Nick Cave and Polly Jean Harvey have a history — one that goes beyond the fact that the two of them are great at musically exploring the darkness of the human soul. Cave and Harvey duetted on “Henry Lee,” a song from Cave and the Bad Seeds’ 1996 album Murder Ballads. And for a while in the ’90s, the two were a couple. On his website the Red Hand Files, Cave recently wrote an utterly charming response to a fan who asked why the two broke up. Cave tells the story of how she called him and dumped him over the phone: “I was so surprised I almost dropped my syringe.” He takes the majority of the blame for the breakup, and he also says that he put a great deal of his sadness over it into writing The Boatman’s Call, the Bad Seeds’ 1997. So when PJ Harvey suddenly shows up with a Nick Cave cover, we know there’s a backstory to it.
Harvey has just shared her version of “Red Right Hand,” the 1994 song that is almost certainly the most famous thing Nick Cave has ever written. These days, “Red Right Hand” serves as the theme music for Peaky Blinders, the great Netflix/BBC show about a British crime family. Plenty of other people have covered “Red Right Hand” in recent years, often with Peaky Blinders in mind: Iggy Pop and Jarvis Cocker, Snoop Dogg.
Next month, as Express reports, there’s a double-disc Peaky Blinders soundtrack album coming out. The show has featured a lot of throbbing, howling guitar rock, and a lot of that will appear on the soundtrack album, including tracks from the White Stripes, Arctic Monkeys, Radiohead, Queens Of The Stone Age, and David Bowie. PJ Harvey has regularly appeared on the soundtrack, so a few of her songs will be on the album. And she’s also contributed a tingly, eerie voice-and-piano version of “Red Right Hand.” Regular Harvey collaborator Flood produced it. Listen below.
The Peaky Blinders soundtrack album is out 11/15 on Universal. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds’ staggering new album Ghosteen is out now. Harvey has been doing a lot of soundtrack work lately, including scores for the British drama series The Virtues and the recent stage-play version of All About Eve.