A Song So Great They Named It Twice ► Monday Musical Appreciation

When I was going to Coffey Junior High School, in Detroit, a prized piece of ephemera was a mimeographed sheet of paper with what was purported to be the real, DIRTY, lyrics to Louie, Louie, released on this day in 1963.

I had one passed to me by a classmate. Where he got it from, I don’t know. Of course, it had to be hidden from teachers and parents, so it was folded in eighths and kept tucked away until it was needed.

That’s why it was so dog-eared by the time I finally lost it, after loaning the sheet to someone who never returned it. It didn’t matter. By then I had memorized the dirty lyrics and can recite them to this very day.

Who knows how many of those mimeographed sheets were in circulation? By the time I lost mine, it had been read by dozens of young boys who guffawed over the juvenile humour. We were astounded by what The Kingsmen had gotten away with, right under the nose of the record industry, and everybody!

When I read the great book by Dave Marsh, Louie Louie; The History and
Mythology of the World’s Most Famous Rock ‘n Roll Song; Including the
Full Details of Its Torture and Persecution at the Hands of the
Kingsmen, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, and a Cast of Millions; and Introducing
for the First Time Anywhere, the Actual Dirty Lyrics
, I was gratified
to see that the dirty lyrics he reproduced were the exact same dirty lyrics I had in my possession for a while.

Of course, the joke was on us. The lyrics weren’t really dirty, just totally undecipherable. However, now Louie, Louise is one of the most recognizable and covered songs in all of Rock and Roll. As the WikiWackyWoo tells us:

“Louie Louie” has been recognized by organizations and publications
worldwide for its influence on the history of rock and roll. A partial
list (see “Recognition and rankings” table below) includes the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Grammy Hall of Fame, National Public Radio, VH1, Rolling Stone, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Recording Industry Association of America. In addition to new versions appearing regularly on YouTube and elsewhere, other major examples of the song’s legacy include the unsuccessful attempt in 1985 to make it the state song of Washington, the celebration of International Louie Louie Day every year on April 11, the annual Louie Louie Parade in Philadelphia from 1985 to 1989, the LouieFest in Tacoma from 2003 to 2012, and the ongoing annual Louie Louie Parade and Festival in Peoria.

The most amazing thing about Louie, Looue is that the FBI spent untold dollars, and wasted much time, researching the lyrics to decide whether the song was a Communist plot to destroy the minds of youth, or sumptin’. The FBI web site says:

In 1963, a rock group named the Kingsmen
recorded the song “Louie, Louie.” The popularity of the song and
difficulty in discerning the lyrics led some people to suspect the song
was obscene. The FBI was asked to investigate whether or not those
involved with the song violated laws against the interstate
transportation of obscene material. The limited investigation lasted
from February to May 1964 and discovered no evidence of obscenity.

CLICK HERE to read the actual FBI file in PDF form.

The Kingsmen’s tune was actually a cover of a Richard Berry song, written as a Jamaican ballad in 1955, which he released as a B side to a single in 1957. It became popular on the west coast, especially the Pacific Northwest, where The Kingsmen hailed from. They heard it, recorded it, and the rest is history. Nothing was ever the same again.

IRONY ALERT: When Dave March published his book, copyright infringement prevented him from passing along the real, actual lyrics to Louie, Louie, something easily found on the innertubes today.

I queried Der Google and here are the actual lyrics of Louie, Louie.

The Kingsmen

Louie Louie, oh no

Sayin’ we gotta go,

yeah yeah, yeah yeah yeah

Said Louie Louie, oh baby

Said we gotta go

A fine little girl, she waits for me

Catch a ship across the sea

Sail that ship about, all alone

Never know if I make it home

Louie Louie, oh no no no

Sayin’ we gotta go, oh no

Said Louie Louie, oh baby

Said we gotta go

Three nights and days I sail the sea

Think of girl, all constantly

On that ship I dream she’s there

I smell the rose in her hair

Louie Louie, oh no

Sayin’ we gotta go,
yeah yeah, yeah yeah yeah

Said Louie Louie, oh baby

Said we gotta go

Okay, let’s give it to ’em, right now!

See, see Jamaica, the moon above

It won’t be long, me see me love

Take her in my arms again

I’ll tell her I’ll never leave again

Louie Louie, oh no

Sayin’ we gotta go,
yeah yeah, yeah yeah yeah

Said Louie Louie, oh baby

Said we gotta go

I said we gotta go now

Let’s take this on outta here

Let’s go!

Proving the song is as mild as milk, even Paul Revere and the Raiders covered it.

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.