10 Great Versions of "Wild Thing"
"Wild Thing" may not be most-recorded song in history, but it's got to be up there. (It's not even in the Top 10, though, according to the UK's The Independent.) But when the version by the Troggs, whose singer Reg Presley died of cancer late Monday night, became a hit on both sides of the Atlantic in the summer of 1966, it became one of those songs. It has long been enshrined in the rock and roll pantheon, perhaps entering at the moment Jimi Hendrix used it as a launching pad to set his guitar aflame at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.
Although it does not have the same kind of genre-shifting properties as some other standards, "Wild Thing" has the advantage of being fiendishly easy to learn and exhilaratingly fun to perform. In the some 46 years since the Troggs made it a hit, its salacious tone and ever-unkempt nature have kept it close at hand and given it a half-life of nearly forever.
With all due respect to Cheap Trick, Widespread Panic, Jeff Beck, Warren Zevon and just about every garage band that ever strapped on a guitar, here are the ten other versions of "Wild Thing" worth remembering.
Kermit and crew's tribute to Animal, of course, starring the furry, woooommannnnn-crazy drummer himself. Should not be confused with the "Wild Thing" recorded by the Creatures, Siouxsie Sioux and Robert Smith's gothy dalliance between early-'80s Banshees and Cure albums, which added suitably darker lyrics.
Exene Cervenka sings lead on the L.A. punk vets' version, which makes perfect placement as Charlie Sheen's lights-out bullpen music in 1989's Major League. Not long after the film became a hit, actual major league closer Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams started using it too.
The Wild Ones
Little is known about this mid-'60s New York band, except that they originally recorded "Wild Thing," written by fellow New Yorker Chip Taylor, and that sometime not long after, the song came to the attention of the Troggs. The Wild Ones' 1965 album The Arthur Sound does not contain "Wild Thing" but was once ranked the No. 1 obscure album in history.
For some reason the author has always mistaken X's version of "Wild Thing" featured in Major League for Joan Jett. Perhaps it's because Jett's original band the Runaways played it often during their short-lived mid-'70s heyday, with late drummer Sandy West taking a rare turn on lead vocals.
Our most recent "Wild Thing" was recorded by ear-bruising Cleveland metalcore outfit in honor of Charlie Sheen when the actor was at his full tiger-blood apogee. You can find it on iTunes, though not on Chimaira's 2011 album The Age of Hell.