This semi-comically melodramatic take on Stephen King's novel The Stand depicts a nightmarish figure emerging on "the edge of town."
The song's title comes from a line in John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost
:Should intermitted vengeance arm again
His red right hand to plague us?
What if all her stores were opened, and this firmament
Of Hell should spout her cataracts of fire
Cave used the same line in his track "Song of Joy" from his 1996 album Murder Ballads
. In this instance he sings:Quotes John Milton on the walls in the victim's blood
Police are investigating at tremendous cost
In my house he wrote 'His red right hand'
That I am told, is from 'Paradise Lost
The English Puritan writer John Milton wrote the Biblical poem Paradise Lost, in which he attempted "to justify the ways of God to man." Milton was totally blind when he created his "magnum opus." He composed it entirely in his mind and dictated it to his daughters. A classic of English literature, it was the first great poem written in blank verse. Though he was to achieve universal fame for this work, Milton was forced by his financial circumstances to sell his copyright for Paradise Lost to Samuel Simmons, a London Bookseller, for £5, plus another £5 after 3 additions of 1500 copies had been sold. This was actually quite a reasonable sum in 1667, the year he wrote it.
The album version runs at 6:10, whilst the single release was edited to 4:48.
This appeared in several movies and TV shows. It was used in the 1994 comedy Dumb and Dumber when Lloyd got robbed by an old lady on a motorized cart. It was also featured in the first three films of the Scream franchise. In the first movie, it plays as the town of Woodsboro issues a curfew due to a killer on the loose. Scream 2 uses a remixed version from DJ Spooky, while Scream 3 features an alternate rendition from Cave called "Red Right Hand 2."
It also shows up in the moviesSlash (2014), Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant (2009), Hellboy (2004), and The X Files (1998). Aside from appearing in the latter film, it was also a key track in the X-Files episode "Ascension" (1994) when Scully's kidnapper gets pulled over by a policeman. It was included on the show's 1996 soundtrack, Songs In The Key Of X.
Nick Cave told Q Magazine October 2007: "A good song has the ability to continue to reveal itself to you long after you've actually written it. This one's pretty good (for that)."
PJ Harvey recorded a cover for the second series of the TV show Peaky Blinders. Harvey was commissioned after the BBC drama received criticism for seeming "too American." Speaking to NME, the show's music producer Flood explained: "We're trying to make it feel much more European and British and PJ fits that bill perfectly. I phoned Polly up and she was very interested. We're trying to deconstruct all of Polly's material and then weave it through, it's very cutting-edge and modern."
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds' original served as the main theme for the fourth series of Peaky Blinders. A number of people also recorded covers including Laura Marling for episode six. Her version soundtracks a scene where some big, burly men are walking down a corridor, about to have a boxing match. The soundtrack composer Antony Genn told NME:
"It was magical in the studio, listening to her unbelievable voice. The testosterone-fuelled imagery is juxtaposed against Laura's beautiful vocals. She's the real deal."
Guitarist Mick Harvey told Uncut magazine the story of the song: "'Red Right Hand' is an odd one, 'cos it came out of a jam during some demo-recording in Melbourne. I think Nick, myself, and Thomas Wyndler (drums) were there. Nick was sick of always playing C minor or G minor. His fingers always would go to the same chords on the piano. It's a common problem. He said, 'Ah, play something in a key I don't know.' So I started playing that in B. I thought, 'He won't be able to find that, he won't be able to, you know, dictate.'
It's just a 12-bar turnaround, really. Nick didn't really have a song, but we recorded the basic track when we recorded Let Love In and we knew what the atmosphere was meant to be. It's just got this feel and that's what the Bad Seeds are capable of."
Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight explained the show's use of "Red Right Hand" as its theme song. "There is a swagger, poetry, fallibility, flawed masculinity to that song that we aspire to in the show," he told Uncut magazine. "That song gives you that world in your belly. Poetry and song are able to achieve in two minutes what we've been striving for, for over 24 hours."