In terms of the quintessential hits of the 1960s, ‘Wild Thing’ by The Troggs is amongst the very finest and is even regarded by some as one of the definitive proto-punk cuts. The track has been ubiquitous since it was released by the Hampshire band in 1966, and it remains one of the grooviest numbers from the days that flower power was in full swing.
Although the song is very famous, a lot of people are not aware that it was The Troggs who popularised it and that the song is not actually an original. Following this, it is also then unsurprising that many of us are also unaware that it is loosely connected to Hollywood A-lister and the queen of humanitarianism, Angelina Jolie.
‘Wild Thing’ was originally written by the American songwriter Chip Taylor, and it would prove to be his first big hit. However, the first act to release it was his countrymen, The Wild Ones, but their 1965 version was a major disappointment, failing to even chart.
The Wild Ones were based in New York, and they made headlines as the house band of the nightclub Arthur, which was owned by Sybil Burton, the ex-wife of Hollywood legend Richard Burton, who, after only a week of meeting, would marry the band’s frontman, Jordan Christopher.
They contacted Taylor, asking him to write a song that they could release as a single, and that is exactly what he did. Famously, he crafted the track in rapid fashion, and within a couple of minutes, he had the now-iconic chorus. Looking back on that monumental moment, he described the track as having a “sexual-kind-of-feeling”.
On the demo version, Taylor played the tambourine whilst the producer Ron Johnsen “was doing this little thing with his hands”, as he later recalled, creating a “cool” sound. The track was forwarded on, and the producer Gerry Granahan approved it, proceeding to record The Wild Ones’ version, which featured lead vocals by guitarist Chuck Alden.
Whilst the band and Sybil were excited, what ensued was not what they hoped or expected. When ‘Wild Thing’ was released in November 1965, it failed to sell, and later, Alden went as far as to say that he regretted the band’s decision not to perform the song in the same format as Taylor’s original. Little did The Wild Ones know at the time, but the structure of their version would go on to directly inspire The Troggs. The solo in the middle of The Wild Ones’ song was performed by the recording engineer using his hands as a whistle, so when The Troggs came to record it, they imitated this by recording the solo using an ocarina.
The Troggs recorded their rendition of ‘Wild Thing’ in April 1966 after being introduced to it by their manager Larry Page. They considered it “so weird and unusual that we just had to record it”, and what a masterstroke it would prove to be, cementing the band’s name in the history books.
Strangely, because of a distribution dispute, The Troggs song was available via two rival labels, Atco Records and Fontana Records. As it was the same track released on both labels, taken from the same master recording, Billboard combined the sales of both, confirming it as the only single to reach number one simultaneously for two companies.
This is all well and good, but where does Angelina Jolie fit into the picture? Well, it’s a familial connection. Chip Taylor’s real name is James Wesley Voight, and he just so happens to be the younger brother of Hollywood icon Jon Voight, the father of Angelina Jolie, whose real name is Angelina Jolie Voight. She’s never publicly commented on the song, but she’s certainly aware of its presence in what might be one of the most bizarre musical and Hollywood connections.