The Troggs Biography

The original Troglodytes were an ill-starred early 60s UK band from Andover who suddenly found themselves reduced to two members: vocalist Dave Wright and bass player Reginald Ball (12 June 1943, Andover, Hampshire, England). Another local outfit, Ten Feet Five, were suffering similar personnel upheavals with bass player Peter Staples (b. 3 May 1944, Andover, Hampshire, England) and guitarist Chris Britton (b. 21 January 1945, Watford, Hertfordshire, England) surviving the purge. At the suggestion of their respective managers, the two acts amalgamated, with Ball surprisingly emerging as the new lead vocalist. On the advice of New Musical Express journalist Keith Altham, Ball later changed his name to Reg Presley in the hope of attracting some attention from Elvis fans. Wright, meanwhile, had moved on to another Hampshire band, the Loot, while the revitalized and renamed Troggs found a drummer, Ronnie Bond (b. Ronald Bullis, 4 May 1943, Andover, Hampshire, England, d. 13 November 1992).

In 1966, after signing with producer/manager Larry Page, the band recorded a one-off single for CBS Records, ‘Lost Girl’. Their debut flopped but after switching to Larry’s new label Page One (distributed by Fontana Records), they found success with a cover of Chip Taylor’s ‘Wild Thing’, which reached number 2 in the UK in May 1966. The follow-up, ‘With A Girl Like You’, went one better, establishing the Troggs as one of the most popular acts in the country. Stateside success was equally impressive with ‘Wild Thing’ topping the charts. Unfortunately, owing to a misunderstanding with Sonny And Cher’s managers Charlie Greene and Brian Stone (who had organized a re-recording of the disc), ‘Wild Thing’ was released on two different labels, Atco Records and Mercury Records. To make matters worse, the flip-side of the Atco version was the scheduled follow-up, ‘With A Girl Like You’.

While their prospects in America waned, the band enjoyed an affectionate notoriety at home where their provincial politeness and inane naïveté contrasted markedly with the forced sexiness of songs such as ‘I Can’t Control Myself’ and ‘Anyway That You Want Me’. Although they boasted three songwriters and potential solo artists whose work was covered by others, the Troggs were never taken seriously by the press or pop élite. While clearly at home with basic rockers like ‘Give It To Me’, the band also tinkered with counter-culture subject matter on ‘Night Of The Long Grass’ and ‘Love Is All Around’, and their albums also occasionally veered towards the psychedelic market. Any hopes of sustaining their hit career were lost when they fell out with Larry Page in a High Court action that made case law. Thereafter they became predominantly a touring band, with Presley infrequently abetted by Britton, Bond and Tony Murray (from Plastic Penny).

During the 70s they achieved a certain cult status thanks to the hilarious ‘Troggs Tapes’, a notorious bootleg recording of an abortive session, consisting mainly of a stream of swear words. Later that decade they reunited with Page for an odd reworking of the Beach Boys’ ‘Good Vibrations’ and recorded a live album at Max’s Kansas City. Two-and-a-half decades on, the band still perform with their credibility growing rather than shrinking. Their R.E.M. -linked Athens Andover took people by surprise, utilizing Presley songs (and one from Chip Taylor) and blending the raw Troggs sound with contributions from Peter Buck and Mike Mills. The album was a clear indication that after being the butt of jokes for many years the Troggs are one of the finest ever 60s pop bands, a fact that was confirmed when Wet Wet Wet’s cover version of ‘Love Is All Around’ took up residence at the head of the UK listings for over three months in 1994. Reg Presley, now an enthusiastic crop-circle investigator and UFO watcher, can at last look forward to a long and financially comfortable retirement, although, with Britton, he has kept the Troggs going as a live act.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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