To celebrate the GOD SAVE THE SEX PISTOLS' tour (members Sid Vicious, Steve Jones and Glen Matlock have all sported the infamous Wild Thing shirt). Paul Gorman's 'The Look Presents' and Wonder Workshop designers John Dove and Molly White collaborated with the Pistols fan-site to produce a custom-made edition of Wild Thing T-shirts from the original screens and patterns.
The SEX PISTOLS newsletter: "The snarling leopard's head print was designed in the early 70s by John Dove & Molly White for their label
Wonder Workshop, and originally appeared on the likes of Iggy Pop on The Stooges' masterpiece Raw Power, Marc Bolan on the T.Rex album The Slider and The Sweet on Top Of The Pops. Sid wore one when he was a 17-year-old living in Hackney and Jonesy sported versions on stage in LA and London last year. For the first time since the 70s John and Molly recently custom-made one each for Steve and Glen for the forthcoming Pistols world tour; Glen obviously couldn't wait - he's wore his for the Camp Freddy show!"
In "The T-Shirt Book" (Ebury Press 1988) Alice Hiller writes:
"John Dove and Molly White started out mixing all their own inks and in 1970 worked out how to print on Black T-shirts - commercially produced inks which did this, only became available in 1975 - and used the technique for the WILD THING T. Designed as a tribute to Jimi Hendrix, it featured a roaring Leopard head with the words WILD THING underneath and was pirated from America to Brazil to become the first global T-shirt hit. Its success launched rhinestones as a major T-shirt fashion and by 1973 they were selling thousands of shirts under their Wonder Workshop label."
One night I was at Lansdowne Studios with Richard Moore, (Richard followed Chris Britten as 60s lead guitarist with the Troggs), he was putting the finishing touches to his song 'Supergirl' he introduced me to Larry Page, producer of Page One records. I asked him about the original 'Wild Thing' recording - he said there wasn't much to tell - the Troggs had been waiting around all day and were in a reckless mood the night of the recording, they laid down both tracks, 'Wild Thing' and 'A Girl Like You' in about 10 minutes, then split. I was a little disappointed that there were no interesting myths to uncover. We had been fans of the Troggs all through the 60s and our friendship with Richard Moore and his wife brought us closer to the band.
EEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeooooooooooooooowwwwww - the curved descent of that single guitar note intro - then straight into that unmistakable Diddley riff ... In their triumphant gigs of '66, the Troggs would use the intro for every song just to tease the audience. "Wild Thing, you make my heart sing, you make everything, come on Wild Thing" The Troggs original hit, (written by pro songwriter, Chip Taylor). Hendrix, at the Monterey Pop Festival, restyled the song ...extended those curved guitar notes in his own inimitable fashion and personalised the lyrics "Wild Thing, you make my heart sing - Oh you make everything - groovy, Wild Thing". The Jimi Hendrix version of 'Wild Thing' was an amazing piece by probably the greatest guitar virtuoso who ever plugged in a Stratocaster and it was his performance which finally inspired us to add the WILD THING title. (Tone Loc did a hotter, sexier take on Wild Thing in the eighties but it was a completely different song). The Troggs original would be in the A 1 slot on our Jukebox for a long time. It was The Troggs who were the most likely English rebels you could include in that zany American music cult of the late 60's we called Punk Rock. A genre which was redefined in England in 1976 with the release of the monumental 'Anarchy in the UK' by the Sex Pistols.
The WILD THING image began way back from a sketch of a Black Panther I had made in 1968. I had inked in the outline of the original Panther drawing with the Leopard spots after seeing a series of wild Leopard pictures in National Geographic. I made a contact film neg, for the metallic gold screen and hand painted the positives for the white teeth, red mouth and green eyes. Molly cut out a piece of red satin and appliqued the tongue.
When we began working with the Worlds End store, Paradise Garage in 1971, The Rhinestone additions to the T-shirts were something we found completely alien to our concept of Rock'N'Roll aesthetics. I complained to Trevor Miles, the owner, that the decoration transformed the hardness of the images into something kinda ethereal. These designs had been printed on black to create a tougher style. "C'est la vie!" he would say - "sleep on it - give it a chance". It was only when we started to interpret the Paradise Garage concept of 'Urban Surf Style' that we came up with the idea to add WILD THING lettering to the Leopard head image which we had printed
earlier on our jacket design sold to Iggy Pop.
So we had 'Wild Thing' playing in the studio as I painted the WILD THING lettering straight onto the screen positive and we completed the T-shirt in black Cire' soon after midnight. We had a dozen finished by the end of the week and hanging in Paradise Garage. The final WILD THING T-shirt evolved via a long winding road
of cultural changes. inspiration and perspiration.
What's PUNK ROCK?
I know there's been dozens of American Rock magazine journalists from Fusion to Creem spitting blood over the origins of 'Punk Rock'. The first time 1 heard the phrase was early in 1972 at 'Rock-On' in London's Golbourne Road. The owner, Ted Carroll, handed me a copy of 'Flash' magazine, a fanzine edited by Mark Shipper from Panorama City, California. Shipper discussed Punk Rock and referred to other fanzine
editors like Mark Leviton and Greg Shaw from 'Who Put The Bomp' magazine as aficionados of 'Punk Rock'. Flash magazine had gone one further by running a 'Punk Rock Top Ten' chart which included the British Invader, WILD THING ...
