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The Troggs

Post-British Invasion outfit responsible for one of garage-rock’s most identifiable tracks of the mid-60s, `Wild Thing’, The TROGGS were quite simply the bees knees until the rise of psychedelia had no room on board their gravy train. Known solely for this sonic-powered “caveman” rock song and a few other hits, such as the derivative `With A Girl Like You’ and `I Can’t Control Myself’, the quartet presaged punks: MC5, The STOOGES and RAMONES.
Formed in 1964, in Andover, Hampshire, The Trogglodytes – as they were briefly known – took to the stage with singer-songwriter/ocarina-player Reg Ball, lead guitarist Chris Britton, bassist Pete Staples and drummer Ronnie Bond. One could say that bricklayers Ball and Bond had formerly staked their claim as Ten Foot Five, alongside guitarist Tony Mansfield and bassist Dave Wright.
The TROGGS were spotted by KINKS manager Larry Page who, impressed by their reading of `You Really Got Me’, leased the lads out to Dick James Music corporation and C.B.S. Records in early ’66, for debut single `Lost Girl’. Penned by Ball, who was soon to become Reg Presley, the rockabilly beat of the tune didn’t translate into a hit, although many pundits were of the opinion that the slightly catchier, `From Home’ (the original B-side to Chip Taylor’s `Wild Thing’), was cut from the same cloth.
Garnering TV exposure on Thank Your Lucky Stars (a show compered by Brian Matthew), `Wild Thing’ raced up the charts to No.2 (for Fontana Records), while in America – also licensed out to Atco – it topped the hit parade, backed by the group’s next UK No.1 single, the harmony-laden `With A Girl Like You’. Yes, it left a little confusion for discographers and compilers, while a similar path awaited Top 3 UK hit, `I Can’t Control Myself’ (released on Page One Records), which secured a modest position Stateside. As with many British Invasion acts, differentiating LPs surfaced on either side of the Atlantic: in Britain, for Fontana, there was the Top 10, FROM NOWHERE (1966) {*7}, while in America, WILD THING {*7} was chosen as its obvious title by Fontana/Atco. Both sets opening with their aforementioned classic-rock song (a primal three-chord assault carrying on where `Louie Louie’ left off), the LP featured several Presley pieces and a couple of covers, by way of Richard Berry’s `Louie Louie’, CHUCK BERRY’s `The Jaguar And The Thunderbird’ and ALLEN TOUSSAINT’s `Ride Your Pony’ and `The Kitty Kat Song’ (all UK only), while both versions displayed Shelby Singleton’s `Evil’ and Bill Martin & Phil Coulter’s `Hi Hi Hazel’ (a minor UK hit a year on). The grizzled drawl of Presley took on American garage-rock in a bizarre inversion of the British invasion; `Wild Thing’ has since become one of the most covered rock songs ever, a blueprint for almost any band with a guitar and an amp that went up to 11.
The “Wild Thing”-esque, Chip Taylor-penned exclusive `Any Way That You Want Me’, continued the run of Top 10 successes in the UK, but its awry omission from Top 10 sophomore set, TROGGLODYNAMITE (1967) {*5}, left some fans reeling. Baroque bubblegum pop in an attempt to dig up anything that would otherwise complement mainly Presley’s quirky songs (`Last Summer’ and `It’s Over’ embarrassments), CHUCK BERRY’s `Little Queenie’ and BO DIDDLEY’s `Mona (I Need You Baby)’ were ill-advised inclusions; ditto ALBERT HAMMOND’s `Meet Jacqueline’, but not Page (and David Matthews’) `Cousin Jane’. Now if only they’d centred the set with the Top 20, `Night Of The Long Grass’, and sonic-cymbals B-side `Girl In Black’? Well… who knows.
With the band’s sound rapidly evolving with the onset of psychedelia and British Invasion shape-shifting into a cosmic battleground, The TROGGS were stuck in bubblegum soft-rock for CELLOPHANE (1967) {*6}. Without an R&B cover version to speak of (outsider pieces stemmed from Terry Fogg & John St. John Gillard’s `Too Much Of A Good Thing’ and Artie Wayne’s `Somewhere My Girl Is Waiting’), individual group compositions were rife, none more so than Reg’s transatlantic Top 10 `Love Is All Around’ – unceremoniously left to be the concluding track. Of course, the classy ballad became an even bigger smash in 1994, when Scots popsters WET WET WET took it to the top of the charts for 15 weeks. This song subsequently furnished Reg with enough money to indulge in his crop-circle obsession.
