With the release of Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, I’m reviewing all of Elvis Presley’s 18 #1 hits on Billboard including 11 that topped pre-Hot 100 charts and 7 that topped the Hot 100 after its 1958 inception.
Elvis Presley- “A Big Hunk O’ Love”
HIT #1: August 10, 1959
STAYED AT #1: 2 weeks
Nowadays, “A Big Hunk O’ Love” isn’t one of the top defining Elvis Presley songs you’ll see people bring up but it does act as a sort of farewell to a certain type of Elvis sound. “A Big Hunk O’ Love” is a short, fast, and horny rock and roll song with Elvis singing with a fast energetic intensity that had been a staple of his early years. When the song hit #1 in the summer of 1959, Elvis had already begun moving away from this early sound and after this wouldn’t return to it for the rest of his career.
When he got his first chart-topper of the Hot 100 era, Elvis was in West Germany a year into his Army stint where a lot of transformative personal events occurred with his mother Gladys dying and meeting his future wife, then-14 year old Priscilla who was ten years younger than Elvis. But Col. Tom Parker and RCA weren’t going to let Elvis go through the Army without releasing some new music to keep him in the public eye. While on furlough in June 1958, Elvis went to Nashville’s RCA Studios for his only recording session during the Army to record several songs. The first of those songs to come out as a single was the country standard “(Now and Then There’s) A Fool Such as I” which got released in March 1959 and peaked up at #2 with “A Big Hunk O’ Love” coming out right after. (“(Now and Then There’s) A Fool Such as I” is a 6.)
Probably because Elvis recorded it in a short amount of time, “A Big Hunk O’ Love” has an excitement and urgency that sets it apart from the 1959 pop charts as the initial wave of rock and roll died down and unthreatening teen idols such as Frankie Avalon and Paul Anka dominated in Elvis’ absence. The song isn’t much of anything but the music and performance are enough to keep your interest with the pounding piano, raucous distorted guitar, fast drumming, and Elvis singing like he’s having fun. I especially get a great kick out of the little hiccuping yelps he does throughout.
Not long after the song’s success, Elvis would return to the US in March 1960 after his discharge from the Army and went right back to cranking out movies and hit songs. While he would still deliver some great music going forward, the fire and sexual energy that “A Big Hunk O’ Love” and many of his early songs had wouldn’t be present.
BONUS BEATS: “A Big Hunk O’ Love” isn’t a song that many people use aside from some covers I don’t care for so let’s go with this performance Elvis does of “A Big Hunk O’ Love” during his big 1973 Hawaii concert special where he still looks like he enjoys the song: