Chip Taylor: The man behind Wild Thing

Chip Taylor Artists including Jimi Hendrix, Willie Nelson, Janis Joplin and the Hollies have sung Chip Taylor's songs

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Following the death of The Troggs' Reg Presley, Chip Taylor - the man who penned their biggest hit, Wild Thing, and is the brother of actor Jon Voight - has been speaking to the BBC about his song and its legacy.

Wild Thing was first released by The Wild Ones in 1965, but its impact was felt when The Troggs released their version in 1966.

It reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1966 and peaked at number two in the UK singles chart.

What are your memories of writing Wild Thing?

I was a country and western songwriter even though I was from New York. I was having some success in that field and I was just starting to write some rock 'n' roll songs.

I remember the day I wrote Wild Thing - I wrote it for a group that was recording the next day (The Wild Ones). It was a very organic song and I hadn't really finished it by the studio time. I had a studio booked to record a country song that afternoon and I had to make a decision as to whether I would try this unfinished song so I wouldn't forget it, or do the country song.

I decided to do this small little song and see what would come to me. I asked the engineer to turn the lights out so I could just lose myself in the song and I just sang whatever came to mind and pictured myself with the person I was thinking about.

What did you make of the first version of it?
The Troggs The Troggs gained notoriety in the 1960s with their first single, Wild Thing

The version that The Wild Ones did was nice but it really wasn't like my demo. My demo had a cool little groove to it, but then Reg and the boys heard it and recorded it.

As a songwriter you were always hoping that the group would get the right feel of your song and when I heard The Troggs' record I thought, 'Woah, this is a perfect recording of this song, if this doesn't make it then nothing will', because the feel was exactly like my demo. It was simple and it just felt great. I really loved it.

When you were writing the song did you have a feeling it would be such a hit?

I did have a feeling that it was special, but it takes a record like Reg's to kick the thing off, to make it something. I did have a feeling the song had some degree of magic to it.

Did you ever get to meet Reg Presley?

I think it was a year or two later that I met him. He came to New York with the boys. The thing I remember most about Reg is what a nice guy he was, how humble, he had a good sense of humour. I liked him right away and I felt very comfortable around him.

Later when I would come to England, Reg once in a while would come and see my shows and get on stage with me. And his wife Brenda is such a wonderful person. One of the things I'll hold in my memory is how nice a couple Reg and Brenda were.

What did you think of the songs he wrote?

He was a very important artist. He's an unsung hero. I was thrilled that he recorded that song of mine and Any Way That You Want Me, but his body of work as a writer was very nice. It was good, with a Girl Like You and I Can't Control Myself and Love Is All Around, it reminded me of The Ramones later on, that simple warm-hearted rock 'n' roll that had come from an honest, simple place.

What is Wild Thing's legacy?

There's a unification between the original demo and Reg which is wonderful, and you couldn't find a better version, so the whole story of Wild Thing would never be told if it wasn't for Reg and the boys. What a wonderful little record that is.

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