Wild One (Johnny O'Keefe song)

"Wild One" or "Real Wild Child" is an Australian rock and roll song written by Johnny Greenan, Johnny O'Keefe, and Dave Owens. While most sources state that O'Keefe was directly involved in composing the song, this has been questioned by others.[3] Sydney disc jockey Tony Withers was credited with helping to get radio airplay for the song but writer credits on subsequent versions often omit Withers, who later worked in the United Kingdom on pirate stations Radio Atlanta and, as Tony Windsor, on Radio London.

"Wild One"
Song by Johnny O'Keefe
from the album Shakin' at the Stadium
GenreRock and roll
Length2:30 [1]

According to O'Keefe's guitarist, Lou Casch, the song was inspired by an incident at a gig in Newtown, Sydney,[4] in about 1957. According to Casch, as O'Keefe and the Dee Jays played at an upstairs venue, an "Italian wedding" reception was taking place downstairs. Some of the dance patrons came to blows with wedding guests in the men's toilets, and within minutes the brawl had become a full-scale riot that spilled out into the street, with police eventually calling in the Navy Shore Patrol to help restore order. In an article by Clinton Walker that tries to answer the question, What was Australia’s first rock’n’roll record? the writer quotes Dee Jays’ saxophonist – and the song’s co-writer – John Greenan corroborating Casch’s account and elaborating upon it.[5]

The release date of the single, 5 July 1958, is considered the birth of Australian rock and roll. The band Jet and Iggy Pop recorded a cover version that was released to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the original release. The Living End performed the song at the 2008 APRA Awards to mark the anniversary.

O'Keefe's recordings

O'Keefe was the first artist to record it, on his debut EP Shakin' at the Stadium, released on the Festival label. This version, ostensibly recorded live at the Sydney Stadium, was in fact a studio recording, overdubbed with the sound of a real audience.

An alternate version was recorded and released outside Australia: in the United States (as "Real Wild Child") on Brunswick and in the UK on Coral. "Festival liner notes have always put forward that the crowd overdub was the only difference... Ignoring the crowd overdub at the start, both versions have a different intro and JOK's vocal on the foreign versions is noticeably wilder than on the EP version issued here… As far as I know, the US/UK single version which, IMHO, is markedly superior to our version, was never issued in Australia... at the time, [but] it did finally appear on a local compilation LP in the 70's and is now commonly available on various JOK CDs."
Tony Watson[6]

The song was the first Australian rock recording to reach the national charts,[2] peaking at No. 20.[7][8]

Cover versions

Iggy Pop

"Real Wild Child (Wild One)"
Single by Iggy Pop
from the album Blah-Blah-Blah
Iggy Pop singles chronology
"Cry for Love"
"Real Wild Child (Wild One)"

Iggy Pop included a cover of the song on his 1986 album Blah-Blah-Blah. Titled "Real Wild Child (Wild One)",[9] this became a No. 10 hit on the UK Singles Chart in January 1987. In Canada it charted for 20 weeks, although it never peaked higher than No. 65 on the Canadian RPM Top Singles. It also charted on Billboard's Album Rock Tracks chart, peaking at No. 27. The Iggy Pop version was featured in the films Crocodile Dundee II, Adventures in Babysitting, Problem Child and its sequel Problem Child 2. The clip for that song was used in the opening titles for ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) music block, rage.[10]

Jet and Iggy Pop

"The Wild One"
Single by Jet and Iggy Pop
Released19 July 2008
FormatCD single, digital download
GenreHard rock
LabelWarner Music
Jet singles chronology
"I Spy I Spy"
"The Wild One"
"She's a Genius"

A cover of the song was recorded again by Iggy Pop who teamed up with Aussie rockers Jet, titled "The Wild One". It was released as a CD single and download on 19 July 2008, as a tribute to rock and roll legend Johnny O'Keefe, and peaked at number 66 on the ARIA Singles Chart.

Other covers

In 1958 the song was released as a single by Jerry Allison, a member of the Crickets, using the name Ivan, with Buddy Holly backing him up on guitar. Retitled "Real Wild Child," the song became a moderate hit, peaking at No. 68 on the Billboard Hot 100.

"Wild One" was also recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis in 1958 but was not released until 1974 on Lee's album, Rockin' and Free. His version also appears in the 1989 motion picture and soundtrack album for Great Balls of Fire!, Nowhere Boy, and The Complete Novel edition of The Outsiders.

It was recorded and released as "Real Wild Child" by Jet Harris, former bassist with the Shadows, in 1962 on Harris' self-titled EP. A further version, "Real Wild Child (Wild One)" was recorded by British guitarist, Albert Lee, on his 1982 self-titled album.

