Reg Presley, British rock singer of 'Wild Thing,' dies

Reg Presley and The Troggs were part of the British invasion spurred by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. But Reg Presley perfected a simple, hard-driving approach to the three-minute rock song. A Reg Presley song was more caveman than lyrical art.

(AP Photo/Hermann J. Knippertz, File)
Reg Presley, lead singer of British rock group The Troggs, in Huerth,Germany in 2008.

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 fight against 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 died at his home in Andover (70 miles west of London) surrounded by his family and friends.

The Troggs, part of the British invasion spurred by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, 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 music 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 last year.

"Wild Thing," written by American songwriter Chip Taylor, was originally recorded by Jordan Christopher & The Wild Ones in 1965, and quickly forgotten. It took the Troggs' cover a year later to make it a classic.

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 literally hundreds of bands since its 1966 release.

The song was picked up not only by semi-skilled garage bands the world over — the lead guitar lines were easily copied — but also by masters like Jimi Hendrix and Bruce Springsteen who treasured the tune's raw energy.

It even led to a successful novelty song, with a singer pretending to be Sen. Robert Kennedy "singing" the lyrics in Kennedy's distinctive voice.

The Troggs, all from the Andover area, 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 the Troggs' "Love Is All Around."

Presley, also a prolific songwriter, helped found the Troggs in the 1960s while he was working as a bricklayer.

Born Reg Ball, he took the stage name "Presley" at his manager's suggestion.

He announced his retirement in January, 2012 in an open letter to his fans thanking them for their support.

He had a strong interest in crop circles, paranormal activity, and UFOs.

His daughter Karen told the music website WENN that she, her brother and her mother were with Presley when he died.

"We're absolutely heartbroken," she said.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.