Monterey Pop, one of the earliest rock festivals, launched 45 years ago in 1967 during the “Summer of Love.”
Two years before Woodstock, 50,000 people gathered at California’s Monterey County Fairgrounds for 3 days of music by headliners like the Who, Jefferson Airplane and Otis Redding. But the most electrifying set came from Jimi Hendrix, who was introduced by Brian Jones as “the most exciting guitar player I’ve ever heard.”
Hendrix ended his set with a virtuoso cover of Wild Thing, the #1 hit by British Invasion group the Troggs. It was classic Hendrix, as he alternately played his guitar with his teeth or behind his back. To close, Hendrix knelt before his guitar, drenched it with lighter fluid and set it ablaze. The sacrifice complete, Hendrix repeatedly smashed the guitar against the stage and threw what remained into the crowd.
Though the song was later covered by Bruce Springsteen, the definitive version ofWild Thing will always be the raw, visceral hit by the Troggs, four working class Brits from Andover who formed in 1964.
But the Troggs’ classic was itself a cover; the song was born in the USA, first recorded by the Wild Ones, the house band at New York City discotheque Arthur. Rock Cellar Magazine recently spoke with Pete Staples, original member and bass player of the Troggs, Larry Page, who produced the Troggs’ hit; and Chip Taylor, who wrote Wild Thing.
Taylor was then a young songwriter who’d had success in the early 1960s penning country tunes like He Sits at My Table for Willie Nelson. The brother of actor Jon Voight, Taylor was by 1965 a staff writer at April-Blackwood Music, the publishing arm of CBS who had started writing a few rock tunes.
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