Red Right Hand

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"Red Right Hand"
Single by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
from the album Let Love In
  • "That's What Jazz Is to Me"
  • "Where the Action Is"
Released24 October 1994
RecordedSeptember – December 1993
Length6:10 (album version)
4:46 (single edit)
Producer(s)Tony Cohen
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds singles chronology
"Red Right Hand"
"Where the Wild Roses Grow"
Let Love In track listing
  1. "Do You Love Me?"
  2. "Nobody's Baby Now"
  3. "Loverman"
  4. "Jangling Jack"
  5. "Red Right Hand"
  6. "I Let Love In"
  7. "Thirsty Dog"
  8. "Ain't Gonna Rain Anymore"
  9. "Lay Me Low"
  10. "Do You Love Me? Pt 2"

"Red Right Hand" is a song by Australian rock band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. It was released as a single from their eighth studio album, Let Love In (1994), on 24 October 1994. A condensed version was included in the single, while the longer version was included with the album. The title comes from John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost, in which it refers to the vengeful hand of God.

The song has become one of Nick Cave's signature songs, being performed at most of his concerts; only "The Mercy Seat" has appeared in more of his live sets since 1984.[5] It has since become best known for its use in the Scream film series and later as the theme song to the British crime drama series Peaky Blinders, which resulted in the song receiving a re-release single in 2014. It has been covered by Arctic Monkeys, PJ Harvey, Iggy Pop, Jarvis Cocker and Snoop Dogg, among others.

In 2005, Cave was a guest performer on his former girlfriend Anita Lane's cover of the song.[citation needed]


The town described in the song is loosely based on Cave's hometown of Wangaratta. (Pictured: Wangaratta railway station, 1954).

The liner notes for Murder Ballads state that the phrase "red right hand" is from a line in John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost that refers to divine vengeance. 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 dextera" in Horace's Ode I.2,2-3.

Co-writer Mick Harvey recalled that the song originated during the songwriting process for the band's 1994 album Let Love In. The lyrics describe "a shadowy, alluring, and manipulative figure, stalking the land and striking a combination of fear and awe everywhere he goes" who is "seemingly part deity, part demon".[6] While writing the lyrics, Cave "filled an entire notebook" with descriptions of the town the song is set in, "including maps and sketches of prominent buildings, virtually none of which made it into the lyrics."[7] Cave later said that the town and landscape depicted in the song is a "reconstructed" version of Wangaratta, his hometown. Biographer Mark Mordue notes that it is "still somewhere real enough for those lyrics to serve as a map that could guide you from one point to another with an eerie familiarity."[8]

In 2004, researcher Kim Beissel claimed that "Red Right Hand" was loosely based on the 1987 Tom Waits song "Way Down in the Hole".[9]


"Red Right Hand" is widely regarded as one of Cave's best songs. In 2020, Far Out ranked the song number five on their list of the 20 greatest Nick Cave songs,[10] and in 2023, Mojo ranked the song number six on their list of the 30 greatest Nick Cave songs.[11]

Film and television[edit]


  • The song was used in the South Australian Tourism Board's Barossa Valley television commercial campaign, Barossa, Be Consumed, directed by Jeffrey Darling.[12]
  • The song was used by New York design firm GrandArmy in a promotional clip for the Mexican tequila company El Jimador.[13]

Films and soundtracks[edit]

Scream franchise[edit]

  • The song was used in the first three films in the Scream franchise and in the fifth installment of the series, also named Scream, as well as the sixth installment. Scream 4 stands as the only film in the franchise not to feature the song. The original version appeared 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.



Track listing[edit]

  • Euro three-track CD single
  1. "Red Right Hand"
  2. "That's What Jazz Is to Me"
  3. "Where the Action Is"



1994 chart performance for "Red Right Hand"
Chart (1994) Peak
UK Indie (OCC)[18] 16
2022 chart performance for "Red Right Hand"
Chart (2022) Peak
Hungary (Single Top 40)[19] 26


Certifications for "Red Right Hand"
Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[20] Silver 200,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ Cutchin, Joshua (3 October 2015). "Southern Gothic: Ten unconventional songs to put you in the Halloween mood". Joshua Cutchin: Weird Words & Brass Beats. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
  2. ^ Trakin, Roy (8 February 2018). "Case Study: How a 1994 Nick Cave Song Became a Favorite of Music Supervisors". Variety. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  3. ^ Graves, Wren (8 October 2019). "Nick Cave says Snoop Dogg's "Red Right Hand" cover left "a giant smile on my face"". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  4. ^ Elferen, Isabella van; Weinstock, Jeffrey Andrew (2015). Goth Music: From Sound to Subculture. Routledge. p. 27. ISBN 978-1-317-96298-4.
  5. ^ "Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Tour Statistics -". Retrieved 10 August 2017.
  6. ^ Phull, Hardeep (22 June 2016). "The unlikely story behind 'Peaky Blinders' theme song". New York Post. Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  7. ^ Wray, John (1 July 2014). "I Am the Real Nick Cave", The New York Times. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  8. ^ Mordue, Mark (2020). Boy on Fire: The Young Nick Cave. 4th Estate, ISBN 9781460713211.
  9. ^ Original Seeds Vol. 2: Songs that inspired Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Kim Beissel, CD liner notes, Rubber Records Australia, 2004
  10. ^ Whatley, Jack (22 September 2020). "Nick Cave's 20 greatest songs of all time". Far Out. Retrieved 6 December 2023.
  11. ^ "Nick Cave's 30 Greatest Songs Ranked". Mojo. 14 November 2023. Retrieved 6 December 2023.
  12. ^ Newstead, Al (23 May 2013). "Nick Cave Provides Soundtrack For Barossa Valley Tourism Campaign". Tone Deaf. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  13. ^ "El Jimador".
  14. ^ "Peaky Blinders playlist". Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  15. ^ a b Britton, Luke Morgan (14 December 2017). "Listen to Iggy Pop and Jarvis Cocker's cover of 'Peaky Blinders' theme 'Red Right Hand'". NME.
  16. ^ Fennessy, Kathleen C. "Cover Magazine - Giant Sand". AllMusic. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  17. ^ "Resetarits*, Lang*, Molden* – Weida Foan". Discogs. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  18. ^ "Independent Singles" (PDF). Music Week. 12 November 1994. p. 18. Retrieved 21 April 2023.
  19. ^ "Archívum – Slágerlisták – MAHASZ" (in Hungarian). Single (track) Top 40 lista. Magyar Hanglemezkiadók Szövetsége. Retrieved 12 May 2022.
  20. ^ "British single certifications – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Red Right Hand". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 21 August 2020.