red-right-hand-girl-version

‎‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎It’s a song that has fairly humble beginnings. Much of it came from a jam we were working on when we writing songs for our album Let Love In. […] I still find it all mysterious. I don’t want to know the details, and I’d never ask Nick. Sometimes it’s better to think “what the hell’s that all about?” It’s better that it’s unknowable and spooky. The song has its own life, now.

[Verse 1]
Take a little walk to the edge of town
Go across the tracks
Where the viaduct looms
Like a bird of doom
As it shifts and cracks
Where secrets lie in the border fires
In the humming wires
Hey man, you know
You’re never coming back
Past the square, past the bridge
Past the mills, past the stacks
On a gathering storm comes
A tall handsome man
In a dusty black coat
With a red right hand

[Verse 2]
He’ll wrap you in his arms
Tell you that you’ve been a good boy
He’ll rekindle all the dreams
It took you a lifetime to destroy
He’ll reach deep into the hole
Heal your shrinking soul
But there won’t be a single thing that you can do
He’s a god, he’s a man
He’s a ghost, he’s a guru
They’re whispering his name
Through this disappearing land
But hidden in his coat
Is a red right hand

[Verse 3]
You don’t have no money?
He’ll get you some
You don’t have no car?
He’ll get you one
You don’t have no self-respect
You feel like an insect
Well don’t you worry buddy
Cause here he comes
Through the ghettos and the barrio
And the Bowery and the slums
A shadow is cast wherever he stands
Stacks of green paper
In his red right hand

[Organ Solo 1]

[Verse 4]
You’ll see him in your nightmares
You’ll see him in your dreams
He’ll appear out of nowhere but
He ain’t what he seems
You’ll see him in your head
On the TV screen
And hey buddy, I’m warning
You to turn it off
He’s a ghost, he’s a god
He’s a man, he’s a guru
You’re one microscopic cog
In his catastrophic plan
Designed and directed
By his red right hand

[Organ Solo 2]

Track #5 from Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds’ eighth studio album Let Love In.

The notion of a Red Right Hand goes back to John Milton’s Paradise Lost where it also plays the role of an undefined threat. There are discussions among scholars whether it concerns the hand of Satan or the punishing hand of God himself.

To back up the lyrics, the whole song has a threatening allure with the organ theme and Cave’s deep ominous voice.

In verses one and two, a tall handsome stranger ‘with a red right hand’ is used to personify an omnipresent danger. In verses three and four it is revealed what this danger actually is. It is the allure (remember that the man is tall and handsome) of material wealth which draws away your focus from more important things like self-respect. The tall handsome man sustains this danger as a ‘catastrophic plan’ in which you (that is the average person) are a ‘microscopic cog’. In this way, the man represents consumer society: something which is very everyday, but in its essence utterly scary and life-crushing.

The song was used as a theme song for the the horror movies Scream 1 & 2 and the soundtrack of 3 still contains tunes that are a reminiscence of this song. It’s also the theme song for the BBC show Peaky Blinders.

Sharing is caring

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.