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Wild Thing – The Troggs

According to Reg Presley, both ‘Wild Thing’ and ‘With A Girl Like You’, were taped in around 45 minutes…

Wild Thing – The Troggs

Fontana TF 689 (UK) / Fontana 1548 and Atco 6415 (USA)

Recorded at Olympic Studios, London

Released April 1966

Writer Chip Taylor

Producer Larry Page

UK #2   6/66   USA #1  30/7/66  2 weeks

Originally known as ‘The Troglodytes’ from Andover, Hampshire in England, the Troggs were in fact turned down by their future manager Larry Page in 1965 while he was still managing the Kinks. This may have had something to do with him not wishing to antagonize Kinks’ leader Ray Davies. However, following an unhappy parting from the Kinks in 1966, Page signed up the group (who featured several Kinks “covers” in their act) if only to show the Kinks, and the rest of the music business, that he could easily launch another unknown group on the road to success. Larry Page, born Lenny Davis (one wonders why he bothered to change his name!) had begun his career as a packer at EMI’s record plant in Hayes just outside London, and had enjoyed a short recording career himself before setting up in management and ultimately forming his own label, Page One, on which the Troggs became his most successful act.

Lead vocalist, and former bricklayer, Reginald Ball changed his surname to Presley at the suggestion of a music journalist, hoping to attract some interest from Elvis fans. Following a first unsuccessful single licensed to CBS Records (‘Lost Girl’), he wanted to release one of his own songs, ‘With A Girl Like You’, however Larry Page preferred to cover a proven hit, and various American songs were considered. It was first suggested that the group cover a US hit by the Lovin’ Spoonful – opinions differ on the song – Page claims it was ‘Do You Believe In Magic’, while Reg Presley later stated it was ‘Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind’. However after hearing a demo of ‘Wild Thing’ by American writer Chip Taylor (later writer of ‘Angel Of The Morning’ which uses the same chord sequence), this was selected. Hedgehoppers Anonymous, who had a 1965 hit with the Jonathan King composed protest-light song, ‘It’s Good News Week’, also recorded a version of ‘Wild Thing’ before the Troggs, but their rendition was apparently so awful that it was never released!

According to Reg Presley, both ‘Wild Thing’ (often looked upon as the prototype “punk” single) and its eventual follow up, his own ‘With A Girl Like You’, were taped in around 45 minutes utilising some spare studio time at the end of a session for the Larry Page Orchestra. While this sounds unlikely today when groups often spend several weeks perfecting one song, it’s probably true, since the Troggs weren’t noted for their musical dexterity, and their recordings were fairly basic to say the least – though this was indeed part of their charm and their recording of ‘Wild Thing’ is about as primal and authentic as rock music gets. (The same could probably said of Kingsmen’s ‘Louie Louie’) This achievement of recording two Number 1 hits in 45 minutes would seem to improve on the Animals’ recording of ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ in half-an-hour. Maurice Gibb claimed that the Bee Gees wrote ‘Tragedy’, ‘Too Much Heaven’ and ‘Shadow Dancing’, a #1 for younger brother Andy, in the course of one evening! I’d be interested to hear of other examples of this impressive work.

Duly released, ‘Wild Thing’ rose to Number 2 in England, but did even better in the States were it got to Number 1; however, due to a contractual misunderstanding, the song was released by two different record companies in America, one of the releases also including the group’s NEXT single, ‘With A Girl Like You’ on the B-side!  Consequently, while ‘With A Girl’ topped the British chart for 2 weeks, its previous availability in America resulted in a lowly number 29. It’s interesting to note, especially in the light of today’s rap lyrics, that the Troggs received a considerable amount of attention for their humorously suggestive song titles and salacious lyrics – ‘I Can’t Control Myself’, ‘Any Way That You Want Me’, ‘Give It To Me’. Their UK Number 2 hit ‘I Can’t Control Myself’, for example, contained the mildly risqué line, “Her slacks were low, and her hips were showing”, which led to a banning on many US radio stations and the entire country of Australia!

Following 9 top 50 hits including a Number 5 hit in 1967 with the Presley composed, ‘Love Is All Around’, the Troggs ended their chart career in 1969 in legal dispute with their manager Larry Page. Featured in the 1994 film, Four Weddings And A Funeral, ‘Love Is All Around’ was revived by Wet Wet Wet, spending an impressive 15 weeks at Number 1 in Britain, and resulting in some whopping royalty cheques that doubtless guaranteed Reg Presley a very happy retirement. In 2003 it featured as a major part of the plot in yet another Hollywood blockbuster, Love Actually, in which Billy Mack (played by actor Bill Nighy) is trying to make a comeback with a Christmas version of the song. Presley must have been over the moon!

Reg Presley spent much of his time (and his royalties) investigating the phenomenon of “crop-circles” and expressed a belief that human life doesn’t originate from our planet. Aside from their historic recording of ‘Wild Thing’, the Troggs are perhaps better known among music fans these days for the infamous Troggs Tapes, a bootlegged recording of a group “discussion” in the studio, while unsuccessfully attempting to create a hit record towards the end of their career. This exchange of points of view turns into a highly amusing (and expletive filled) argument among the group’s members, made even funnier by their broad west-country accents. (Mr Presley died in February 2013)

 

Copyright © 2017 SongStories/Tony Burton

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