Whole Lotta Woman, by Marvin Rainwater (his 1st and only #1)
3 weeks, from 25th April – 16th May 1958
Our first encounter with a very specific sub-genre of pop hit: the ‘Ode to the Larger Lady’. From Queen’s ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’, through ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ and ‘Baby Got Back’ – these songs are out there if you’re looking for them. And perhaps this is where it all began.
Although, this song might not be about a large lady at all. Is Marvin Rainwater really a chubby-chaser? Or is his girl just hard to please? The lyrics keep it ambiguous. Either way, this is pretty saucy stuff for 1958.
It takes a whole lotta lovin’ just to keep my baby happy, It takes a whole lotta kissin’ and a whole lotta holdin’ her hand… Mr. Rainwater sings. And the effects of this woman’s caresses are not quickly forgotten: Well when she loves me she loves me so hard, It almost makes me mad… She’s a handful, this lass. But Marv is up to the task: Cos she’s a whole lotta woman and she gotta have a whole lotta man… We get it buddy, we get it…
That’s pretty much it, lyrics-wise. This is fluff: goofy and silly. It rollicks by in two and a half minutes, and you’ll enjoy listening to it; but it won’t stay with you for very long afterwards. I’m tempted to call it a novelty record, given the subject matter, the singer’s name (Marvin Rainwater?) and the corny guitars and piano that lend yet another rock ‘n’ roll #1 a slight whiff of cheese. Plus, the ending is a super-basic – diddley diddley diddley diddley doo DUM DUM!
It turns out that Rainwater was as close to a one-hit wonder as you can get (i.e. a two-hit wonder). His only other UK chart success came from the follow-up to this record. He was 25% Cherokee – hence the vaguely Native American sounding surname – and liked to wear headdresses on stage. He lost part of a thumb as a teenager, and had to stop recording when his voice gave out. Hank Marvin of The Shadows adopted that very stage name in his honour. Marvin Rainwater – this was your life.
I have to admit that I did know of this song before writing this post. As with a couple of earlier chart-toppers (‘Dreamboat’ was one, I think), ‘Whole Lotta Woman’ popped up as a Spotify recommendation and I enjoy listening to it whenever it appears on a shuffle playlist. Incidentally, what does it say about me that Spotify knew I’d enjoy this record…?
I mentioned, in my previous post, the ebb and flow around the top of the charts at this time. And again, after a few weeks of chilled easy-listening, rock is having a moment once again. The tide has washed back in, taking Perry Como with it. Poor Perry. It is worthwhile, though, pausing to reflect on how quickly things are moving right now. Five years earlier, in late-April 1953, the top-selling disc was the painfully twee and campy ‘(How Much Is) That Doggy in the Window’. Now we have a similarly silly record at the top, except it’s a 2nd wave rock ‘n’ roll disc (Or are we on the 3rd wave by now? I lose track) and much more concerned with sexually satisfying big women than it is with cute little pups. Fast-forward to the modern day, and the number one song from this week and the number one song from five years ago (Drake’s ‘In My Feelings’ and Avicii’s ‘Wake Me Up’) sound similar enough – without sounding anything like one another, but you know what I mean – that they could swap release dates and not raise too many eyebrows.
But, and this is something I’ve just realised, this may be a record about a woman, with the word ‘woman’ in the title; but it has been ages, and I mean ages – a whole year and a half – since we heard a woman’s voice at the top of the charts. Isn’t that amazing?
Except, oh… What do we have here…