In music as in many things it’s a good rule of thumb to defend the original version as being the best. Friendships have crumbled when the rule of thumb is followed by a “yes but what about” addendum.
So with Love Is All Around it’s perhaps better to leave well enough alone and come to the compromise that although the original version by The Troggs – written by that band’s frontman Reg Presley – got there first and for that has a certain amount of merit, it will probably be the revival by Wet Wet Wet which will go down in the pop and rock history books – and anyway their frontman Marti Pellow was a lot more of a poster boy than the eccentric Reg.
One major stumbling block is that The Troggs (originally called The Troglodytes) looked like a bunch of farm hands who had grown their hair long, hired a set of stripey stage suits and struck lucky at the Young Farmers’ Ball. And they didn’t sound too confident or competent either.
Reg Presley (lead vocals) and Ronnie Bond (drums) 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 Troggs. They were signed by Larry Page, manager of The Kinks, in 1965 and by May 1966 almost topped the UK charts (it went one better in the USA) with what has subsequently become a rock classic – Wild Thing (written by American Chip Taylor).
Capitalising on Presley’s sneering vocals plus a fair slice of innuendo and double entendre and a sound like their recording studio was located in a garage, they continued to ride high with hits including With a Girl Like You (a UK number 1 in July 1966, US number 29), I Can’t Control Myself (a UK number 2 in September 1966 and their first UK single release on the Page One label), Anyway That You Want Me (UK number 10 in December 1966), and Give It To Me (UK No.12 1967) before it looked like it was back to the fields for the Andover quartet.
It’s fair to say that few people saw Love Is All Around coming. Featuring a string quartet and a ‘tick tock’ sound on percussion, it was written by Presley and was purportedly inspired by a television transmission of the Joy Strings Salvation Army band’s Love That’s All Around.
The song was first released as a single in the UK in October 1967, peaking at number 5. On the Hot 100, the record entered at number 98 on 24 February 1968, peaked at number 7 on 18 May 1968, was on the chart a total of 16 weeks, and ranked number 40 for all of 1968.
With its by then predictably simplistic Presley lyrics (“I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes, well love is all around me and so the feeling grows. It’s written on the wind, it’s everywhere I go, so if you really love me, come on and let it show”) that might well have been that.
FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL
Then seemingly out of the blue, writer and director Richard Curtis approached Scottish chart stars Wet Wet Wet about recording a cover song to soundtrack his film Four Weddings and a Funeral.
The band got to pick between three songs, the other two being I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor and Can’t Smile Without You by Barry Manilow.
Singer Marti Pellow said that the decision to pick Love is All Around was an easy choice “because we knew we could make it our own.”
The song, which has a different introduction from The Troggs’ version, was released seven years after the Wets’ first hit, in May 1994.
It entered the UK Singles Chart at number four..After climbing to number two the following week, it finally got to number one on 29 May and remained there for 15 weeks, the second-longest UK chart reign of all time (beaten only by Bryan Adams’ (Everything I Do) I Do It for You, which was number one for 16 weeks in 1991, and equalled by Drake’s One Dance in 2016). The song spent a further 20 weeks in the UK Top 75.
Throughout its chart run, some radio stations banned the song because listeners were fed up of hearing it. By February 2018, it had sold 1.9 million copies in the UK – making it the country’s best-selling love ballad of all time.
Reg Presley famously spent some of his songwriting royalties on crop circle research. Pellow also recorded his own version of the song for inclusion on his 2002 album Marti Pellow Sings the Hits of Wet Wet Wet & Smile.
The Troggs’ original drummer, Ronnie Bond, died on 13 November 1992. In January 2012, Reg Presley retired after being diagnosed with lung cancer. The band carried on with new lead singer Chris Allen. Presley died on 4 February 2013.
In 2004, Pellow told the Daily Record, “We did everybody’s head in the summer of 1994″ but added: “I still think it’s a brilliant record. Its strength is its sheer simplicity. Any band would give their eye teeth to have a hit record like that. I’m very proud of it.”
In 2013, the year that Reg Presley died, Love Is All Around was named as the number one song in VH1’s The Ultimate Movie Soundtrack: Top 100.
|Wet Wet Wet