Obituary: The Troggs' Reg Presley
- 5 February 2013
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
Reg Presley, the lead singer of the 1960's band The Troggs, has died aged 71.
The band enjoyed several hit songs through the decade, the biggest of which was their cover version of Chip Taylor's Wild Thing which topped the US Billboard chart and made Rolling Stone magazine's greatest songs list.
Presley's song Love Is All Around peaked at number five in the UK charts in 1967 but was a huge hit in 1994 when Wet Wet Wet covered it for the soundtrack to the Richard Curtis film Four Weddings And a Funeral, starring Hugh Grant.
Born in Andover, Hampshire, on 12 June 1941, Presley, went to Andover Secondary Modern School.
When he first learned the guitar, Presley was inspired by skiffle, a type of popular music with jazz, blues, folk, and roots influences - popularised in the UK by artists like Lonnie Donegan
In his 20s Presley began listening to blues bands from America, including Louisiana Red and Lightnin' Hopkins.
Presley had been working as a brick-layer and said in a previous interview it took three months for him to be persuaded to start playing music with a colleague, Howard Ginger Mansfield.
His cohort was a lead guitarist and Presley in turn borrowed a bass, before being forced to drive down to London to buy his own equipment, when he was asked to return the instrument.
Their first manager owned a building company and helped them by borrowing a van to carry their equipment around.
The Troggs formed in 1964 and, in 1965, Presley, Chris Britton, Pete Staples and Ronnie Bond were signed by Larry Page, a budding record producer who got lucky with a new band called the Ravens, who he re-named The Kinks.
After the success of The Kinks You Really Got Me, Page listened to a tape of the Troggs singing their own cover of the song and told them to come back a year later, which they dutifully did - to the day.
Lost Girl backed by The Yella In Me was released on CBS, and was regarded as a flop. According to Presley, it got a single play on Radio Luxembourg.
After that, Page came across a demo of Chip Taylor's Wild Thing, which had already been unsuccessfully recorded by a band called the Wild Ones.
Around the same time, Presley had begun writing his own songs. Speaking to Stuart Maconie on BBC Radio 2 in 2010, he said: "I started writing on the building site when I was a brick-layer. We needed songs and when I was brick-laying."
He added: "I'd finished With A Girl Like You and... in 45 minutes we had to get our gear in the studio, do the two songs and get out, because it was the end of his orchestra session and he left us only 45 minutes."
"I mean our first album only took two and a quarter hours, how do you do that?", Presley laughed. "It almost takes that to play it."
Wild Thing made number one in the US and the follow-up single With A Girl Like You reached number one in the UK Singles Chart on 4 August 1966, where it remained for two weeks.
I Can't Control Myself was also a hit in the UK peaking at two in the UK chart, although the lusty nature of the song encountered resistance from conservative radio programmers.
Love Is All Around restored them to the US Top 10 in 1968 and was their final big hit in the UK and in America.
By the mid-'70s, they had been recognised as an important influence on American punk and garage groups like the MC5 and New York band Ramones.
In 1991, they collaborated with R.E.M and recorded Athens Andover, an eleven-song collaboration, which was released in March 1992.
But it was in 1994, that one of Presley's songs would become one of the UK biggest ever selling singles when Wet Wet Wet famously covered Love Is All Around, which topped the UK chart for 15 weeks.
It was featured in the British box office smash Four Weddings And A Funeral in the same year.
"I love their version," Presley said to Liz Kershaw on BBC 6 Music in March 2010. "I thought Wet Wet Wet's version was great."
He said: "When I heard it, they sent me a tape to see what I thought of it. I put a cup of tea to my mouth and took a swig, and it came on with those big heavy chords (we did it gently) and I spit tea all over the room. And all of a sudden he started singing and I thought "wow!"."
"The royalties keep on coming in," he added, "It's paid all over the world. And it keeps on going. I wish someone would do With A Girl Like You."
Presley used his royalties to fund his research into crop circles and outlined his findings in a book, Wild Things They Don't Tell Us, published in October 2002.
Asked by Maconie if he was still interested in UFO's, Presley said: "I wasn't into it until I saw one, and then I saw two, and the moment I've seen 14 but I would say some of those are a bit iffy."
Presley formed Four Corners Vision film company and made a short film about UFO's in the Marlborough area. He described what happened one night when he was with a film crew and saw something move from one side of the horizon to the other.
"These two objects came across and they said to me, 'well, now we believe'," said Presley. "Within seconds there was no noise whatsoever underneath the cloud."
Presley had been continuing to tour with the Troggs until he suffered a stroke in Germany in 2011.
By December, Presley went to hospital in Winchester, Hampshire. He was suffering from pneumonia and fluid around the heart.
The musician "reluctantly" retired in early 2012 after being diagnosed with lung cancer, but according to the Troggs' biographer Alan Clayson, he gave the band his blessing to go forward.
Speaking about Presley's cancer, Clayson said: "Reg was quite philosophical about this and recognised the fact that he was a heavy smoker and that that contributed to his condition."
Just over a year later, following a string of strokes, his close friend and music publicist Keith Altham announced he had died at his home on 4 February in Andover, surrounded by family and friends.
Presley is survived by his wife Brenda, daughter Karen and son Jason.