Happy memories of Troggs at the bottom of my garden – farewell to Reg Presley

by Jeremy Miles

So it’s a sad farewell to Reg Presley who has died at the age of 71. He was one of life’s great characters, an inextricable part of popular music history and a presence in my life too. Our family were not only living in Andover when The Troggs rose to fame but the band used to practise at guitarist Chris Britton’s girlfriend’s house which just happened to back onto our garden.

Reg Presley and me. Picture  by Hattie Miles

Reg Presley and me. Picture by Hattie Miles

They also rehearsed in a room over The Copper Kettle tearooms opposite my dad’s office in the High Street. By the time Wild Thing hit the charts we’d heard it played at least a hundred times. It only later occurred to me that had I had the forethought to get a tape-recorder and hang a microphone over the garden fence I might now be in possession of a particularly interesting bootleg.

I vaguely knew Reg – anyone who was interested in the local music scene in Andover  back then did – but I was a decade younger than him and really knew his friend and former bandmate Dave Wright a lot better. The first time I actually properly met Reg he was posing for a picture with a Dalek on a school playing field. This picture was taken by Hattie in the 1990s as he regaled me with his latest theories about crop-circles and aliens. He seemed remarkably happy even though he told me the world was going to end in September 2002. I don’t believe in all that stuff but I did later wonder if he’d just got the calculations a year out.

Dear old Reg! My favourite of all the countless Reg stories I’ve heard down the years is about him meeting Bob Dylan on the set of the film Hearts of Fire . It seems the mighty Zim had heard the infamous Troggs tapes (the unwitting inspiration for Rob Reiner’s brilliant movie This is Spinal Tap) and asked to be introduced to Reg who was working as an extra on the film. He found the singer tinkering with a bass guitar and said: “Wow man, how long have you been playing the bass?” Reg looked  up, smiled and in his thick ‘ampshire accent replied “All bloody ar’ternoon mate!” Actually Reg had played bass (extremely ineptly) years earlier in the Troglodytes, the band that would ultimately become The Troggs.

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