10 Great Versions of "Wild Thing"
"Wild Thing" may not be most-recorded song in history, but it's got to be up there. (It's not even in the Top 10, though, according to the UK's The Independent.) But when the version by the Troggs, whose singer Reg Presley died of cancer late Monday night, became a hit on both sides of the Atlantic in the summer of 1966, it became one of those songs. It has long been enshrined in the rock and roll pantheon, perhaps entering at the moment Jimi Hendrix used it as a launching pad to set his guitar aflame at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.
Although it does not have the same kind of genre-shifting properties as some other standards, "Wild Thing" has the advantage of being fiendishly easy to learn and exhilaratingly fun to perform. In the some 46 years since the Troggs made it a hit, its salacious tone and ever-unkempt nature have kept it close at hand and given it a half-life of nearly forever.
With all due respect to Cheap Trick, Widespread Panic, Jeff Beck, Warren Zevon and just about every garage band that ever strapped on a guitar, here are the ten other versions of "Wild Thing" worth remembering.
The Muppets Kermit and crew's tribute to Animal, of course, starring the furry, woooommannnnn-crazy drummer himself. Should not be confused with the "Wild Thing" recorded by the Creatures, Siouxsie Sioux and Robert Smith's gothy dalliance between early-'80s Banshees and Cure albums, which added suitably darker lyrics.
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X Exene Cervenka sings lead on the L.A. punk vets' version, which makes perfect placement as Charlie Sheen's lights-out bullpen music in 1989's Major League. Not long after the film became a hit, actual major league closer Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams started using it too.
The Wild Ones Little is known about this mid-'60s New York band, except that they originally recorded "Wild Thing," written by fellow New Yorker Chip Taylor, and that sometime not long after, the song came to the attention of the Troggs. The Wild Ones' 1965 album The Arthur Sound does not contain "Wild Thing" but was once ranked the No. 1 obscure album in history.
The Runaways For some reason the author has always mistaken X's version of "Wild Thing" featured in Major League for Joan Jett. Perhaps it's because Jett's original band the Runaways played it often during their short-lived mid-'70s heyday, with late drummer Sandy West taking a rare turn on lead vocals.
Chimaira Our most recent "Wild Thing" was recorded by ear-bruising Cleveland metalcore outfit in honor of Charlie Sheen when the actor was at his full tiger-blood apogee. You can find it on iTunes, though not on Chimaira's 2011 album The Age of Hell.
Sam Kinison After the rotund, ill-tempered Kinison broke out of the mid-'80s Houston comedy scene, one of the first things he did as a "star" was round up half the Sunset Strip (Billy Idol, Slash, Tommy Lee, dudes from Ratt and Aerosmith) to appear in a video for "Wild Thing" featuring ex-model Jessica Hahn of PTL Club infamy as his sparring partner. Arguably sets male-female relations back to pre-19th-amendment days in about four minutes; on the other hand, Rodney Dangerfield shows up.
Hank Williams Jr. Rockin' Randall Hank was well into his self-parody period when he cut the song for 1995 album Hog Wild, because what it really needed was for Bocephus to add an extra verse. Where he raps. It's possible to make it through the whole thing without cracking up, just not easy.
Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez "Wild Thing" has never been graceful, could never be graceful. But Taylor, author of "Wild Thing," and Austin-born singer-songwriter-violinist Rodriguez, with whom he recorded several albums in the 2000s, almost made it that way in their live show, which is preserved with maximum twang on the 2007 album Live From the Ruhr Triennale.
Tone-Loc Co-written with Young MC and Van Halen via "Jamie's Cryin'," this definitely counts as being in the "spirit" of the original "Wild Thing." Don't forget the electro-dizzy remix featuring Canadian filth-pusher Peaches too.
Liz Phair Ever the lo-fi queen, Phair put an acoustic-powered version of "Wild Thing" on the bonus/demo disc of 2010's Funstyle, flipping the title and familiar chord structure into a tale admiring a maneating, free-spending golddigger. YOLO and all that.
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