I remember buying the single of “Wild Thing” as a teen, from some discount bin at the local record store. My horizons were expanded. From a strict diet of hard, fast, and dangerous punk rock, I had never laid my ears on the echoing strums of garage rock until that moment. Not to mention such sexy delivery of lyrics, “You make everything grroooovvvyyy… wild thing.”
The Troggs were originally called the Troglodytes, which refers to cavemen. They formed in the small town of Andover in Hampshire, England in 1964. Their top hits were, “Wild Thing” (1966), “With a Girl Like You” (1967) and the hippie soft, “Love Is All Around” (1968), all of which sold over 1 million copies and were awarded gold discs. “Wild Thing” wasn’t written by a Trogg, but by New York City song writer Chip Taylor (who is actor Jon Voight’s brother and Angelina Jolie’s uncle. ) The three chord wonder of a song reached number one in the United States while all of their other hits were only adored in Britain. In my opinion, those Brits have always had better taste in music, but waiting to tour the United States until 1968 didn’t help the Troggs any either.
Reg Presley (vocals) and Ronnie Bond (drums) were childhood friends and in the early 1960s formed an R&B band. In 1964 they were joined by Pete Staples (bass guitar) and Chris Britton (guitar) and became the Troggs. They were signed by Larry Page, manager of the Kinks, in 1965 and recorded on Page’s Page One Records. With the help of television exposure on Thank Your Lucky Stars, they reached hit status in 1966.
Singer Reg Presley’s birth name was Reginald Ball and he was a bricklayer at the time of forming the Troggs and continued that work up until they made their first hit single. I personally find it hilarious and ballsy that he stole his name off the King of Rock & Roll and managed to find success in spite of this weirdness. Especially, since the man wasn’t the most proficient musician and his drive was mainly fueled by young lust. Some say he was given the nickname Presley by publicist/journalist Keith Altham who wrote for the New Musical Express, either way keeping it was a daring endeavor.
In 1970, the Troggs Tapes came into existence, which were ten minutes of bandmate squalor over the production of their music. Heavily laden with enough cursing to trump an episode of the TV show Deadwood, the infamous tapes helped secure their cult status among fans. Rob Reiner was inspired by the tapes and added similar banter to his hit comedy, Spinal Tap. The Troggs career waned after 1970, only to be reborn after the punks took over the music scene in 1977.
Spinal Tap version of the the infamous studio argument:
Iggy Pop, the Ramones, MC5, Buzzcocks, and Black Sabbath have all declared the Troggs an inspiration. Bob Dylan and David Bowie were also known fans. The Buzzcocks covered “I Can’t Control Myself,” in concert. While the MC5 covered “I Want You,” at their live shows and recorded the song for the album Kick out the Jams, although they renamed it “I Want You Right Now”.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience famously covered “Wild Thing” during their appearance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, introducing it as the British and American joint “national anthem”, and climaxing with Hendrix burning his guitar. Exene Cervenka and John Doe of X covered the song as well in 1989. Glenn Danzig covered “A Girl Like You,” on his 2015 covers album Skeletons, telling Rolling Stone, “I made it real punky.”
Music journalist Lester Bangs pronounced the Troggs “The godfathers of punk,” as well as comparing Presley to Marcel Proust. Presley went on to use his royalty money to fund research on crop circles and alien spacecraft. In 2002, he wrote a book titled, Wild Things They Don’t Tell Us. (High five on that sick pun Presley!) The Troggs ended their 44 year run of touring together in 2012 when Reg Presley retired due to lung cancer. He sadly passed away the following year at age 71.
Thank you to the Troggs, the Seeds, Question Mark and the Mysterians, and many other garage bands for igniting the spark that sent the punk movement aflame! Bravo!