
A fallen angel walked on the sea
And I'm playing in the shallow water
Laughing while the mad dog sleeps

And I can't look up
Fingers of love move down
And I won't be helped
Fingers of love move everywhere

And there is time yet
For you to find me
And all at once
Fingers of love move down


Lyrics submitted by itchasg, edited by TrueThomas

"Fingers of Love" as written by Neil Mullane Finn

Lyrics © CHRYSALIS SONGS O/B/O ROUNDHEAD MUSIC

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Fingers Of Love song meanings
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8 Comments

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  • +1
    Lyric CorrectionIn the third line of the second and third chorus, I'm pretty sure he's saying, "And I won't be HELPED".
    V76on April 30, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI used to think that the lyric was "Trouble is its own reward". Either works I guess
    thenarratoron August 14, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI have heard numerous theories about this song, most say that the lyrics are about Neil Finns lover for music, in particular his guitar...His 'fingers of love' strum his guitar.

    However, Im sorry to disappoint, but off the air (my brother is a leading DJ at a Sydney radio station) Neil Finn told my brother the song was about masturbation, and it was written when he was smoking weed...But he likes the idea of the guitar thing, so often goes along with it.
    nails_in_my_feeton June 30, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI've always believed the masturbation theory BUT the amazing thing about Neil's lyrics is that they can have SO many meanings. I probably just have a sick mind anyway.
    kit_katon March 31, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOn the Farewell to the World commentary Neil said it was about "God RAys" coming down from the sky. And he was smoking marajuana at the time.
    dizrythmia girlon December 22, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentCool! I wasn't able to see that meaning.
    Good music too!
    bear_hug20on May 04, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentChills. Every time. I've grown up with Crowded House and I think there's something to be said when you cannot get sick of a band or their songs after 15+ years? Also that this song can give me chills when I've heard it absolutely hundreds of times. Neil Finn has an incredible song writing ability...Love them
    CathW06on December 15, 2010   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationMy favourite Crowded House song, and as with many Neil Finn compositions, the impressionistic lyrics of this one don't deliver the song's meaning directly to you. Instead, you have to go out to meet it, and that meeting point becomes a place of enrichment, almost of meditation. The interpretation draws on the listener, perhaps as much as on the song itself, so any interpretation, as long as it's tethered to the basic meaning of the song, would seem to be valid. Here's mine, for what it's worth, and having read the earlier comments, I may be way off :

    I see this song as the tale of a troubled man. He's quarrelled with his significant other, and now he's sitting out alone among the grasses above a beach, cooling off, regretting how he acted, and watching the sun go down. The sunset's glorious, richly coloured, flinging down rays through the clouds. It's breezy but pleasant. He has to fly overseas soon and is reluctant to go. Watching the sunset slowly fills him with joy, and in this joy he realises that all is not lost, though he may have to do some serious grovelling. But he's pretty confident in the love of his sig. other, and that this love will heal their breach and save him once again.

    The identity of his sig. other is vague. The obvious interpretation is that it's a woman, and this is certainly the side I lean to. That said, however - and I think Neil Finn is on record as being a non-believer - it could be interpreted as God, and the song as a psalm-like hymn of longing : 'There is time yet/for you to find me.' Whichever, I think it's about his regret at having been a disappointment, and the journey of his thoughts towards transcending this.

    That's the basic meaning I take from it, at any rate. To explain what took me there :

    Firstly the 'fingers of love' themselves. I think these are crepuscular rays, the diverging sunbeams created by gaps in the clouds ('the light that falls through the cracks'). Various cultures have interpreted these rays as spiritual, and given them a spiritual name, so they could be seen as manifestations of love. The 'dying rays of the sun' phrase seems to establish the time as towards sunset.

    There's a lot of hand imagery in the song - hands being what we use for physical contact, for carrying out actions ('your hands come out to rescue me'), for playing music, etc. They're also the organs of help, which is what he needs here, and perhaps the ethereal hands of love are trying to get to him to save him, though so far only the fingers have got through the clouds. Of course 'fingers of love' has sensual and sexual overtones too.

    The setting I'm picturing as marran-grass-covered sand dunes above a beach, presumably on a west-facing coast (so the sun sets over the water) in NZ. There's a lot of sea imagery in the song, and I'm taking 'every blade of grass that shivers in the breeze' to be marram grass, which grows on and binds dunes. The sun going down 'all at once' at the end puts the location closer the equator than my own latitude, and NZ is a good 10-20 degrees in the right direction.

