LONDON -- The structure is simple, the guitar riffs basic, the lyrics at best inane, but the Troggs' "Wild Thing" remains a garage rock classic more than 45 years after its release made The Troggs and lead singer Reg Presley international stars.
Presley, whose raunchy, suggestive voice powers this paean to teenage lust, died Monday after a year-long struggle with lung cancer that had forced him and the band into reluctant retirement, his agent Keith Altham announced on Facebook late Monday night. He was 71.
"My dear old pal Reg Presley of The Troggs died today," he said, calling Presley "one very real person in a sometimes very unreal world." He said the singer had suffered a number of strokes recently and died at his home in Andover (70 miles west of London) surrounded by his family and friends.
The Troggs perfected a simple, hard-driving approach to the three-minute rock song that was miles away from the lyrical art-rock of the Beatles or the poetic songs of Bob Dylan. This was rock at its "boy meets girl" basics, with a caveman's approach to romance -- and it created such a powerful image that Presley and the band played these songs to appreciative (if smaller) audiences until illness intervened.
"Wild Thing" was written by American songwriter Chip Taylor, whose real name is James Voight. He turned to his brother, actor Jon Voight, for an assessment. Jon Voight said in 2007 that he fell on the floor laughing when he first heard "Wild Thing." "I came up saying 'It's a hit! They won't be able to get it off their tongues.' It was such a fun song."
With its basic three-chord approach and driving beat, "Wild Thing" became a hit on both sides of the Atlantic and has been covered by hundreds of bands, not only by semi-skilled garage bands the world over but also by masters like Jimi Hendrix and Bruce Springsteen who treasured its raw energy.
The Troggs had several other big hits, including "Love is All Around" and "With a Girl Like You." They faded in the 1970s but their songs were revived in the 1990s when REM and Wet Wet Wet released covers of "Love Is All Around."