With the World Cup over, a very traditional summer hung over the UK that August. Correct, it was wet and cool. At number 1 for a fortnight were garage rock quartet The Troggs. They had first formed in Andover, Hampshire when singer Reg Presley teamed up with drummer Ronnie Bond and subsequently Pete Staples on bass and Chris Britton on guitar.
The following year, Kinks manager Larry Page took notice and signed them up. Debut single Lost Girl failed to turn many heads, but their follow-up certainly did. Written by US songwriter Chip Taylor, Wild Thing was one of the most famous songs of the decade, narrowly missing out from the top spot in 1966 due to The Rolling Stones’ Paint It, Black. It fitted in with the new simplistic rock sound coming from prominent groups like The Kinks, The Animals and The Who over the last couple of years.
They quickly gained a reputation of being on the less intellectual end of the rock spectrum, and to the older generation they seemed the type to sling their innocent daughters over their shoulders and steal them away. Obviously, this was as much down to their name as their sound.
Wild Thing had established them so quickly, The Troggs acted quickly to release third single, With a Girl Like You, to capitalise on their popularity. Presley had written it while he was still working as a bricklayer, and it had been recorded at the same time as their previous single.
Much like The Spencer Davis Group’s Somebody Help Me, it’s hard to imagine With a Girl Like You making it to number 1 without their previous single being such a stone-cold classic. However, I’d take this over that Spencer Davis Group track.
Not known for their musical dexterity, it won’t be a shock to hear it’s similar to Wild Thing. Reg has got his eye on a bit of posh skirt, but suspects she’s too good for him. Doesn’t stop him trying though. The result is a slightly sleazy love song, complete with memorable ‘ba-ba-ba-ba-ba’ backing vocals. The Troggs loved Barbara Ann by The Beach Boys, and this was their attempt at something similar. They had considered getting horns in to perform the line, but decided against it.
The Troggs did develop their sound somewhat over time, and continued to be popular. Anyway That You Want Me, released in December, was later the first single for one of my favourite bands, space-rockers Spiritualized, in 1990.
In 1967 their hits included the darkly psychedelic Night of the Long Grass and their hippy anthem Love Is All Around. It’s odd to think that this quartet of misfits were ultimately responsible for Wet Wet Wet’s cover of the latter, which memorably spent 15 weeks at number 1 in 1994. Wild Thing was also immortalised that year when The Jimi Hendrix Experience memorably closed their Monterey Pop Festival set with their version, as Hendrix set his guitar alight.
By 1968 the group were falling out of fashion, and Staples left in 1969, to be replaced by Tony Murray. In 1970 they were due to record a song called Tranquility. They hadn’t rehearsed beforehand, and spent the session arguing among themselves, with Presley and Bond the main culprits. Bond was unable to copy a drum pattern Presley was making, resulting in him exclaiming ‘Fuckin’ drummer. Oi shit ’em! Oi shit em!’ Two years later the arguing was released as the infamous bootleg, The Troggs Tapes, which was an influence on one of the greatest comedy films of all time, This Is Spinal Tap (1982). Another famous line, ‘You’ve got to sprinkle a bit of fucking fairydust over the bastard!’, was sampled on Black Grape’s Shake Your Money in 1995, appropriately enough, as the breakdown to that track is one of my favourite examples of swearing in music.
The 80s were a largely forgotten decade for the Troggs, with many line-up changes, but their resergence began in 1991 when REM, at the height of their fame, began covering Love Is All Around during live shows. A year later the two bands, minus Michael Stipe, recorded the album Athens Andover. Also in 1992, they released not one but two new versions of Wild Thing, with celebrity drunks Oliver Reed and Alex Higgins respectively. Then in 1993 they made another version – this time with Wolf from the popular ITV series Gladiators.
With any credibility they might have gained from their association with REM now wasted, they probably would have disappeared from the public eye again were it not for Wet Wet Wet’s smash-hit taken from the romantic comedy Four Weddings and a Funeral. Presley used the massive royalties from this to fund his interest in corn circles and extraterrestrial life. An unassuming man with a nice line in self-deprecating humour, he retired from the band after discovering he had lung cancer, and Chris Allen replaced him as singer. The Troggs still exist, but sadly Presley succumbed to the disease in February 2013.
Written by: Reg Presley
Producer: Larry Page
Weeks at number 1: 2 (4-17 August)
6 August: The Kray twins were in trouble again; they were questioned in connection with a murder in London.
10 August: George Brown, a man considered one of the best Labour MPs of the time, succeed Michael Stewart as Foreign Secretary.
12 August: In Shepherd’s Bush, London, Temporary Detective Constable David Wombwell, Detective Sergeant Christopher Head and Police Constable Geoffrey Fox stopped to question three men in a car on Braybrook Street. They were all killed by the occupants, who drove off, sparking a manhunt. Three days later, John Whitney was arrested and charged with murder, and John Duddy two days after that.