Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!
Wild Thing By The Troggs. Album: Wild Thing (1966)
- This was written by a songwriter named Chip Taylor, who has made tons of money from it because it has been recorded by many artists and is constantly being used in movies and TV shows. Taylor used a lot of this money to gamble – for years he bet about $10,000 a day and was kicked out of every casino in Las Vegas for card counting. He also wrote “Angel Of The Morning,” which was a hit for Merrilee Rush in 1968. Taylor is the brother of actor Jon Voight and the uncle of Angelina Jolie.
- The style of music exemplified in this song became known as “Caveman Rock.” The Troggs is short for “troglodyte” (meaning “cave dweller”), which helped bolster this image. Over the next few years, The Troggs moved away from this Neanderthal sound and had a big hit in 1968 the much more evolved “Love Is All Around.”
- A New York group called Jordan Christopher & The Wild Ones were the first to record this, but their version flopped. That group was best known for their outrageous hairstyles.
- The Troggs’ first single flopped. For their second single, their producer/manager Larry Page had them choose between “Wild Thing” and The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind.” They went with “Wild,” recording the song using studio time booked for an orchestra session Page was running. When that session ended 45 minutes early and the musicians shuffled out, The Troggs quickly set up and blew through “Wild Thing” and what would be their next hit, “With A Girl Like You,” in about 20 minutes. It was mixed live as they recorded it.
- The way the song stops and starts up again was inspired by Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel.”
- When Chip Taylor originally demoed this basic three-chord song in 1965, he didn’t take it too seriously. He later told Rolling Stone magazine: “I was on the floor laughing when I was through.” Taylor added in Mojomagazine September 2008: “‘Wild Thing’ came out in a matter of minutes. The pauses and the hesitations are a result of not knowing what I was going to do next.”
- This was released simultaneously on Atco and Fontana Records. The Troggs were from England, and sent their manager to the US to make a distribution deal as Fontana (their British label) was initially hesitant to release it in North America. Fontana changed its mind and shortly afterwards, the manager returned with a signed distribution contract with Atco. Because both singles used the same master recording, the compilers of the Billboard Hot 100 decided to combine the two singles (which had different B-sides) into one chart position. It is the only single to hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 while being offered on two different labels simultaneously.
- That crazy whistling instrument in the break is an ocarina, which is an Eastern instrument that dates back thousands of years. The original version of the song recorded by Jordan Christopher & The Wild Ones had whistling in the break, but The Troggs identified the ocarina from the demo they heard of the song and got one to record it. This gave the song a very distinctive sound and was a great talking point for the band. The next hit song to use an ocarina was “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.” by John Mellencamp, which used the instrument as a tribute to this song as part of his pastiche of ’60s rock.
- In 1967, this was revived as a parody recording by a comedy troupe called The Hardly Worthit Players. Their version ht #20 in the US, and was recorded under the name Senator Bobby. It was a send-up of the popular Senator from New York (and younger brother of President John), Robert F. Kennedy, and loaded with in-jokes about Democratic party politics and RFK’s family. The interplay between “Senator Bobby” and the producer is outlandish. The B-side was a send-up of the popular Senator from Illinois, Everett Dirkson, loaded with in-jokes about Republican party politics. The interplay between the “senator” and the producer on the “response” to “Senator Kennedy’s hit record” is equally funny. The voice of Senator Bobby was James Voight, brother of actor Jon Voight. Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1968 while running for President. Everett Dirkson died in 1969.
- The parody version by The Hardly Worthit Players was one of the last hits for the Cameo/Parkway empire before it went belly-up in early 1969. A former Beatles and Rolling Stones manager bought the original tapes of all product by the company, then changed its name to ABKCO. He still owns the rights and refuses to issue any of them on CD.
- Five years after The Troggs recorded this, Jimi Hendrix released his version. It was one the few songs Hendrix recorded that he did not write, and it gave the song new life on rock radio stations, as Jimi worked it over in his legendary guitar style. This is the song Hendrix is playing in the Monterey Pop Festival footage where he sets his guitar on fire.
- Sam Kinison recorded a version of this in 1988 with a video featuring Jessica Hahn, who was famous for her involvement with televangelist Jim Bakker. Also appearing in the video were Slash, Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Billy Idol and Tommy Lee.
- A version by Cheap Trick was used in the 1992 movie Encino Man, starring Brendan Fraser as caveman who comes back to life in a Los Angeles suburb.
A cover by the punk band X with lead vocals by Exene Cervenka was a big part of the 1989 movie Major League, where Charlie Sheen played Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn, a relief pitcher with control problems who becomes a star when he gets glasses and starts throwing strikes. “Wild Thing” was his theme music, and was copied in real life by Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Mitch Williams, who entered games with the song playing. Williams was known for his reckless, but effective fastball until 1993, when he became known for giving up the home run to Joe Carter that won the World Series.
It quickly became commonplace for dominant closers to enter the game with a specific theme song playing when they made the trip from the bullpen to the mound. Trevor Hoffman of the San Diego Padres came in to “Hell’s Bells” by AC/DC, and Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankess had Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” as his music.
- After their first single flopped, The Troggs moved from CBS to DJM, Dick James’ label. Reg Presley recalled to Mojo magazine April 2008 his initial reaction to “Wild Thing”: “There was a guy there (at DJM) called Dennis Berger, who had a heap of demos on his desk. The first one I picked up was Wild Thing. I took a look at the lyric sheet and read: ‘Wild Thing-you make my heart sing-you make everything groovy.’ It seemed so corny, I thought, Oh my God, what are they doing to us! Then I played Chip Taylor’s demo- just guitar and him- and it was incredible. The other boys all liked it too. Chip Taylor later told us our version was just what he wanted.”
- In the same Mojo interview, Reg Presley recalled the recording of this song at London’s Regent Sound studio: “We recorded Wild Thing and With A Girl Like You at the same session. We had about three quarters of an hour to get our gear set up for them to get a balance, then record and get out. It was at the end of a session Larry Page and his orchestra had booked. Larry was our manager and said we could have any time left over. So we recorded very fast-and for rawness, you can’t whack it.”
- In 2019, this was used in a commercial for the French perfume company Mon Geurlain to promote its new scent, Intense. Starring Angelina Jolie, the sexy ad shows the actress lounging in bed and getting caught in a rainstorm in Cambodia.
- The song’s writer, Chip Taylor, cites the versions by The Troggs, Jimi Hendrix and X as his three favorites.