Wednesday, 6 February 2013

So farewell, then, Reg Presley – who "put a little bit of f***ing fairy dust over the baaastard!”

Quite apart from their music, 1960s pop group The Troggs have bequeathed us a unique insight into the creative process:

Once upon a time, that tape used to be the preserve of touring rock bands such as Led Zeppelin, who’d laugh themselves sick listening to it while ingesting post-gig substances. There’s even a reference to it at the end of this scene from This Is Spinal Tap:

But apart from giving us all a bloody good laugh, Reg and the boys also created some crude, stripped-down, garage band-style singles that I quite liked. No, I’ll come clean – I absolutely loved them. Let’s face it, they didn’t stand in the front rank of rock musicians, neither did their records sound as if George Martin or Phil Spector had been in charge of the mixing desk, lead singers have had stronger voices than Reg Presley (in reality a bricklayer from Andover called Reg Ball), and, of course, no matter how much chart success they enjoyed, they remained irredeemably uncool: you can be many things with a decidedly rural accent - wise, lovable, clever, funny, trustworthy, roguish, talented, creative, whatever – but you cannot be cool. But none of that mattered one whit, because Reg was that rare thing - a natural pop genius.

Here’s my favourite Troggs track:

I almost wore that one out. And here’s their second-biggest hit (no, I have no idea why they chose the end-of-the-of-pier Edwardian entertainer outfits – they just did):

This overlooked masterpiece just about defines the term “basic”:

There was a tendency to dismiss The Troggs as hay-chewing simpletons with a two-chord repertoire – but then Reg Presley kept producing delightfully melodic songs like “With a Girl Like You”, their only UK No. 1:

I won’t bother with “Love Is All Around”, the lovely song that Wet Wet Wet took to the top of the UK singles chart for 16 weeks and assured Reg of a comfortable income during his last two decades. Instead, inevitably, I’ll end with The Troggs’ version of Chip Taylor’ “Wild Thing”, one of British pop’s finest hours:

Au revoir, Reg. In the first part of your recording session tapes (here) band member Ronnie Bonds comes up with the memorable line, “You got to put a little bit of fucking fairy dust over the baaastard!”. Well, you certainly managed to do that.

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