Fifty years ago this month, Andover band the Troggs released their debut single. It wasn’t a hit, but ‘Lost Girl’ was a great record, a primitive slab of punk freakbeat. Happily, the group didn’t have to wait too long for chart success: a couple of months later they recorded ‘Wild Thing’, after which nothing was the same again.
Most of their hits (with the exception of ‘Wild Thing’ itself) were written by the group’s singer Reginald Maurice Ball (1941-2013), under his Elvis-inspired stage name, Reg Presley. In 1994 he had a bit of a windfall when a cover by Wet Wet Wet of his 1967 song ‘Love Is All Around’ was used on the soundtrack of the Hugh Grant film Four Weddings and a Funeral and went on to spend fifteen weeks at #1 in the UK singles chart. With the royalties that accrued to him, as the sole writer, Presley had the chance finally to invest some money into researching crop-circles and various other arcane phenomena that had attracted his interest over the years.
His raised public profile also led to an interview with Frances Welch that was published in the Sunday Telegraph‘s ‘Me and My God’ column, giving him a chance to explain his belief that Martians have been visiting us for millennia, giving us nudges along the evolutionary path (and keeping themselves amused). The following quotes all come from that interview:
‘I think I believed in God when I was a child but then I started to question everything. My main problem was who made God? But I do believe in the teachings of Christ, like the Ten Commandments.’
‘It’s like humans exploring micro-organisms. They call it work, but it’s really entertainment. What do the Martians do if they’re two million years ahead of us? They come to visit us for fun.’
‘Before Jesus and that set-up, man was a bit cruel. We’d kill just because it suited us. The Romans were the worst offenders. Then Jesus came with those miracles. Easy-peasy. Two thousand years before that they [the Martians] gave us another kick-start with the wheel.’
‘Did you know the Sphinx was made by Zulus from Mars? Its chin is 14 per cent too large for a Caucasian so he must have been black. People laugh and say the Zulus could only build mud huts. Now they’ve found a face on Mars just like the Sphinx.’
‘Do you hear anything funny about the names of the places where the crop circles have been appearing: Winchester, Warminster and Wantage? Yes, it’s all Ws: Win, War and Want!’
‘I believe we’re made up of electricity and I believe that electricity stays in the atmosphere, yet we’re earthed. I mean, when we have a bath, we’re still alive afterwards, aren’t we?’
‘In 1991 three and a half million gallons of water disappeared from a fish farm in Andover. Where did it go? I worked it out on my computer. It would have taken eleven and a half days for all the firemen in Andover to shift it. Now Wet Wet Wet do my record. Is that a coincidence?’