Other artists to record this song include Status Quo, Everlife, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Marshall Crenshaw, Brian Setzer, Lee Rocker, Teenage Head, Albert Lee and Wakefield. A cover by Christopher Otcasek appeared on the soundtrack to the film Pretty Woman.[11] The cover by Wakefield appeared in the movie EuroTrip and its soundtrack. Young at Heart often covers the song during their sets at Kelly's Bar.

An up-tempo rock version of the song (titled as ''Real Wild Child'') was covered by the fictional band Josie and the Pussycats (lead vocals provided by singer Kay Hanley) in the 2001 film of the same name.

Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding recorded a version of the song for the soundtrack to the 2008 film Wild Child.

This song was also sung by Suzi Quatro, but as pointed out by Clinton Walker once again,[5] when her version of it was released, in 1974, as a track on her second album Quatro, the songwriting credit was taken by her Chinnichap production team at RAK Records, whose Mike Chapman, as an Australian, would have been well familiar with it.

The most recent cover of the song, with the title "Real Wild Child," was by Levi Kreis portraying Jerry Lee Lewis on the original Broadway cast recording of the Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet.[12] Kreis won a 2010 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical.[13]

A seasonal version of the song was covered in December 2014 by former UK soap actor John Altman with backing band JoanOvArc.[14]

Further Utilization

The 1986 Iggy Pop version of the song is used as the title music to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's all-night music video programme, rage and is also featured in the game SingStar Amped.[15] This version is also used for the opening credits of the German TV series Der letzte Bulle, first aired in Germany in 2010.

In 1998 Australia Post issued a special edition set of twelve stamps celebrating the early years of Australian rock and roll, featuring Australian hit songs of the late 50s, 60s and early 70s: "Each of them said something about us, and told the rest of the world this is what popular culture sounds like, and it has an Australian accent."[16] One of the stamps featured Johnny O'Keefe and "Wild One".

Everlife's cover was featured in the video game Lego Rock Band.

Wakefield's cover was featured in the video game Tak and the Power of Juju. It also appeared in the beginning and during the closing credits of Open Season 3.

Joan Jett's version appeared in an ad for the sitcom Hot in Cleveland. It also appeared during the closing credits of Bad Teacher.[17] In 2014 it was used in a commercial (titled "Family Racer") for the 2015 Hyundai Sonata.


  1. "45cat - Johnny O'Keefe And The Dee Jays - Shakin' At The Stadium". Retrieved 19 January 2013.
  2. "O'Keefe, John Michael (Johnny)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 28 May 2008.
  3. Luckman, Susan 2001, '"What are they raving on about?": Temporary Autonomous Zones and Reclaiming the Streets', Perfect Beat, Vol. 5, No. 2, p64.
  4. Cox, Peter (1996). "The Ambonese Connection: Lou Casch, Johnny O'Keefe and the Development of Early Australian Rock and Roll". Perfect Beat, vol. 2, no. 4, p. 9.
  5. http://www.clintonwalker.com.au/bodgie-boogie.html
  6. "Where Did They Get That Song?". Pop Archives. Retrieved 28 May 2008.
  7. Kent, David (2005). Australian Chart Book 1940-1970. Turramurra, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book, 2005. ISBN 0-646-44439-5.
  8. "Long Way to the Top". ABC. Retrieved 28 May 2008.
  9. ABC RADIO(japan) program "makoto no psychic seinen-dan" (makoto's psychic youth) OP Theme 1988-2009
  10. "Problem Child 2 (1991) - Soundtrack". IMDb. Retrieved 28 May 2008.
  11. "Pretty Woman (1990) - Soundtrack". IMDb. Retrieved 28 May 2008.
  12. MDQ Merchandising LLC (2010). "Song List" and "Performing Credits". In Million Dollar Quartet (p. 5) [CD booklet]. New York City: Avatar Studios; and Chicago: Chicago Recording Company.
  13. Broadway.com Staff. "Rocker-Turned-Broadway Star Levi Kreis Wins Tony for Million Dollar Quartet". Posted 9:23 PM; 13 June 2010.
  14. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80gE1PhcyHU
  15. Miller, Greg (11 July 2007). "E3 2007: SingStar Amped Hands-on". IGN. Retrieved 18 April 2008.
  16. "Australian Stamps : Rock Australia". Australia Post. 20 March 2001. Archived from the original on 11 September 2007. Retrieved 21 May 2008.
  17. "Soundtracks for Bad Teacher (2011)". IMDb. Retrieved 12 August 2011.
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