Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The Late Great Reg Presley

Reg Presley, lead vocalist and founding member of The Troggs, died yesterday at the age of 71. The cause was lung cancer.

Reg Presley was born Reginald Ball in Andover, Hampshire, England on 12 June 1941. After he left school he became a bricklayer. It was in 1964 in Andover that The Troglodytes were formed, later shortening their name to The Troggs.  It was in 1965 that Reginald Ball was given his stage name, Reg Presley, by Keith Altham of The New Music Express. It was the same year that The Troggs were signed by Larry Page, manager of The Kinks, to his Page One Records. He leased them to CBS for their first single, "Lost Girl." Released in 1966, the single went nowhere on the charts; howver, their next single would prove to be one of the seminal hits in rock 'n' roll. "Wild Thing" had been recorded by The Wild Ones in 1965, but made little impact on the charts. On the other hand, The Troggs' cover of the song went to number two on the UK singles chart, number one on Billboard's Hot 100 in the U.S., and number on the Canadian singles chart. A dispute over American distribution rights led to the single being released on two different labels: Fontana and Atco. With the success of "Wild Thing," Reg Presley retired from bricklaying.

The Troggs  followed "Wilid Thing" with several more hits. "With a Girl Like You" went to #1 in the United Kingdom and #29 in the United States. "I Can't Control Myself" went to #2 in the United Kingdom and #43 in the United States. ""Love Is All Around" went to #5 in the United Kingdom and #7 in the United States. Along with "Wild Thing," these songs would be the only hits The Troggs would have in the United States, but they had several more in the United Kingdom. "Any Way That You Want Me (#8 in the UK)," "Give It to Me (#12 in the UK), "Night of the Long Grass (#17 in the UK)," and "Little Girl (#37 in the UK)" all made the top forty.

Unfortunately, by 1968 The Troggs had run their course. In March 1969 the and split up and individual members pursued solo project, including Reg Presley. In 1969 he released a single, "Lucinda Lee." The Troggs reformed later in 1969 and began recording as a band again. Unfortunately, while the band would release singles in 1969 and 1970 and into the Seventies, they never again had a hit outside of the Republic of South Africa (where both "The Raver" and "Feels Like A Woman" charted. The band continued to release singles into the Nineties, with the last being a remake of "Wild Thing" in 1993. During the period they also continued to release albums. Black Bottom in 1982, AU in 1990, and Athens Andover in 1992 (a collaboration between The Troggs and three members of R.E.M.).

Reg Presley also released singles as a solo artist, including "Let's Pull Together" in 1970 and  "--'s Down to You, Marianne" in 1973. In later years Reg Presley studied a number of outré subjects, including alien abductions, crop circles, alchemy, and ancient civilisations. He outlined his beliefs in the 2002 book Wild Things They Don’t Tell Us. Mr. Presley also patented a fog warning system.

As the leader and lead vocalist of The Troggs, Reg Presley would have a lasting impact on rock music. The Troggs were the prototypical garage band, and would influence garage bands to come, including Iggy Pop and The Stooges, The MC5, and The Ramones. Music critic and historian Lester Bangs described The Troggs as the "godfathers of punk," and their influence could be seen in such punk bands as The Sex Pistols and Buzzcocks. Over the years The Troggs' songs have been covered several times, including "I Want You (by The MC5)," "Anyway That You Want Me (by Spiritualised)," "Love is All Around (by both R.E.M. and Wet Wet Wet), and "66-5-4-3-2-1" by Ulver. The many covers of "Wild Thing" over the years undoubtedly owe more to The Troggs' hit cover of the song than The Wild Ones' original. The Troggs primitive style and Reg Presley's stylised vocals would have a lasting impact on rock music from garage rock to punk to power pop.

While The Troggs had an image that was somewhat sexualised (indeed, "I Can't Control Myself" was banned by the BBC), Reg Presley led a life that was hardly that of a rock star. While Mr. Presley was a chin smoker (he smoked as many as 80 cigarettes a day), he never took illegal drugs. What is more, he was married to the same woman, his wife Brenda, for 49 years. He never moved away from Andover, living in a rather modest house there. He also remained very approachable all of his life. Despite being the head man of one of the best known rock bands of the Sixties, he was always nice to his fans and never dismissed him. He may have belonged to a band whose name brought to mind cave men, but in reality Reg Presley was a true gentleman.

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