With the death of Troggs vocalist Reg Presley goes one of the true pioneers of rock. The Troggs nowadays are likely to be remembered for just one song, their snarling, belligerent US number one hit ‘Wild Thing’, released in 1966. Yet that song was just an example of the way that this great 60’s group subverted the clean-sounding flower-pop of the day – and much of that was thanks to Presley; his voice was untamed, full-throated, concerned more with impact than grace, and at the time it stood out a mile from even the likes of The Yardbirds and The Rolling Stones who were starting to scuzz things up themselves.
There’s a strong line of argument that suggests that The Troggs were one of the original proto-punk bands; certainly Iggy Pop, whose Stooges were America’s own for-bearers of the music that would go on to dominate the 70’s, is widely documented as crediting the Hampshire, England band as an influence on the direction his group took in the late 60’s, whilst peers The MC5 would cover Troggs song ‘I Want You’ in their live set. Moving into the 1970’s and punk itself, everyone from The Ramones to The Buzzcocks could cite influence from Presley and his group.
What set the band apart from others who would eventually take the grittier, harder side of their template was their adeptness for a melody and stylistic dexterity too. Listen to 1967’s ‘Love Is All Around Me’ – a top 10 hit in both the US and UK - and you realize that The Troggs actually had the best of both worlds; they could thrill and provoke with the hardest rocking bands of the time, yet just as easily switch to sweetly-tipped ballads that were as pop as anything The Beatles had created just a couple of years earlier in the early 60’s.
The Troggs never quite found the chart success of the 60’s again, with even re-works of their hit ‘Wild Thing’ struggling to do the business; yet it doesn’t really matter in legacy terms, the group have imprinted themselves indelibly on the fabric of rock’s linearity, their cut and thrust, raunchy, direct tracks resonating right until the present day. So much of that is down to Presley, a singer who compromised nothing with his delivery, opting for a rawness that made everyone from The Kink’s Ray Davies to Mick Jagger to Robert Plant think about how they were really putting their own vocals across. Rock and roll might have started in the 50’s with Bill Haley & The Comets, but it was Presley who gave it that serrated bite of youth.