Iconic British rockers, The Troggs, are still wowing audiences and are set for a special appearance down under in 2016. Wild Thing guitarist, Chris Britton, gives us his take on the fans, the fun and what keeps them going after 50 years of rock n’ roll.
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The opening staccato guitar riff of Wild Thing is one of the most quintessential in rock history. It’s familiar to young and old alike and combined with primal opening lyric “Wild thing, you make my heart sing. . .” it represents one of the seminal sounds of the swinging sixties.
Rock out to the riffs of Wild Thing
It’s nearly 50 years since The Troggs stunned the world with their definitive version of that classic, which also staked their claim as one of the most influential bands of the era.
The founding member who barked out that guitar riff, Chris Britton, has been touring with The Troggs ever since, and is heading to Australia with the band next year for the Rock the Boat 6 – A salute to the sixties cruise, along with a host of other big names from the British explosion.
Chris took some time to speak to us about how it feels to be flying the rock n’ roll flag half a century on.
A radical reputation
Apart from their ground-breaking sound, The Troggs were notorious for the ‘suggestive’ character of their early songs and they were even banned by the establishment in some quarters.
What would be seen as fairly tame today was really pushing the boundaries back then, as Chris explains.
“I guess it was probably a deliberate thing we did to try and be provocative, but it was always very much tongue in cheek. There was never any malice intended”, he chuckles.
‘Wild thing’ was the first of a string of hits in the mid to late sixties, but as Chris rightly claims, their trademark ‘caveman rock’ sound found in classics like I can’t control myself.
Can you control yourself to the tracks of The Troggs?
This was complemented with more mainstream pop tunes, such as the infectious With a girl like you and the original version of Love is all around, which later spent 15 weeks at number one when covered by Wet, Wet, Wet for the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral.
The raw edginess of their music earned them the tag of being the forerunners of punk rock and the garage band revolution. They are credited as influencing such acts as the Ramones, Iggy Pop, The Buzzcocks and Black Sabbath.
“At the time, we didn’t realise just how much of an influence we would have. We were just doing our own thing and it’s only with hindsight you realise how important it was. The further away in time we get the clearer that becomes.”
“There was certainly an element in our attitude that you could identify as being ‘punk’, so it’s nice to be recognised for that, but our musical spectrum was a lot wider than that, so I don’t think we can be pigeon-holed into just one style”.
It’s the fans that keep them going
Chris reflected on the journey they had been on since those heady days of early success.
“We have been touring ever since then and it’s amazing how quickly those years have rushed by. In fact we have just finished a six week tour of the UK and the reaction has been fabulous.”
When asked whether he ever gets tired of playing the hits, he claims that it’s the audience reaction that still keeps it fresh.
“It’s not playing the songs that gives us the buzz, it’s the response and energy we get back from the crowds which still makes it a thrill for us. It’s a great feeling.”
So is it just the old faithful who attend their gigs? “You know, it’s amazing. We get all ages coming to the concerts and to festivals that we play. The music seems to resonate with younger generations just as much as it did back then. I think that’s partly because songs like ‘Wild Thing’ are relatively easy to play, so kids learning guitar are attracted to it and can identify with it”.
Of course, the long term fans remain the mainstay of the audience, but that doesn’t mean the response they get is any less intense.
“It never ceases to amaze me how they still get into the music. Age doesn’t hold them back and we even have people in wheelchairs dancing along. The adrenalin kicks in and off they go”.
Crossing paths with legends
The sixties was a prodigious time for music with The Stones, The Beatles, Clapton, The Kinks and The Who being joined by bands like The Troggs in the creative melting pot.
“My early inspiration came from people like Little Richard and Buddy Holly, but I think the influences of the bands of our time naturally have to rub off on you too.
We didn’t actually spend a lot of time together with them because we were all so busy running around doing our own thing, but we would inevitable cross paths in a TV studio doing Top of the Pops or run into them in a café at 4 in the morning after a gig”, he recalls.
“Strangely, it’s only in more recent times that we actually spend more time with our contemporaries. For instance, there might be three or four bands from that era on tour together, so there is more of a chance to meet up now and get to know each other than there ever was back then”.
A tight knit group
Apart from Britton, the current version of the Troggs includes bassist, Peter Lucas who has been with the band for 40 years and drummer, Dave Maggs, who has clocked up 25 years. The original singer, Reg Presley, sadly passed away in 2013, but those very large shoes have been filled admirably by new recruit, Chris Allen, who has been in the UK music scene going back to the 60’s too.
The Troggs playing live on stage (Photo: Facebook/The Troggs Band)
Britton tells how well the transition has worked. “It was difficult when Reg became ill and had to retire, but he wanted us to carry on. We didn’t try to go out and find someone who acted or sounded like Reg, but we needed someone that brought their own style and was easy to get on with so that we remained a tight unit.”
“We had known Chris for a long while and he was a good fit, so it has worked really well, Reg even came to a couple of shows after Chris joined and was happy to give his blessing”.
The 60’s music revolution to be relived in Australia
The Troggs are heading to Australia in 2016 where they will be appearing alongside some of the biggest names of the British invasion on a special cruise event, Rock the Boat 6 – A salute to the sixties.
It promises to be a spectacular seven night cruise, with names like Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, Mike Pender’s Searchers, The Pacemakers, The Fortunes and Badfinger featuring Joey Molland.
They will be playing all their hits on a seven night cruise departing Brisbane on November 6, 2016, visiting Lifou, The Loyalty Islands and The Isle of Pines – New Caledonia, returning on the 13th.
“We are really looking forward to it”, says Chris. “It will be very different being up close with the fans for a whole week and we have worked with most of the other acts, so it should be a great atmosphere.”
(Feature image: Facebook/The Troggs Band)
What’s your favourite Troggs track? Let us know below!