    There's no sense of physical discomfort (it's breezy but pleasant; the water's inviting; there are insects around, indicating it's not too cold). His discomfort is cerebral, not physical. The only sense of physical discomfort comes from the grass that 'shivers', and the 'dying rays', though I take both of these to mean other things.

    Overhanging him is the fact that he must leave soon to fly overseas, so time to fix this situation he's in is short. The 'endless murmur' that surrounds him (the combined sound of waves breaking on the beach, the breeze in his ears, the rustling grasses, and even sand being blown) is the same sound as the jet engines that will shortly take him away 'across the land and over the sea.' Even the breeze might suggest the push of jet engines.

    The song follows the transmutation of his feelings as the fingers of love work their effect on him.
    It starts with him sitting there thinking and watching the sun descending. I think the 'itch too sensitive to scratch' is his situation, which needs to be handled more tactfully than he knows how, or requires him going to lengths he's not yet willing to go to. It's the antithesis of, 'if you've got an itch, scratch it.' Scratching this itch will lead to more discomfort before it gets better. The 'light that falls through the cracks' could be an indication of the healing love already piercing the clouds of his dark mood.
    There follows a chorus of sorts - he can't look up or back. Perhaps he's mesmerised by the sunset, and can't take his eyes off it. Perhaps he doesn't want to look into the sky where he'll be flying soon, or into the past where his current unease came from. He doesn't want to leave, and this sunset is certainly rooting him here for the moment.
    He enters a state of ecstasy in the following verse, which starts with him being overwhelmed by the colour of the sunset ('Colour is its own reward', mentioned twice), then experiencing it synaesthetically as music in 'the chiming of a perfect chord' - a musician's line. After this the verse launches into the full careless exultation of 'jumping overboard', 'joy and clarity', 'playing', 'laughing'. The 'mad dog' image is interesting - maybe he's just got an idiotic dog with him on the beach, but the mad dog could be symbolic of his ill humour, which has become dormant in this ecstatic state. Churchill labelled his depression his Black Dog, after Samuel Johnson visualising his own episodes that way, so the 'mad dog' label perhaps suits this current dark mood. 'Let's...' is significant in introducing the idea of another person or persons, and encouraging them to jump with him into immersive bliss and enlightenment. The 'joy and clarity' he's feeling might be experienced as coming at him in 'waves', or maybe it just feels like he's riding the waves of the sea.
    Into the semi-chorus again, and this time he says, 'I won't be helped,' doing the man thing of, in weakness, denying what you really need if it has to be supplied by another person; that male way of projecting emotional self-sufficiency though in dire need of comfort, support and help. So he resists being soothed - even though the influence of the fingers of love are doing all they can to help him (they 'move everywhere'), he's blocking them.
    The next verse brings him crashing down to earth, as he realises how possible it is for him to 'fall by the way', victim to some calamity on his journey 'from the cradle to the grave', such as ruin ('from the palace to the gutter'), and in this mood he sees the sunset in a defeated way as the sun's 'dying rays'. He's the man on a tightrope looking down and realising how low he can go. But still, underlying all this, is the support of the 'fingers of love'. This verse starts with the interesting lead-in, 'there is time yet,' which will be repeated differently later - he's thinking in this verse, 'There is time yet for me to wreck everything, if I don't resolve this situation'.
    He comes out of that into a short, uplifting musical interlude, and then partly back into his earlier ecstatic state, looking at the sunset, and this time seeing a fallen angel walking on the sea (presumably the sun's track over the water resembling a luminous, upright being, walking Jesus-like across the waves, perhaps coming to bless, perhaps to rescue, him. A sign of hope).
    There's now a repetition of the semi-chorus, where he once again confirms his refusal to accept help, despite the fingers of love still doing all they can for him.
    And now the song ends with him addressing his sig. other, 'There is time yet' (that lead-in again, but this time followed by the more hopeful :) 'for you to find me'. 'And all at once/fingers of love move down' seems an ambiguous way to finish. Is it hopeful, or is it hope disappearing? Have the fingers of love vanished suddenly before he can accept their help? With the sun gone, is all that's rooting him here also gone, bringing again the bleak realisation that he's going to have to leave soon? I interpret it as a hopeful ending, but maybe that's just me.

    Like I say, I'm sure many different meanings can be assembled out of the lyrics. I remember reading an interview in which Neil Finn said something along the lines of, he couldn't always explain what his lyrics mean, but he'd defend them all to his dying breath. I think the value of a song is what meaning you're able to take from it when you first get to know it, and (in the case of more complex songs, like this one) how it can grow with you, as you gain experience and are able to bring more to it.
    TrueThomason August 19, 2013   Link

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