Best known as the lead singer and songwriter for The Troggs, Presley was hospitalized in Winchester, Hampshire, in December 2011 with what was suspected to be a stroke. He was also suffering from pneumonia and fluid around the heart. Presley had suffered a major stroke about a year before. His wife said he first began to feel bad while performing in Germany on December 3, 2011 and had got progressively worse. “Doctors think he has had another stroke. He’s not very well and I have no idea how long he’ll be in hospital”, she said. The following month, Presley announced he had been diagnosed with lung cancer and therefore decided to retire from the music industry. Just over a year later, Presley died from this cancer and, according to Altham, “a succession of recent strokes”. Presley was cremated at Basingstoke Crematorium, Hampshire.
Presley joined the building trade on leaving school and became a bricklayer while entertaining dreams of becoming a singer. He and drummer Ronnie Bond were childhood friends and in the early 1960s formed an R&B band in their home town of Andover. In 1964 they were joined by Pete Staples (bass) and Chris Britton (guitar) and became the Troglodytes before hooking up with manager/producer Larry Page (who was involved in the Kinks’ early affairs) in the mid-’60s. After a flop debut single (Presley’s stage name was given to him in 1965 by the New Musical Express journalist and publicist Keith Altham), they were fortunate enough to come across a demo of Chip Taylor’s “Wild Thing” (which had already been unsuccessfully recorded by ‘The Wild Ones”). In the hands of the newly named Troggs, “Wild Thing” with its grungy chords and off-the-wall ocarina solo, became a primeval three-chord monster, famous not only in its original hit Troggs version, but in its psychedelic revamping by Jimi Hendrix, who used it to close his famous set at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.
“Wild Thing” made #1 in US, but the Troggs’ momentum there was impeded by a strange legal dispute which saw their early records simultaneously released on two different labels. Nor did it help that the band didn’t tour America for a couple of years.
Presley enjoyed other successful hit singles with the group including “I Can’t Control Myself” and the UK #1 “With a Girl Like You”, and he also wrote the song “Love Is All Around” which restored them to the American Top Ten in 1968. It was also their final big hit on either side of the Atlantic, and many years later was featured in the film “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and became a #1 hit for Wet Wet Wet in 1994. Bond died on November 13, 1992.
Presley kept his job as a bricklayer until “Wild Thing” hit the US chart, and used his royalties from that cover to fund research subjects such as alien spacecraft, lost civilizations, alchemy, and crop circles, and outlined his findings in the book “Wild Things They Don’t Tell Us” published in October 2002.
But the Troggs would keep going for a long, long time. In a sense they were handicapped by their image, they were not intellectuals, certainly, but they weren’t dumb either. They wrote most of their songs, and their albums were reasonably accomplished, if hardly up to the level of the Kinks or Traffic, containing some nifty surprises like the gothic ballad “Cousin Jane,” or the tongue-in-cheek psychedelia of “Maybe the Madman.” By 1970, though, they were struggling. They continued to release a stream of singles, most of which had a straightforward simplicity that was out of step with the progressive rock of the time, all of which flopped, though some were fairly good.
Athens Andover The Troggs’ image as lunkheads couldn’t have been helped by the notorious “Troggs Tapes,” a 12-minute studio argument that was captured on tape while the band were unawares. The Spinal Tap-like dialog helped keep their cult alive, though, and as punk gained momentum in the mid-1970s, they gained belated appreciation as an important influence on bands like the Ramones and (earlier) the MC5. They found enough live work (sometimes on the punk/new wave circuit) to keep going, although their intermittent records generally came to naught. In 1992, they rose to their highest profile in ages when three members of R.E.M., which had covered “Love Is All Around,” backed the Troggs on the comeback album “Athens Andover.”
Presley’s music has influenced Iggy Pop and won praise from Bob Dylan. The rock critic Lester Bangs called the Troggs the “godfathers of punk” and compared Presley to Marcel Proust. Presley appeared as a character in Steve Erickson’s novel “These Dreams of You” (2012)