Puneet Varma (Editor)

Red Right Hand

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Mute Records


Tony Cohen

Alternative rock, Southern gothic

Mick Harvey, Nick Cave and Thomas Wydler

"Red Right Hand" is a 1994 song from the band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. A dark, malicious alternative rock track, it's attracted critical praise from various publications such as Spin. It first appeared on the album Let Love In (1994), where it ran at 6:10, and the song was later released at the condensed length of 4:48 as a single.


It has become one of Cave's signature songs, being performed at most of his concerts. The website Setlist.fm stated, as of March 2017, that it was his second-most played track from 1984 to present. The title itself, as well as partial inspiration for the tone of the other lyrics, come from English literary figure John Milton's Paradise Lost, in which it refers to divine vengeance.

Song title

The liner notes for Murder Ballads points out that the phrase "red right hand" is from a line in John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost that refers to the vengeful hand of God. The opening song on the album, "Song of Joy", states of a murderer: "It seems he has done many, many more, / quotes John Milton on the walls in the victim's blood. / The police are investigating at tremendous cost. / In my house he wrote 'his red right hand'. / That, I'm told, is from Paradise Lost."

The aforementioned appearance in Paradise Lost (Book II, 170-174) is: "What if the breath that kindled those grim fires, / Awaked, should blow them into sevenfold rage, / And plunge us in the flames; or from above / Should intermitted vengeance arm again / His red right hand to plague us?".

The term itself appears to be Milton's translation of the term "rubente dextra" in Horace's Ode i.2,2-3

The song has appeared in numerous works of popular culture.


  • As of June 2013, the song has been featured in the South Australian Tourism Board's Barossa Valley television commercial campaign,Barossa, Be Consumed, directed by Jeffrey Darling.
  • The song was used by New York design firm GrandArmy in a promotional clip for the Mexican tequila company El Jimador.
  • Films and soundtracks

  • Dumb and Dumber (1994)
  • Songs in the Key of X: Music from and Inspired by the X-Files (1996)
  • Box of Moonlight (1996)
  • Scream (1996)
  • Boginya: Kak Ya Polyubila (The Goddess: How I Fell in Love) (2004), the song is the main theme
  • Hellboy (2004), the song appears on the soundtrack, in a cover version by Pete Yorn
  • Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant (2009)
  • Scream franchise

  • The song has been used in the first three films in the Scream trilogy. The original version is featured on the soundtrack album for the first film in 1996, while a remixed version by DJ Spooky appears on the Scream 2 (1997) album.
  • Nick Cave recorded another version, sometimes referred to as "Red Right Hand 2", for Scream 3 (2000) and released it on his B-Sides & Rarities (2005) album. Composer Marco Beltrami also incorporated elements from the song into a track in his score for Scream 3.
  • Television

  • Featured prominently during Duane Barry's car ride, with Dana Scully in the trunk, in the 1994 The X-Files episode "Ascension." In the liner notes for the compilation album, Songs in the Key of X: Music from and Inspired by the X-Files (1996) The X-Files producer Chris Carter explained that the song was the direct inspiration for the anthology.
  • The song was used in promos for the UK television show Hollyoaks, during "Fire Week" in 2010, featuring some of the main cast in a restaurant which catches fire.
  • It features as the main theme for the BBC television show Peaky Blinders.
  • Also featured as main theme song for ABC ( Australian ) television program Jack Irish starring Guy Pearce.
  • Covers

  • English indie rock band Arctic Monkeys performed a cover of "Red Right Hand" during their tour of Australia in early 2009, their performance in the Reading and Leeds Festival in August 2009, as well as in their North American tour in December 2009. A recorded version of the song appears on the Japanese version of their third album, Humbug (2009) and as a b-side on the single "Crying Lightning" (2009).
  • Australian jazz musician Frank Bennett recorded a lounge version of the song for his album, Five O'Clock Shadow (1996)
  • US band FIDLAR covered the song in 2013.
  • Giant Sand covered the song on their album Cover Magazine (2002).
  • Ernst Molden covered the song in Austrian German on his album Weidafoan.
  • Pegasus Award-winning filk duo Vixy & Tony recorded a cover of "Red Right Hand" on their album, Thirteen.
  • Chicago Blues Rock band Mutts released a cover version of this song on their 2015 Halloween EP, "Ghoul Yer Delusion."
  • British band, Bamboozle, covered this song on their 2017 EP, "Red Right Hand."
  • Track listing

  • Euro 3 Track CD Single
    1. "Red Right Hand"
    2. "That's What Jazz Is to Me"
    3. "Where the Action Is"


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