The theme tunes of TV series are increasingly important: it’s about a fundamental element, increasingly at the center of the narrative, as well as useful for the characterization of the works themselves; the choice of a theme song, as with soundtracks more generally, is an aspect that must be taken care of down to the smallest detail, because it is able to give added value to the series, extending the narrative beyond the time of the story, or simply by surrounding a specific theme. We at Hall of Series have decided to create a new column that deals with analyze the great theme songs of the TV series more closely, analyzing texts, tones and historical references, connecting them to the series in question. Today we offer you an analysis of the theme song of one of the most beloved TV series of the recent era: Peaky Blinders. The soundtrack of the series created by Steven Knight is a real gem, but his workhorse is even more so, a cult song by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, the unforgettable Red Right Handa song immediately attributable to the Shelby family and Birmingham’s best-known band.
The following article contains several references and SPOILERS about Peaky Blinders.
The Red Right Handthe hand of fate
Nick Cave’s lyrics are famous for one reason in particular: the esoteric sense that they invoke. A motif that goes perfectly with the spirit of Peaky Blindersa series that makes things clear from the first moments the relationship of its protagonists with spiritualitymore than with religion itself and, above all, with fate, due to the Shelby family’s belonging to a gypsy dynasty. Red Right Handin fact, seems to address Thomas Shelby, the protagonist of Peaky Blinders. Nick Cave’s song tells of a mysterious man, certainly of otherworldly origin, a man capable of solving any human need, any problem; the song reads:
You don’t have no money?
He’ll get you some
You don’t have no car?
He’ll get you one
You don’t have no self-respect
You feel like an insect
Well don’t you worry buddy
‘Cause here he comes
These characteristics attributed to the protagonist of Nick Cave’s song, also considering his tendency to turn to the religious sphere in general, bring to mind an ambiguous reference, of double reading: the man in question, physically characterized by a “red right hand ”, it could be Satan, the tempting devil always ready to corrupt the spirit of men and women who inhabit the real world; the second reading, however, leads to the opposite extreme; the other theory that seems to explain the Australian singer-songwriter’s song comes from the British poetic tradition, and more particularly from the poet John Milton and his work Paradise Lostin which God, told how a benevolent figure but firm and ready to punish sinners severelywould act towards these precisely with his “right red hand”, the same one mentioned in the top song of the soundtrack of Peaky Blinders.
The Australian singer-songwriter, in his discography, quotes John Milton several times, whose poem he defines the red hand as a real instrument of penance, towards sinners tempted by the devil. The man in Cave’s song could therefore be both things: the tempting Devil, ready to buy the human soul in exchange for favors, but also God himself, intent on punishing the same sinner with his symbolic red hand. Thomas Shelby, in all this, responds perfectly to this identikitdue to his complex and controversial character: the protagonist of Peaky Blinders builds an empire starting from the slums of Birmingham, pushing himself beyond his limits from season to season and, above all, without ever looking anyone in the face, not even his own family. In reality, the black man with the red hand could be both Thomas Shelby’s alter ego and his own “punisher”, that is, the dark soul of the series who torments the protagonist, corrupting him and promising him power, an element that chases the same character constantly, forcing him, however, to give up the affections he surrounds himself with, starting from his family, which Thomas himself betrays on several occasions, up to his dearest affections. That Thomas Shelby is a tormented man has always been evident, from the first moments of Peaky Blinders, but the path he faces during the series, seen by analyzing Nick Cave’s text, is even more significant. However, the man described in the passage wears a long black cloak, an element that suggests that he could be the leader of the gods Peaky Blindersdestined, due to a curse, to wander the suburbs of Birmingham aboard his horse, sowing discord in everyone’s livesstarting with his loved ones.
The chimes of Birmingham
The theme song of Peaky Blindersunlike many others, does not carve out a moment for itself, but rather It enters the narrative with a straight leg, with its fateful tolling which introduces the song, following the first images of each episode and starting an increasingly pressing rhythm that culminates with the fateful “Red Right Hand”, violently “screamed in the face” of the viewer. Peaky Blindershowever, does not give up on showing the city of Birmingham in the most classic of repeated acronyms, preferring to show one side of it, a different angle in each episode, alternating with different locations when appropriate (depending on the setting of the episode), but thus giving a sense of greater continuity to the intention of showing the city to the viewer. Birmingham, as happens in many series, is a real character added to the cast of Peaky Blinders: And a concrete jungle, an earthly hell in which the most ruthless human demons move. Cave’s piece fits the tones of Birmingham narrated by Steven Knight perfectly; he talks about a dark city, characterized by a sinister atmosphere, a place where secrets lie in the border fires (“where secrets lie in the border fires”), in reference to the flames and clouds that cover the streets between the factories of the English city. The song warns the viewer and anyone who wants to approach those places, defined as a real ghetto: once inside, you can never go back.
Red Right Hand is the perfect song to describe the tones of Peaky Blindersand is perfect for creating an immediate connection between the two great protagonists of the series created by Steven Knight: Thomas Shelby and the city of Birmingham. The gang led by the Shelbys becomes, in the space of a few episodes, father and master of the city, spreading a sort of curse in its streets due, probably, to the family’s gypsy origins; the Shelbys are cursed, and Thomas especially is who, as Nick Cave’s text suggests, seems to have made a pact with the devil, a pact that not only forces him to perpetually wander the dark streets of Birmingham, but makes him take on the appearance of Satan himself who, like him, And a skilled seducer to stay away from. Cave’s song is a true cult of the author, and the particular notes, accompanied by his strong and unique voice, make it the perfect theme for one of the most intriguing, seductive and mysterious series of recent years.