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Copyright Nick Morgan and crew

Concert Review by Nick Morgan

100 Club, London, April 3rd 2009

I’m not sure how many people remember the Troggs. My old mum does – I asked her - “disgusting”, she said, “tight trousers and filthy lyrics”. There are six of us who do (who all, I should add, jumped at the chance for tickets), and a few more besides in the 100 Club, but it is, let’s say, far from crowded for a Friday night. It’s a shame.

The Troggs, you may recall, were propelled to stardom in 1966 when only their second record, a song called ‘Wild thing’ (written by American composer Chip Taylor) went to number one in both the United States and the UK. Hard-edged, with a distinctive driving guitar and suitably risqué lyrics, it became an overnight classic. They followed this up with a string of hits over the next couple of years.

One, ‘Anyway that you want me’, was also written by Taylor, but the remainder were penned by front man and vocalist, former bricklayer, Reg Ball, otherwise known as Reg Presley, thanks to an adroit name change by then manager Larry Paige (whom they shared, with amongst others, the Kinks). Presley certainly had a way with words: ‘Give it to me’, ‘With a girl like you’ and ‘I can’t control myself’ (banned by the BBC) were three of his more suggestive works. But his most famous, and the Troggs’ final chart hit of any measure was 1967’s ‘Love is all around’, adopted by Richard Curtis as the theme for his film Four Weddings and a Funeral, and as performed by Wet Wet Wet, a British number one hit for fifteen weeks. Reg, known for his interest in the para-normal (his 2002 book Wild things they don’t tell us displays his love of conspiracy theories), used much of the money to fund research into crop circles, a phenomenon of some importance in Presley’s native Hampshire. Which, of course is where his piratical West Country burr comes from, a somewhat disarming accent for an apparently salacious and scandalous sixty-eight-year-old rock and roller.

Reg Presley
He is an effortless performer, barely breaking sweat as the band work through fourteen songs including all of their hits and a smattering of R&B standards such as ‘Louie Louie’ and ‘Walking the dog’. The hard work was being done by the band, and notably original Troggs guitarist Chris Britton, whose crunching guitar sound defined ‘Wild thing’, and earned the Troggs their status as one of the forerunners of punk and garage rock, their influence acknowledged by the likes of Iggy Pop and the Ramones. It’s interesting to compare Britton’s technique (or possibly lack of it) with that of Jonathan Brentman, lead guitarist with the Foxes, whose quick-fire melodic pop tunes (strongly reminiscent of Joe Jackson I thought) made up the first set of the evening. Brentman was very good, but if there was a difficult way to play something then he chose it. By comparison Britton took route one each time, and it has to be said, to far greater effect. Presley leered and letched his way through the songs (with an unnerving steely glance with which he held the audience captive) and added a few reminiscences between numbers. The audience danced, sang, and playfully heckled in absurd accents, and generally enjoyed a very good, if undemanding, Friday night’s entertainment.
The Troggs are about to tour the UK with what’s left of the Move and Love Affair in one of those dreadful sixties packages that seem to be cashing in on the ‘grey pound’ at the moment, so if you are in the UK there’s a chance to see them in some of the lesser venues that the country boasts (I used to live in Bedworth, but does anyone else really even know where it is?). However in the meantime you could always get a taste of Reg and the boys at work by listening to the ‘notorious’ Troggs tapes, said amongst other things, to have inspired a scene in This is Spinal Tap. Enjoy. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate) Troggs

Listen: MySpace pages of Chip Taylor and a fairly recent medley by the Troggs on the inevitable Youtube. Oh, and Wild Thing on... an iPhone:


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