Sunday, February 23, 2014
For the Love of a Wild Thing
Song 187: Who doesn't love the song Wild Thing? Or, to put it another way, if you don't love Wild Thing, then the love of rock and roll is not in you. It practically exploded out of the radio in the summer of 1966, at a time when I also was watching the TV show Batman quite a bit. The following summer I got to go to Expo 67 in Montreal, which was fun in a lot of ways, and while there, at one point the radio played Wild Thing as a golden oldie from the previous summer, so now when I hear this song, it takes me back to that moment in Montreal and also makes me think about the Batman TV show as well. Chip Taylor is the stage name for the songwriter who wrote this tune, James Wesley Voight, and he is the brother of actor Jon Voight and the uncle of actress Angelina Jolie. He's written a number of other notable songs, such as Try (Just a Little Bit Harder) from Janis Joplin's Kozmic Blues album, the 1966 Hollies hit I Can't Let Go, the 1968 Merilee Rush hit Angel of the Morning, and Waylon Jennings' recording Sweet Dream Woman that he covered on his 1972 Good Hearted Woman album. I once heard Chip talking about Wild Thing, and he gave a quick rundown about how he came to write it, after which he recorded a quick home demo of it and then mailed it off, all in a very short time. After he mailed the demo to a friend in England, he didn't give the song another thought until suddenly, many months after he posted that demo, an English band cover of it came blasting out of his radio one day -- a cover version that he loved just as much as the rest of us did. On a side note, in the fall of 1966, after Wild Thing had peaked, Chip, who was not born with the name Taylor, got involved in a project with someone who was born with that name. He and his partner Al Gorgoni produced a session for James Taylor's band, and while the single Brighten Your Night with My Day/Night Owl from that session did not make a dent in the charts, a few years later, after the success of Sweet Baby James, the recordings from that session surfaced as an album called James Taylor and the Original Flying Machine. I once owned the record, and I would recommend it only to high-end JT fans -- if you absolutely have to have a copy of everything he ever did, then you'll probably want that too, but much better versions of those songs surfaced on the Apple album James Taylor, so getting the Flying Machine record is on about the same level as collecting Basement Tapes bootlegs is to a Dylan fan, or maybe even one level above that.