The TROGGS, meanwhile, had a further UK Top 40 hit with `Little Girl’, which, like many of the band’s recent songs, was rounded up on the US-only equivalent set, LOVE IS ALL AROUND (1968) {*7} – basically a compilation, but a darn good one. But for the scrapheap challenge effect of MIXED BAG (1968) {*6}, which combined attendant flop A’s `You Can Cry If You Want To’, `Surprise Surprise (I Need You)’ and `Hip Hip Hooray’ – the latter its re-issue title – The TROGGS became the proverbial dodo for a while.
Both Ronnie Bond and Reg Presley had to respectively suffix “of The Troggs” to their subsequent solo singles, but neither `Anything For You’ and `Lucinda Lee’, registered anywhere near a chart place. The TROGGS briefly re-formed, with Dublin lad Tony Murry on bass (ex-PLASTIC PENNY) replacing Pete; but `Easy Loving’ faltered; a live TROGGLOMANIA (1970) {*5} excavated some golden nuggets that basically buried a once-proud band in the monolithic mire. After several flops for various labels (Richard Moore superseded Britton for D.J.M.’s `Lazy Weekend’ in ’71), including an obvious re-working of `Wild Thing’, Page’s Penny Farthing Records pushed out the envelope by giving Reg and Co another roll of the dice a la 1975’s THE TROGGS {*4}. Dominated by re-worked, blue-collar boogie renditions of rock’n’roll staples from `No Particular Place To Go’ and `Memphis Tennessee’, to a re-imagined `Good Vibrations’ and a reggae take of `Wild Thing’ (thrown in at the deep end with a few ‘Stones songs and a stuttering send-up of Gershwin’s `Summertime’), the band could at least poke some fun at themselves.
With a line-up that comprised Reg, Ronnie, Tony, Richard and the recently acquired Colin “Dill” Fletcher (on guitars), THE TROGG TAPES (1976) {*5} ended their time with Page, as punk-rock loomed just around the corner. Hoping to be embraced by the movement, as with IGGY POP, The FLAMIN’ GROOVIES and LOU REED, the 4-piece (minus Fletcher) re-emerged on the d.i.y. Raw Records – home to The UNWANTED, The USERS, The SOFT BOYS, among others – for a one-off single in ’78: `Just A Little Too Much’, while a night of recordings in ’79 surfaced on 1980/81’s LIVE AT MAX’S KANSAS CITY {*6}. The French/Euro-only import BLACK BOTTOM (1982) {*5} saw the reintroduction of Britton to the 4-piece, but it was a testing time for The TROGGS.
Released on Virgin-10 Records in March ‘84, `Every Little Thing’ recouped none of the losses and, inevitably, Presley was backing SUZI QUATRO a few years down the line on her version of `Wild Thing’. Presley and Bond were back in the firing line with bassist Peter Lucas and drummer Dave Maggs for another stab at `Wild Thing’ in ’89, while the awful odour of AU (1990) {*3}, should really have hinted to Presley and Co that their time was up; Bond – who was to die on 13th November 1992 – left soon afterwards and was replaced by Britton.
The TROGGS’ profile was raised somewhat through a collaboration with R.E.M. (minus Stipe) for the attendant B-side single of `Don’t You Know’: (`Nowhere Road’); both features on ATHENS ANDOVER (1992) {*5}, but through a mocking take of `Wild Thing’, alongside loveable thespian Oliver Reed and snooker cueist Alex “Hurricane” Higgins, the stuffing was knocked out of `Wild Thing’; Reed had drunkenly sung the song on a Michael Aspel television show. The tale of the track was given another lease of life courtesy of TV Gladiator’s Wolf, when it dented the Top 75.
Of later times, 2002’s THE TROGGS LIVE {*4} – recorded on 1999 “Sixties Gold” tour – and 2006’s LIVE & WILD IN PRESTON {*4} – live from a 2003 DVD – kept the band going. Sadly, Reg died of cancer on the 4th February 2013, but Britton (lead guitar), Chris Allen (vocals), Lucas (bass) and Maggs (drums), have kept their motor running.
© MC Strong 1994-2006/GRD // rev-up MCS Aug2015

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