Reg Presley, lead singer of the Sixties rock group The Troggs, died Monday at the age of 71. The Troggs (short for Troglodytes) are often mentioned as a major influence on the punk rock movement of the 1970s. They recorded a string of hits between 1966 and 1968, most notably “Wild Thing.” The Troggs are also remembered—much to the band’s chagrin—for one of the most notorious bootlegs ever: “The Troggs Tapes,” described by Uncut magazine as a “hilarious, 12-minute swearathon.”
The Troggs Tapes were recorded in London in 1970. The band was working on a song called “Tranquility,” but things weren’t going well, and the session degenerated into a foul-mouthed orgy of acrimony and recrimination. A copy of the recording somehow made it onto the bootleg market and became legendary. Saturday Night Live parodied the Troggs Tapes in a sketch with Bill Murray, John Belushi and others playing a group of frustrated medieval musicians who say the word “flogging” over and over. The tapes are also parodied in This is Spinal Tap, during the recording scene at the “Rainbow Trout Studios.” In a piece this week paying tribute to Reg Presley, the Telegraph music critic Neil McCormick writes:
Before the internet, The Troggs Tapes were hard to find, yet everyone seemed to know about them, an elusiveness that only added to their allure. I remember getting my hands on a copy in a Dublin flea market, then sitting aroud late at night with friends laughing ourselves silly at the inanity and palpable sense of frustration as the musicians fail to find a way to articulate and capture some sound idea, beyond the reach of either their language or their technical abilities…. In truth, it is the kind of conversation you can hear every day in recording studios all around the world, but there was something liberating and myth-busting about the experience of eavesdropping on these unguarded musicians at work.
You can listen to an abridged version of The Troggs Tapes above. To learn more about Reg Presley, you can read his fittingly unconventional obituary in The Telegraph. And to end things off on a positive note, we offer a glimpse of The Troggs when things were going considerably more smoothly, with the band performing “Wild Thing” in 1966: