I am going way back here – I know. This is probably one of the oldest music magazines that I have. Even if it is, there is some worthwhile reading in these ancient papers. Some of you may never have heard of this band, but I am sure that a whole lot of of you know their songs – like “Wild Thing” and “Love Is All Around”.
A very special setting for this interview done in Germany, only about 20 years after the second world war.
Troggs caged in Berlin zoo
Special by Keith Altham
BERLIN, WESTERN SECTOR, MONDAY—
ERIC BURDON, who is so devoted to the birds in London’s St. James’s Park, would love it here on the twelfth floor of the Berlin Hilton. I am awakened by the sound of the pelicans in the Berlin Zoo below, the scene of the Troggs’ Press reception yesterday. Troggs are pop giants here, creating the kind of fan fervour that the Rolling Stones experienced in their early days.
Their manager Larry Page and I arrived on Saturday to find the group already installed in the hotel, where the big attraction was listening to the local AFN broadcasts beamed to U.S. Servicemen.
These include interruptions like “When you phone your girlfriend don’t talk about your work. She may not be a spy, but the man listening-in is!”
This kind of unhappy comment is a constant reminder that we are staying on an island — a city divided in half in the centre of East Germany. It’s a grim grey city of cement. Ultramodern office blocks dominate and a huge skyscraper is surmounted by a blue-and-silver neon symbol for Mercedes cars, revolving halo-like about us (you can see it in the film, “Quiller”). At night red, blue and green flickering lights cut into the blackness but something seems wrong as you look out toward the horizon.
Reg Presley drew my attention to the fact that from a line parallel to the Reichstag building and beyond, the lights went out almost to the point of a total blackout. This is the dark Eastern sector.
“Frightening, isn’t it?” said Reg. It was chilling.
The Troggs had just completed their Swedish tour with mixed feelings. They had their amplifiers changed to receive continental voltage but it transpired that Sweden is one of the few countries that retains a European system. The amplifiers blew up on the first night!
“Audiences and fans were great,” said Reg. “In Stockholm we played a club and later the manager said it was the first time in four years he had heard screaming there.”
Saturday afternoon was spent chatting in the hotel and apart from Pete Staples and I being politely ejected from the bar for not wearing ties there were no major international incidents.
The evening provided an interesting excursion to the Eden Playboy club, a lively scene where young people dance and let rip.
An interesting variation in “go go girls” was provided by the dancing frauleins, who plunge into a swimming pool (in swim costumes) as the finale to their act. They are joined almost immediately by the more well-lubricated German lads who dive in — in their suits!
The Troggs were well-feted and as guests of honour invited to throw the girls into the pool! This they did with such enthusiasm that everyone shared in the dip!
During the course of the evening Larry Page was announced as their manager and credited with composing “I Can’t Control Myself”, which amused Reg (who wrote it). A German interpretation of “Wild Thing” was played, called “Lisbeth”.
The Sunday morning Press reception in the Berlin Zoo provided onlookers with free entertainment as the Troggs posed in an animal cage while a zoo keeper offered them a hunk of raw meat!
One four-year-old young fraulein was torn to distraction between the relative merits of a grizzly bear and Pete Staples opposite, who appeared to be wearing the animal’s mother!
Pete’s new full-length fur coat (see picture) is the subject of much amusement in the group and his version of Bud Flanagan’s “Underneath The Arches”, dressed in this ensemble and strolling down the Budapest-strasse, has to be seen to be believed!
After a short meander among the zebras, monkeys and seals for the benefit of photographers, we returned to a hot meal, provided in the grounds by our hosts, the Hansa Record Company, which issues the Troggs in Germany.
Over a lunch which included such delicacies as kanoodles (dumpling-like objects of unknown origin) and goulash, Chris Britton stressed the need to keep a sense of humour to relieve tension while on these never-rest tours.
“We’ve worked up a number of good routines,” he revealed. “Pete’s `Long John Silver’ is now nothing short of a masterpiece and Ronnie does a nice ‘Wilfred Pickles’, while Reg has developed a genius for relieving moments of sheer terror — like when the amps blew up! — by underestimating the situation with a camp ‘Whoops!'”
From the zoo we shot off to the huge Deutchlanderhaller, which seats 10,000 people and is a striking contemporary version of our own Wembley Empire Pool.
“The Germans are well organised,” said Reg. “We’ve come up against same bungling in certain parts of Scandinavia, but here they get things done. We ask for something and it’s no problem. There’s no discussion, no fuss, just action. And Hans Blume, from Hansa Records, has chaperoned us about like we were his own babies.”
Also on the concert was Graham Bonney, who got to No. 1 in the German charts with “Super Girl” and stayed in for over six weeks. He had some interesting things to say about his new single as he signed pieces of paper, bare limbs and photographs thrust at him by those lucky and enterprising enough to get into rehearsals.
“I’ve just recorded a Bruce Johnston composition, `Thank You Baby’,” Graham told me.
“There’s naturally a lot of Beach Boy influence in it and Bruce himself helped produce the session for me. It should be out about the second week in January. I’m knocked out about it.
“Bruce and I became friendly while on tour here in Germany about a month ago and he agreed to help me with the song. Such a modest guy, isn’t he?” I agreed.
The concert was a storming success, with Graham Bonney, ably backed by the Remo Four, giving a swinging performance.
Then the Hollies presented their usual slick brand of musicianship and well-balanced programme — “Taste Of Honey”, Chuck Berry’s “Too Much Monkey Business”, and the Four Tops’ “Reach Out, I’ll Be There” (Which Graham Nash informed the 9,000 audience they were thinking of recording before finding it at. No. 10 in the British charts after returning from the U.S.) and “Stop, Stop, Stop”.
Next we got a group called the Boots, who stamped about a bit, with one fellow dressed up as a Martian, sporting an antenna!
Opening up with “Louie Louie” to a clap that sounded as if it had been stolen from the World Cup final — only the shout was “TROG-GUZ” and not “ENG-GLAND!” — our Troggs had the audience greeting their “I Can’t Control Myself” and “With A Girl Like You” with frenzied delight. After other songs, they ended with ” Wild Thing,” which made the crowd just that!
An announcement by a back-stage official declared that British groups were unfair to them because they request the lights dimmed. 9,000 fans voiced their disagreement and so did manager Larry Page — and that was enough to ensure the lights went down.
They went up again with any movement in the crowd and had it not been for that and poor sound balancing, which prevented the vocals reaching the back, the Deutchlandhaller would have had the kind of scene on their hands which had only previously been experienced by the Beatles and the Stones.