One Song/Three Versions – Hard to Handle

Baby here I am I’m a man on the scene
I can give you what you want but you gotta go home with me
I have got some good old lovin’

And I got some in store
When I get through throwin’ it on you
You gotta come back for more

‘Throwin’it on you?’ Ha! This song has it all: good groove, ballsy feel – and more than a touch of good old male sexual braggadoccio. In other words, the perfect rock song! But it’s not a rock song at all, or at least it wasn’t initially.

In fact, Otis Redding co-wrote it and it was released in 1968 after his death. Frankly, I did not become all that familiar with this song till I heard the Black Crowes’ version. (The Grateful Dead had been doing it but I wasn’t a super-big fan of theirs. But see below). Here’s Otis:

While Otis’ version has a nice horn-driven groove I greatly prefer the Black Crowes’ balls-to-the-wall take on it. (Although the more I listen to Otis the more I’m diggin’it.)

Where Otis states his case, the Crowes make it sound all the more urgent. With the jacked-up tempo, the guitar solo – and the aforementioned male bullshit swagger – I consider this to be a practically perfect rock song. (“Despite having exactly no evidence to support my case, baby, I can love you better than THAT guy. Darlin’ I just KNOW it to be true”).

Action speaks louder than words
And I’m a man of great experience
I know you’ve got another man
But I can love you better than him

I mentioned that the Dead did this song for years. I vaguely remember having heard it when I started looking for a third version. When I started listening to it, I thought, hmm, they’re “Deadifying it.” And they are. And it’s really good. Nice shuffle groove to it. This goes way back to ’71 because singer Pigpen left us in ’72. Garcia finds the blues on this one.

Boys – they run along a dime by the dozen
That ain’t nothin’ but drugstore lovin’
Hey little thing let me light your candle
‘Cause mama I’m sure hard to handle now
Yes, I am

What’s your vote on this one? And is there any more important word in rock, soul and blues than – baby?

8 thoughts on “One Song/Three Versions – Hard to Handle

  1. When I heard the Grateful Dead version ages ago, I loved it. I didn’t actually try to find out who first did the song…
    Then I decide to stick on ‘The Immortal Otis Redding’, an album I’d had but ignored for ages (don’t ask me why). Then I hear Hard to Handle and I go :0

    Those mid-to-late Otis albums are just pure gold, especially Immortal and Dock of the Bay. Always like these 3 songs posts, and I often find that, instead of knowing the original and being surprised by other artists’ re-workings of it, I already know a cover and didn’t realize there was an original before it 😉
    F

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  2. Yeah, I didn’t know the Black Crowes version was a cover at first, never even thought about it. Then one day I was reading an article about them and the writer casually threw it in that it was an Otis cover. Totally surprised. And it’s not even that I know all his songs or anything but that one I totally missed. Don’t recall it being a big hit.

    As to not knowing something is a cover, that’s so common. Many Nirvana fans did not know that “The Man Who Sold the World” was a Bowie tune. When Nirvana fans approached him and told him it was cool that he was covering a Nirvana song he told them to piss off.

    And now that I think of it, I didn’t realize that ‘pop’ tunes like, say, “Fools Rush In,” or “Blue Moon” had been done many years before. Last person who records it “wins,” I guess.

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  3. My vote swings to the Black Crowes – I’d heard (seen) it on MTV when it came out (and they were still showed music videos all day). Live, later, I don’t think they quite had the same sense of toughness they give it here – the production of that first album of theirs is what makes it, it’s tough as nails and those drums could knock any cover into orbit.

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    1. I never did see the Crowes live. Bet that despite their not killing it on ‘Hard to Handle,’ that would be a kick-ass show. Interesting note about production too. Bands are always looking for that just-right producer and sometimes good material can just flounder with mediocre production.

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  4. If you’re counting votes put me down for the Grateful Dead. I know and like the Otis Redding original, the Black Crowes version is new to me and came across as nothing special, but the Dead make it their own and it takes me back to those halcyon Flower Power days of my youth. Groovy, man!

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  5. Interesting how people’s tastes are so divergent. The Otis version is nice, doesn’t do much for me. The Crowes’ always commands my attention. I have it on my iPod and it always gets my blood racing. The Dead one gets into a nice groove and if I feel a little more laid-back, I’ll go to that. As to all of that being groovy, far out, man! 😀

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  6. You know CB is an Otis guy. Like the Crows version. Never heard Deads version before. “Baby”? ‘Hard Drivin Man’ live version, Geils sets the record. ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’ by Zep has to be up there also.

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