Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

The Troggs—
Wild Thing


Released 1966 on Fontana
The Seth Man, April 2004ce
In early 1966, producer Larry Page had one hard-sell vision when he began producing the purely corrosive rock’n’roll of The Troggs. He directed their already roughhewn sound and boiled it down even more so into a wildly visceral and sawn-off version of The Kinks with half the chords combined with all the brash oddball novelty factor of The Strangeloves the whole mess was set off with lyrics and vox of leering intent then tailored them into uncomfortably tight matching candy-striped suits.

The formula worked a charm as The Troggs’ first American LP and 45, “Wild Thing” set a whole lotta action on fire a year prior to Jimi doing just that to with his sacrificial crash and burn of electrified six-stringed Fendered wood upon the stage in front of an audience immediately split between mortification and joy. And “Wild Thing” is equally jam-packed full of JUST tippy-toeing the line right on the borderline between unrefined teen lust and fake demur sexual quadroopule entendre to such a painfully dick swelling degree it’s a magnificent balance pulled swiftly off twixt polite and lewd (and sometimes both at once) that it’s a marvel it works at all. And the intermittent overlays of exquisitely blistering fuzz guitar ran through it all with all the delicacy of dousing a fire with buckets of only the most flammable material flung in its general direction.

The Troggs held a consistency that was articulated with thoroughly Spartan execution as they hit the listener over the head and below the belt with a 1-2 punch and a nutsackful of evidence that they were on a 24-hour Beaver Patrol from Hell and nothing less despite a scant sprinkling of a couple of ludicrously (and obviously) red herring’d saccharine pop masquerading as suppressed testosterone-informed predatory love muffin ditties the like of which Tommy James & The Shondells were also just beginning to cut loose: as though to sweeten the blow of their forward advances with candy-assed pop of the most artificial and ephemeral kind.

With a resounding howl a single guitar barrage of teenage awkwardness and frustration is let loose to tear open the album’s title track, “Wild Thing” and what follows is a moment right down there with “Louie, Louie,” “Surfin’ Bird,” “Hang On Sloopy,” “96 Tears” and “Wooly Bully” in an absolutely rock bottom foundation of rock’n’roll that keeps it short, sweet, simple, quick then promptly splits. All of these tracks maintain the same unyielding sense of mission, commitment and excitement that often brings to my Sensurrounded mind (one that at the age of thirteen endured repeat screenings of “Midway” positioned as close to that infernal mid seventies fad rumble-machine as possible) the motivational quote from Admiral “Bull” Halsey: “Hit hard, hit fast, hit often.” With such unrelenting strategy, you can’t ever fear losing anything except maybe your mind (but go figure Halsey was born on Mischief Night and with credentials like that you know he’s a joker at heart) or possibly, your life. And despite the fact that half of these aforementioned classics of the same now bygone era aren’t ALL that fast tempo-wise, they still manage to seep by at a pace thrilling enough that by the time it’s over, you just wanna slap it back on and start the process all over again. “Wild Thing” is almost a younger and delinquent form of “Shakin’ All Over” but without the anatomy lesson and it will continue to endure into the future as an absolute killer. (For some mysterious reason, the ocarina solo always reminds me of Grace Slick’s recorder on “Today.” I know: it makes no sense to me, either.)

“From Home,” the brutal B-side to “Wild Thing” follows with a sparse rhythm guitar and a truly snarling wave of fuzz that gets turns on and off like a tap. Guitarist Chris Britton is a genius of economy because he lays low for so much of the time behind spindly rhythm guitar lines that only get drowned out by the bass overshadowing it (as though blindly groping to cop a feel off the melody) only to return with a far huger sound in his solos, which here is completely insane. A relentless galloping drum beat drives across snaking harpsichord within the accidental psychedelia of “I Just Sing” as the guitar soloing takes form as chipped off fragments of a more evolved solo swept together in a pile and laid to rust and glower malevolently in a darkened corner. “Hi Hi Hazel” is ridiculously chirpy in its coy “my-how-you’ve-grown-girl-next-door” gambit although for all its front stage politeness and cheeky chinn-chappiness is really a leering wolf whistle dressed up in “Georgy Girl”-styled lambs wool as Reg reveals his true intent with the sly sidelong glance utterance, “different class” only I know he really means “nice ass” and nuthin’ less. The A-side of their unjustly ignored first single “Lost Girl” follows and what a track it is: the pace is breathless, Reg’s vocal delivery is classic while hastily drooling out the word “baybuh” perfectly as his tuneless tambourine is shaken to hell and Britton’s reckless guitar soloing predates the exhilarating bombast of “Kick Out The Jams”-era MC5. I believe it’s one of the best ever solos to grace a British single in 1966, period and it’s completely out of control for that time, or any time. “Evil” ends side one with a none-too-successful blues gambit, but it’s forgivable in light that a) it’s the only one on the record; b) luckily, isn’t a Howlin’ Wolf cover and c) they weren’t setting themselves as reverential bluesmen in the first place.

Side two enters sedately enough with the optimistic “With A Girl Like You” as a second-tier Troggs lyrical back-fill trademark, “do all the things you want me to” makes an appearance here much in the manner The Seeds’ repeatedly inserted use of the line “working so hard/ev’ry night and day” as though out of either true practicality or just winging it by the seat of their pants. Following is the brutal, near-dub quality of “Our Love Will Still Be There” where the rhythm guitar is tossed to the floor of the back seat of the rumbling 18-wheeler bass that mightily swamps all as restrained though stinging and nasal fuzz guitar shower a trajectory of arc welding sparks while the hypnotic bass line staples itself to unflaggingly persistent drumming. Reg Presley’s vocals here aren’t nearly as snotty as usual as he has switched to an unusually philosophical tone, contemplating how his love will still remain even after all “the mountains have crumbled to dust” and “the babies do no longer cry.” It’s a weirdly optimistic Troggs moment, and quite possibly the most poignant of the album.

The toned-down “Jingle Jangle” sees a return of harpsichord patterning to the fore, and after this and the bouncy “When I’m With You” the passes without incident, The Troggs get back on track with a vengeance with “Your Love.” Its construction is basically half the chords of “All Day And All Of The Night” thrown against a terrifically slobbering poontang jones thang supreme, and they just slob up and down the aforementioned Kinks anthem as spiky rhythm guitar is madly strummed against lyrics that out-simplify even the drumming:


“The more I have
The more I want
The more I have
The more I want
Your love
Your love”


Once the album’s perched upon its final mile, what do The Troggs do but nakedly reprise “Wild Thing” as the closing cruncher “I Want You.” The bass typically hogs half the sonic picture while its boisterous pulse strong-arms the rhythm guitar and drums as the guitar solos come and pass quickly, operating more as like a jangle jungle of near-expressionist sound discharges. Oh, they should’ve stuck another version of the very same song midway on side one as “I Need You” as an entirely different track with no lyric change whatsoever (But The MC5 did just that on “Kick Out The Jams”: namely, by mysteriously omitting the credits, calling it “I Want You Right Now” and making it sound like “Wild Thing”, anyway.) but that would be too perfect. And besides, for its minor missteps the record possesses some truly towering moments besides its well-known title track that are just as willfully primitive and alive.