"Hard to Handle": The Most Played Song of All Time!

"Hard to Handle": The Most Played Song of All Time!

       No one would ever believe me if I said the Black Crowes recorded the most popular song of all time.  I am writing to stand by this radical claim not because I am some crazed Black Crowes fan that thinks the band deserves a higher place in the hierarchy of rock n’ roll.  In fact, I think the Robinson brothers and crew have received more than enough accolades since “Shake Your Money Maker” was released in 1990.  Rather, my claim is backed by the simple fact that their version of “Hard to Handle” is the most widely played song ever by cover bands during the last 20+ years. 

       Every wedding band, bar band, and party band in the United States and beyond has this damn song on their set list.  Why?  Perhaps it is due to the fact that it is quite easy to play (But remember!  The last chorus goes through the final progression 4 times before the post-chorus!).  It could also be because this mid-tempo rocker resides somewhere between straight rock and a rock n’ roll shuffle; satisfying both the “bad-ass” standard of the typical bar bro and the lowered dance standard of the typical bar party-girl.  There are so many songs more “popular” than “Hard to Handle”, including, but of course not limited to “Brown Eyed Girl”, “Free Bird”, and “Come Together”.  However, none of these songs are played in a bar setting more than “Hard to Handle”.  That’s right everyone, not even the countless heckles for “Free Bird” can launch this rock classic past the millions of times “Hard to Handle” has been played in front of a live audience by a band other than the Black Crowes.

       When thinking back to all the cover gigs I have played since 2002 (far more than I like to admit), I can honestly say I have played “Hard to Handle” roughly 200 times.  I recently asked several of my best friends who are seasoned rock musicians how many times they think they have played “Hard to Handle”, and here are the results:

Guitar Player 1: 200.

Guitar Player 2: 200.

Bass Player 1: 200.

Bass Player 2: 50+.

Drummer 1:  100.

Drummer 2: 150.

Singer 1: 150.   

Singer 2: 150.

       As I used to say in my old cover band, “Make it stop”!  And as Tim Hardaway always said, “You gotta stop the bleed.” 

       Variety is undoubtedly the spice of life, so my advice to all cover bands is to stop playing “Hard to Handle”.  Perhaps replace it with a different song by the Black Crowes, or play a song from the 21st century like “Pleasure Dome (February 26th, 1981)”.  It’s hard to change; I mean, look at me: I’m a man from the 70’s mysteriously placed in the modern age.  That being said, I think change is inevitable, and it is important for all artists and performers to be original and try new things.  Obviously, cover bands are by their very definition unoriginal.  But as The Who said, “The music must change.”  So be “original” in your song selection, and keep your audiences guessing.  And if your audience consists of musicians like me, spare us the headache and please never play “Hard to Handle” again.  Please!

My Thoughts on Prince

My Thoughts on Prince

I have been avoiding this post for some time, but I have to express my thoughts on the passing of Prince. When Bowie passed, I was extremely sad. When I heard the news about Prince, I was instantly filled with anger; and my anger didn’t even start to reside for 2 days. Normally, I don’t feel effected by the passing of celebrities, musicians, or cultural figures. The world of celebrity is largely distant from the relational, occupation, and emotional challenges of daily life; and in the end, what we enjoy about their art and work is still with us.

For me, Prince is different. Since I started listening to his music nearly 10 years ago (Yes, I’m late to nearly every game in life.), I was instantly captivated and enamored by his command of every instrument, the modern and timeless sound of his production, and the diverse nature of his sound that covers nearly every genre. Musicians try to be boundless and unclassifiable; but that proves to be the death of most bands starting out, and the beginning of the end for larger acts that “try something different”. AC/DC is great because they do one thing extremely well. Prince is the best because he did everything extremely well. Bass was never regarded as Prince’s primary instrument, and yet his bass-lines are perfectly catered for each song and at times, very demanding. I’ve been playing bass for a long time, and when I get bored or want to have fun, I learn Prince songs. And just for the record, I still can’t play The Time’s “777-9311” correctly.

And yet, despite the fact that Prince is one, if not my biggest musical inspiration, I did not know the man. I had no personal connection with him. So why am I upset every time someone or the media mentions his death? Maybe it’s because I can’t count how many times Prince’s music has inspired me to pick up my bass, sing in the car, or try to write a great song. Many of my LA memories and moments of struggle in LA have been set to the backdrop of Prince’s music. In this regard, I feel extremely close to Prince and his passing is very personal. But yet there’s something more gut wrenching that has happened to me since the passing of this musical icon.

As long as Prince was out there, pop music still mattered. To me, Prince symbolized and embodied a time in which pop records were important, had something to say, and people took the time to listen. Although it could be argued that this period in music consumption died several years ago, I now believe it is truly over. There will never be another Prince. Not only was he a once in a lifetime talent, but he was a once in a lifetime talent from a once in a lifetime era that allowed musical genius to thrive. Luckily, we will always have his music and can always draw inspiration from his spirit.