Friday, June 15, 2007

Number 602 - Troggs

Number 602


"Wild Thing"

You would have to say this is the true story of a band who had one song that fed them for a lifetime. Nothing could be bigger than this, "Wild Thing". No not 's Wild Thing, the original Wild Thing! People will argue (of course) that the Troggs had more than one hit song such as "With A Girl Like You" that reached #1 in the UK. Sure, but you have to admit "Wild Thing" is the mother of all 1 hit wonders, sure 's "Radar Love" or s "Spirit In The Sky" and you might even mention "Lola" and they are regarded as greats, but nothing can beat the might, of the "Wild Thing"
Remembered chiefly as proto-punkers who reached the top of the charts with the "caveman rock" of "Wild Thing" (1966), were also adept at crafting power pop and ballads. Hearkening back to a somewhat simpler, more basic British Invasion approach as psychedelia began to explode in the late '60s, the group also reached the Top Five with their flower-power ballad "Love Is All Around" in 1968. While more popular in their native England than the U.S., the band also fashioned memorable, insistently riffing hit singles like "With a Girl Like You," "Night of the Long Grass," and the notoriously salacious "I Can't Control Myself" between 1966 and 1968. Paced by Reg Presley's lusting vocals, the group -- which composed most of their own material -- could crunch with the best of them, but were also capable of quite a bit more range and melodic invention than they've been given credit for.
Hailing from the relatively unknown British town of Andover, the Troggs hooked up with manager/producer Larry Page (who was involved in the Kinks' early affairs) in the mid-'60s. After a flop debut single, they were fortunate enough to come across a demo of Chip Taylor's "Wild Thing" (which had already been unsuccessfully recorded by the Wild Ones). In the hands of the Troggs, "Wild Thing" -- with its grungy chords and off-the-wall ocarina solo -- became a primeval three-chord monster, famous not only in its original hit Troggs version, but in its psychedelic revamping by Jimi Hendrix, who used it to close his famous set at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.
"Wild Thing" made number one in the States, but the Troggs' momentum there was impeded by a strange legal dispute which saw their early records simultaneously released on two different labels. Nor did it help that the band didn't tour the U.S. for a couple of years. As a consequence, the fine follow-up singles "With a Girl Like You" and "I Can't Control Myself" didn't do as well as they might have. In Britain, it was a different story -- they were smashes, although "I Can't Control Myself" had such an open-hearted lust that it encountered resistance from conservative radio programmers all over the globe. The Troggs tempered their image on subsequent ballads, which utilized a sort of pre-"power ballad" approach. These weren't bad, and a few of them were British hits, but they weren't as fine as the initial blast of singles which established the band's image. "Love Is All Around," which restored them to the American Top Ten in 1968, was their finest effort in this vein. It was also their final big hit on either side of the Atlantic.
But the Troggs would keep going for a long, long time. In a sense they were handicapped by their image -- they were not intellectuals, certainly, but they weren't dumb either. They wrote most of their songs, and their albums were reasonably accomplished, if hardly up to the level of the Kinks or Traffic, containing some nifty surprises like the gothic ballad "Cousin Jane," or the tongue-in-cheek psychedelia of "Maybe the Madman." By 1970, though, they were struggling. They continued to release a stream of singles, most of which had a straightforward simplicity that was out of step with the progressive rock of the time, all of which flopped, though some were fairly good.
The Troggs' image as lunkheads couldn't have been helped by the notorious Troggs Tapes, a 12-minute studio argument that was captured on tape while the band were unawares. The Spinal Tap-like dialog helped keep their cult alive, though, and as punk gained momentum in the mid-'70s, they gained belated appreciation as an important influence on bands like the Ramones and (earlier) the MC5. They found enough live work (sometimes on the punk/new wave circuit) to keep going, although their intermittent records generally came to naught. In 1992, they rose to their highest profile in ages when three members of R.E.M., which had covered "Love Is All Around," backed the Troggs on the comeback album Athens Andover. ~ Richie Unterberger

For Jimi Hendrix see Number 718
For Spinal Tap see Number 659
For REM see Number 712

What does Rolling Stone think of The Troggs?
With its leering vocal, its goose-stepping rhythm stomping the life out of even the merest suggestion of swing, and -- oddest of all -- its naively graceful ocarina solo, "Wild Thing," from 1966, was a trash-rock classic of a decidedly wacky stripe. The Troggs' only other Top 10 hit, "Love Is All Around" (1968) was pale Brit Invasion stuff (later featured in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral) but the rest of this foursome's catalogue nearly outdistanced "Wild Thing" -- not in crude rock power, but in sheer strangeness. "I Can't Control Myself" and "Give It to Me," both banned by the BBC, were lecherous little numbers played poorly enough to achieve a primitive fascination. "Cousin Jane," a brief, breathy ballad, was downright creepy -- sort of like the perverse "Uncle Ernie" bit off the Who's Tommy. Ozzy Osbourne and other metal minds claim to be influenced by the Troggs, and you can believe it: Reg Presley was one bent nonsinger and his "vision" remains a warped one. Archeology, at 52 tracks, is almost too much of a good thing. An intriguing curio, Athens Andover teams the Troggs with members of R.E.M. Rolling Stone (2004)
For Ozzy Osbourne see Number 744 & Number 516
For more Ozzy visit Mellow Mix Vol 2 #138
Rolling Stone Top 500 Songs ranked this song at Number 257 and the Album ranked at Number (1 song NOT 10)

This song has a crowbarred rating of 72.1 out of 108 pts

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