Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11: The Troggs, "Wild Thing"

Artist: The Troggs
Song: "Wild Thing"
Album: Wild Thing (single)
Year: 1966

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Though in most cases, they are believed to have been "birthed" in the early 1970's, the fact of the matter is, the building blocks for the glam and punk movements can be found in their more modern form early in the previous decade.  A number of artists both purposefully and accidentally made recordings that bear striking similarities to these sounds, and yet in a number of cases, such credit for influence are not properly attributed.  While a number of bands certainly fall into such a category, few are as generally overlooked for their efforts as UK rockers, The Troggs.  Bringing some of the most aggressive and suggestive music of the day, The Troggs represented the style that many of the more famous UK acts would attempt in later years, and yet The Troggs took these pioneering steps first.  Even as the psychedelic movement began to explode all across the globe, The Troggs stuck to their sound, staying firmly rooted in the more stripped down, heavier rock and roll approach.  This conscious difference in itself can be seen as the very essence of the punk attitude, and there is an underlying sense of defiance to the mainstream within almost every one of the bands' songs.  Though they had a handful of commercially successful singles throughout there career, there is none for which The Troggs are better remembered than their monumental 1966 single, "Wild Thing."

Truth be told, "Wild Thing" is actually a cover song, as it was originally penned by Chip Taylor, and recorded by The Wild Ones a year previous to The Troggs version.  However, it is The Troggs take on the song that is unquestionably the definitive one, and on every level, "Wild Thing" represents everything that makes rock and roll music so enjoyable.  The attitude of The Troggs can be clearly heard in every angle of the musical arrangement, perhaps most notability in the fact that "Wild Thing" stands as perhaps the only hit song in history to be performed in improper tuning.  Though the song is written in A major, the guitars are mis-tuned, falling somewhere between A and B-sharp.  This causes almost every later version of the song to sound different, and one can easily assume that this "mistake" was a rather purposeful move by the band.  Also setting the song aside is the presence of an ocarina solo during the middle of "Wild Thing," and though it may seem "natural" in modern times, one can easily understand the near absurdity of such a purposeful arrangement when it was recorded.  Along with these two elements, the tone and attitude with which the band plays screams of punk and glam defiance, and it is easily to see just why the song was one of the many that "scared" parents of the era.  It is the way that all of these sounds come together that would define a new generation of sonic anarchy, and "Wild Thing" has become as famous for the music as it is for the lyrics.

Perfectly matching the almost detached, somewhat mischievous spirit of the music, the vocals from Reg Presley stand today as some of the most instantly recognizable in all of music history.  Presley makes no attempt to cover or compensate for his raw, unpolished delivery style, and one can hear his vocal technique all across the entire punk and glam movement.  Both in the gritty, almost sarcastic way that he sings, as well as the rather suggestive undertones, Presley's performance is nothing short of superb, and it serves as the antithesis of the more melodic, smoother sound that was beginning to dominate charts all across the world.  Yet even with this undeniable defiance of the popular trends, one cannot help but get swept up in the mood and spirit of Presley's vocals, and the words which he sings are just as relevant now as they were more than four decades ago.  In reality, there are few lyrics that have endured as well as those to "Wild Thing," and there may be no other words that are more universal or ageless than this song.  Clearly sung as the thoughts of the protagonist, the yearning to be close to his dance partner have rarely been as perfectly expressed, and yet one cannot overlook the hormonal overtones that run throughout every word.  This is in itself the very essence of youth, and it is this reason why "Wild Thing" remains an absolute anthem so many year after the song was first released.

Easily on par with the most commercially successful songs in history, one would be hard pressed to remember a time when "Wild Thing" did not exist, as it has become deeply ingrained in almost every aspect of culture since The Troggs first unleashed their version of the song.  The number of covers is impossible to calculate, yet the most famous is likely that by Jimi Hendrix when he famously lit his guitar on fire during the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.  "Wild Thing" has also become a standard at sporting events all over the planet, and it can be heard in a massive number of films and television shows.  Strangely enough, even with the long list of cover versions, in almost every case, it is still The Troggs take on the song that is used in such instances, and this in itself solidifies just how unique their recording remains.  Whether it is the unorthodox guitar tuning or the slightly distorted grind of the music, there is no question that The Troggs' "Wild Thing" served as a reminder that the true spirit of rock and roll was not dead, and one can assume that countless youth who did not partake in the psychedelic movement found refuge in the song.  Furthermore, the infleunce of the song on the punk and glam rock styles cannot be denied, and taking this all into account, there has simply never been another song quite like The Troggs' extraodrinary 1966 single, "Wild Thing."

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