The combination of a piercingly percusive, haunting beat and Nick Cave's elusively melodic voice create the sounds creepy atmosphere.

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 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
you ain't got no money?
he'll get you some
You ain't got no car? He'll get you one
you ain't go no self-respect
you feel like an insect
Well, don't you worry buddy
cause here he comes
through the ghetto and the barrio and the slums
A shadow is cast wherever he stands
stacks of green paper in his red right hand

He'll wrap you in his arms,
tell you that you've been a good boy
He'll rekindle all those dreams
it took you a lifetime to destroy
He'll reach deep into the hole,
heal your shrinking soul
Hey, buddy, you know you're
never ever coming back
He's a ghost, he's a god,
he's a man, he's a guru
they're whispering his name
across this disappearing land
But hidden in his coat
is a red right hand

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

Additional lyrics from the DJ Spooky remix:

He'll extend his hand, real slowly for a shake
You'll see it coming toward you, real slowly for a shake
(Grabbing at your peril buddy?) cause you know you ain't
getting near much as he will take.

He's a...
He's mumbling words you can't understand
He's mumbling word behind his red right hand.

My own interpretation of the song is as so: The man with the Red Right Hand is an amalgamation of God and Satan of the Christian religion. The man himself is God, while the Red Right Hand is the devil.

you ain't got no money?
he'll get you some
You ain't got no car? He'll get you one
you ain't go no self-respect
you feel like an insect
Well, don't you worry buddy
cause here he comes

Essentially the song comments on the similarities between these two dichotomizations of good and evil. In the fundamentalist Christian mythos, we often see God essentially acting as a force of evil. For example, a wrathful God frequently commits one of The Seven Deadly Sins. Another tenet of the religion, is that Satan is just one of the mysterious ways God is working out his larger plan (see also: the terrorism quote of Pat Robertson). Thus, the devil is God's "Red Right Hand".

He'll wrap you in his arms,
tell you that you've been a good boy

This couplet refers to the fact that one can find a haven in the culture of good or evil, regardless of which is "right".

He'll rekindle all those dreams
it took you a lifetime to destroy

This couplet discusses the fact that God requires one to oppress one's desires and emotions, while Satan calls them out.

You're one microscopic cog
in his catastrophic plan
Designed and directed by
his red right hand

The song leaves the listener with a question of the power struggle between God and Satan. Can Satan be independant of God? Can Satan create his own nefarious plans for pure evil? Is there a distinction between an independant Satan and a controlled Satan, considering God's omnipotence and omniscience?

The term "Red Right Hand" also might be a pun. If one takes the term "right" to mean "moral", we can interpret the song to question the morality of a god who allows a being of pure evil such as Satan to exist.

This is one song which I keep coming back to again and again. Try a listen.

As Nick Cave mentions in "A Song of Joy" (from the album Murder Ballads), the line "Red Right Hand" is from Milton's Paradise Lost.

The section of Paradise Lost follows:

Paradise Lost, Book II, Lines 163-176:

What can we suffer worse? Is this then worst,
Thus sitting, thus consulting, thus in arms?
What when we fled amain, pursued and strook
With Heaven's afflicting thunder, and besought
The deep to shelter us? This hell then seemed
A refuge from those wounds. Or when we lay
Chained on the burning lake? That sure was worse.
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? What if all
Her stores were opened, and this firmament
Of hell should spout her cataracts of fire,

Nick Cave, in an interview about the song, had this to say:
From Spex, May 1994; Joerg-Uwe Albig: Nick Cave, Die Erkennbarkeit Gottes, pp. 26-29)

Spex: But here you're clearly talking about the devil.

Nick: I'm really not sure what about I'm talking there, to be really honest with you. I have to sing a few verses with the music that we have written together. I sang, how it was in my head ("Ich sang, wie es mir in den Kopf kam"). So this is a somewhat mysterious song for me. I suppose, Red Right Hand is a hand, plunged in blood, you know? It is the Evil. It is about someone, who pretends to be the saviour, but he isn't.

Spex: Consequently the Devil.

Nick: You can say that's the Devil. But it is only a song about... it is only that, what it is. ("Aber es ist einfach ein Lied ueber... es ist einfach das, was da ist")

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