Who Really Wrote The Troggs’ Song, “Wild Thing”?

It just might be the most famous rock ‘n’ roll song of all time. Its title is quick and to the point, and sums up the entire point of the genre in two simple words—Wild thing. But while this song has been making many a “heart sing” for some 50 years, with versions from Jimi Hendrix to The Troggs, one might wonder about the origins of the song. Where does it come from and who wrote it?

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Merrilee Rush

One might wonder what the singer of the hit song “Angel of the Morning,” Merrilee Rush, might have to do with “Wild Thing.” The two are related. In a recent conversation with the artist, Rush said that when she was on tour with Paul Revere & the Raiders, the group stopped in Memphis to cut an album. Well, Rush was in the studio when one of the producers asked her to cut a demo. She did such a good job, she was brought back to Memphis from her home in Seattle a month later.

When she got back to Memphis that second time, she was given another demo. This time it was “Angel” and who was the writer? Chip Taylor. Taylor played the demo for Rush. “Chip Taylor had never been a great singer,” Rush joked. “It was just him and his guitar.” But “Angel” was in the same chord progression, Rush said, as the song “Louie, Louie.” Rush, reading the “Angel” lyric knew it would be a hit. Just like Taylor’s other song he had at the time, “Wild Thing.”

Chip Taylor

Born in 1940, Taylor was from the New York City area. Showbiz runs in the family as he’s also the brother of actor Jon Voight. Taylor, who once wanted to be a professional golfer, later became a musician. In his career, he’s written songs for many famous names, from Willie Nelson to Ace Frehley.

But his first hit was “Wild Thing.”

The Troggs

While the song was written by Taylor, it was made famous by the English rock band the Troggs, in 1966. It’s that band’s version listeners likely think of first, with its wailing vocals and buzzy guitars. But the track was first recorded by the New York City band the Wild Ones in 1965. Later, the song was covered by many other artists from the Runaways to Jimi Hendrix.

As the story goes, the song was written quickly—within minutes—by Taylor at the behest of the Wild Ones. He thought of the chorus and went with a “sexual-kind-of-feel” for the overall composition. Taylor said his demo, which included him playing tambourine and producer Ron Johnsen playing rhythm on his hands, turned out “cool.” But the Wild Ones’ recording didn’t have quite the same charm. Their song didn’t sell and it was shelved.

Later the Troggs’ manager, Larry Page, recommended the band record the song thinking it was a rather “weird” track. Because the song was strangely attached to different labels—Atco Records and Fontana Records—due to a distribution dispute, when the song hit No. 1 both labels subsequently took credit.

Today, the song lives on in movies (Major League, see below), television car commercials, and our wild, music-loving hearts.

Photo by CA/Redferns

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