Reg Presley, singer of the Troggs and the voice on one of the true rock and roll anthems, 1966's "Wild Thing," passed away late Monday night at age 71. Friend and publicist Keith Altham told Fox News that Presley, who fronted the Troggs until retiring in January 2012, had been battling cancer for some time.
Written by American Chip Taylor, "Wild Thing" became one of the cornerstones of what was rapidly developing into garage rock, with a few simple chords and a plodding beat - a song that virtually anyone could play, and thousands upon thousands did. Less than 100 words long, its lyrics were easier to understand but no less suggestive than "Louie Louie," another fraternity-house standard.
Part of the famous British Invasion that sprang up in the wake of Beatlemania, the Troggs' primitive approach to rock and roll was reflected in their name, an abbreviation of "Troglodyte." Hailing from Andover in the southern English county of Hampshire, the band was signed by Kinks manager Larry Page in 1965. After its exposure on the British pop television showcase Thank Your Lucky Stars, "Wild Thing" reached No. 2 on the UK charts in July 1966.
It did better in America, reaching No. 1, and Yanks took to "Wild Thing" right away. Jimi Hendrix performed an early definitive version at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, and when punk rock reared up about a decade later, the song's simplicity made it an anthem all over again after it was picked up by bands like the Runaways and X.
But the Troggs were no one-hit wonders, either. The band hit the UK Top 10 with "With a Girl Like You," "I Can't Control Myself," and "Love Is All Around," which also appears on the 1992 album the Troggs recorded with R.E.M., Athens Andover. The song also topped the charts for 15 weeks a couple of years later, after the UK band Wet Wet Wet's cover was featured in the 1994 Hugh Grant film Four Weddings and a Funeral.
The Troggs originally split up in March 1969, but reformed with a lineup that included Presley shortly thereafter. Although other members came and went, the singer remained with the band for the next 40 years.
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