"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. 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.
According to O'Keefe's guitarist, Lou Casch, the song was inspired by an incident at a gig in Newtown, Sydney, 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.
The release date of the single, 5 July 1958, is considered the birthday of Australian rock n' roll music. The Jet and Iggy Pop cover was released to mark the 50th anniversary of the original release. The Living End performed the song at the 2008 APRA Awards also to mark the anniversary.
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 theSydney 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 USA (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
In 1958 the song was released as a single by Jerry Ivan Allison, a member of The Crickets, using the name Ivan. Retitled "Real Wild Child," the song became a moderate hit, peaking at #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 and Nowhere Boy.
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.
The song was again covered in 1986 when Iggy Pop included a version on his album Blah Blah Blah. Titled "Real Wild Child (Wild One)," this became a #10 hit on the UK Singles Chart in January 1987. It also charted on Billboard's Album Rock Tracks chart, peaking at #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 song was subsequently covered by Lou Reed in 1993. Other artists to record this song include Status Quo, Everlife, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts,Glamour Camp, Marshall Crenshaw, Brian Setzer, Teenage Head, Albert Lee and Wakefield. A cover by Christopher Otcasek appeared on the soundtrack to the film Pretty Woman. The cover byWakefield appeared in the movie Eurotrip and its soundtrack.
Alvin and the Chipmunks covered the song for "Chip Tracy" (a parody of the 1990 Dick Tracy film), an episode from the final season of Alvin and the Chipmunks. A second rendition was recorded with The Chipettes for the Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked: Music from the Motion Picture album and the Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked film. A few lyrics have changed in this version.
A cover of the song was recorded again by Iggy Pop who teamed up with Aussie rockers Jet which was released as a single in July 2008. Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding also recorded a version of the song for the soundtrack to the 2008 film Wild Child.
This song was also sung by Billy Idol.
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.Kreis won a 2010 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical.
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." One of the stamps featured Johnny O'Keefe and "Wild One".
Everlife's cover was featured in the video game Lego Rock Band.