Sometimes my iTunes suprises me. It’ll be going all along a streak of new stuff that I have just added, and then suddenly an old song that I haven’t heard in a while shows up. This time, it was “Red Right Hand,” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. First of all, this is a wonderful song. If you haven’t heard it,you should try to get it on Pandora, or Rhapsody, or Deezer (those are the legal alternatives), or whatever you use to download music. It’s really creepy, talking about a murderer, or a thief, or a demon, or something (it’s not all together clear), and you just feel… creeped out. It’s rare that music does that, at least to me. And it’s got a beat, and a good riff, and basically it’s an almost perfect song.
An almost perfect song, with a very strange history, from my point of view anyway. So, it’s been around for a while, since 1994 and has been used in many different media. It’s apparently a big thing in the “Scream” series of movies, of which I’ve only seen the first; it’s used in every one. It’s also connected to Hellboy (although I don’t think it was in the actual movie, maybe just a preview). This makes sense, since Hellboy’s right hand is big and stone and weird. (All of him is red, so it’s accurate there, too, but less extraordinary)… Also inspired a soundtrack anthology for the X-Files (that’s what Chris Carter said).
But the song isn’t the only thing that’s red and right handed. There’s a pulp mystery novel from 1945 by Joel Townsley Rogers, with the same title. Which is where NIck Cave got the idea. Even before that, the phrase itself is apparently from Milton’s Paradise Lost. Interestingly, not actually referring to the devil, as one might expect, but rather to the vengeful arm of God.
So from Paradise Lost to pulp fiction to Nick Cave to Hellboy to my iTunes. Funny how things can flow.