Later that year a double album of American Rock'n'Roll was released called 'Nuggets'. Lenny Kaye wrote the sleeve notes:
"Most of these groups (and by and large, this was an era dominated by groups) were young, decidedly unprofessional, seemingly more at home practising for a teen dance than going out on a national tour. The name that has been unofficially coined for them - punk rock - seems particularly fitting in this case, for if nothing else, they exemplified the berserk pleasure that comes with being on-stage outrageous, the relentless middle-finger drive and determination offered only by rock and roll at its finest".
Mainstream Fashion is driven by market forces but the sparks of creativity that ignite the subculture run as an undercurrent throughout the world of art, music and fashion by proxy of the global media, creating positive directions which although centred in consumerism, light the fires for isolated young hearts hungry for change.
Molly and I have always considered The WILD THING T-Shirt as our earliest 'Punk' image because It appealed to individuals who would translate the phrase 'Wild Thing' into their own kind of interpretation. It would emblazon the chests of a decade of Rock'N'RolI rebels from Marc Bolan to Sid Vicious.
In 1969, the Oxford Dictionary defined a Punk as a 'worthless person' but in the 1984 edition as a 'devotee of Punk Rock - a type of music using aggressive and outrageous effects.'
The first WILD THING T-shirts sold immediately Paradise Garage opened up on the Saturday, mostly to dealers with other fashion stores in the US and Europe who continuously stalked the Kings Road, so the demand the following week was massive. Marc Bolan and other music people wore the WILD THING T-shirt for promotional photographs and Francois Truffaut used WILD THING T-shirts on Jaqueline Bisset in shooting 'Day For Night'.
But it wasn't long before the plagiarists started to pirate our designs. The first was Marshal Lester who had inherited a textile empire from his father in the north of England. He'd had our designs produced at 'copycat junction' in Japan and was selling them at half our price - the quality wasn't brilliant but good enough to create a huge international boutique level of trading. I was wearing my 'Iggy' jacket with my fluorescent green Leopard skin-tight jeans, when I personally ran at him when he showed the copies at a trade fair in London's Olympia but I was repelled by two of his 'minders' before I could land him one. He said he had copied the T-shirts as a reprisal against Trevor Miles who owed him money. He had borrowed off Lester to buy second-hand denims in New York. We drew little comfort from that, as I remember Trevor owed us more than he owed Lester at the time.
When Lester's copies hit the marketplace, our Paris distributor, Colette Neville, flew over in her company's private plane to try to secure a court order to stop Lester - We were having too much of a good time to go to Court as witnesses, so the case never got off the ground. Jacques Neville said he eventually nailed him when Lester imported the T-shirts into France. The French had a trade embargo against Japan and Lester had put 'Made in the UK' labels in the made in Japan T-Shirts. Apparently, the French Courts wiped him clean. We reckoned there were over a quarter million WILD THING T-Shirt copies made and over a 100,000 others - Everyone was cleaning up from our designs, even the French government!
Meanwhile, in the USA, several ripoffs were available, a company called 'Peter&Paul' were selling pirated T-Shirts by the thousand. Another company in Brazil did a zany copy - they probably didn't appreciate the song 'Wild Thing' so they changed it to 'Wild Life'. A transfer company called 'Transflair' copied our designs and In the 90s there were regular visits to the new 'copycat junction' - Hong Kong. By 1974 the Victoria and Albert museum had caught up with the changes that were happening with Street Fashion although they were still hesitant about how they should approach something that had very little historical reference. Michael Regan was a young V&A curator and managed to persuade the directors that a Pop Art title would give a street fashion exhibition a more acceptable identity.
Michael Regan wrote in the exhibition catalogue:
"Pop Art's influence on textile and fashion design owed all it's inspiration and much of it's success to our mass-produced urban culture. It found it's full expression in the commercialism it poked fun at and came full circle by ending up on the pages of those glossy magazines that had originally provided Pop Art with much of its imagery."
Pirated copies of the WILD THING T-shirt without the words appeared all over London around '98 - we were buying some Andy Warhol Sunday Morning Prints at Planet Bazaar in Camden and the owner, Maureen, was wearing a copy of the Leopard Head T-Shirt by a company called LollyRocks - the drawing was very distorted and it was printed in really heavy plastic inks with flocking and fluorescent green eyes - we quite liked that version. These days there are bare-faced wheeler-dealers who write to us asking for more T-shirts to copy!
We always tried to ignore the rip-off merchants. When you're young and on the edge of things, it's gonna eat into your romanticism and your optimism - best to immerse yourself in the artform - to dream the next dream and make it happen. As I write all this retrospective stuff almost 37 years since it's conception, unbelievably, there are retro companies in the US and the UK still producing copies of WILD THING.
In June 2008 in contrast to the rip-off culture, Paul Gorman of THE LOOK PRESENTS commissioned the Wild Thing T-shirt to be reproduced for TopMan under the WONDER WORKSHOP label TopMan choose our Black metallic Leopard head with Black flocked Wild Thing lettering. This was in fact designed for winter to follow a Silver version for the summer. Sadly, the silver version didn't make it, but we used the silver version for the Sex Pistols special edition. rockpopfashion.com wrote:
"Now Wild Thing has been reinvented for the 21st Century and is part of The Look Presents new range bringing rock & roll suss to TopMan."