Tag Archives: Musical Appreciation

The Hit Parade ► A Musical Appreciation

The first issue of The Billboard Advertiser

It was 80 years ago today that Billboard Magazine launched The Hit Parade, a countdown of the most popular recordings in the country based on sales and radio play. While the chart has changed over the years — and has been balkanized into just about every genre of music known — the main list is now known as The Hot 100.

We know Billboard today as a music magazine, but when it was launched in 1894 it was a circus magazine. At the time the circus was the biggest form of entertainment in the country. Atlas Obscura tells all in Number One With A Bullet: The Rise of the Billboard Hot 100:

According to a history written by his grandson, Roger S. Littleford, Jr., the founder of Billboard,
William H. “Bill” Donaldson, built the magazine to serve an entirely
different need. Donaldson worked for the family business, a Newport,
Kentucky-based lithography shop that churned out advertisements and
posters for the circuses, fairs, and other traveling shows that
criss-crossed the country. Donaldson realized that most of his
clients—the managers and owners who ordered the posters, and,
especially, the billstickers tasked with staying one step ahead of the
shows and pasting the posters to every available surface—lacked
permanent addresses, and thus were unable to communicate with each

In 1894, Donaldson started to spend his nights and weekends putting together Billboard Advertising,
a trade publication dedicated to gathering all the news that might be
relevant to his more itinerant peers. The first issue, published that
November, had eight pages of relevant tidbits, laid out in columns like
“Bill Room Gossip” and “The Indefatigable And Tireless Industry of the
Bill Poster.” Now the “advertisers, poster printers, bill posters,
advertising agents, and secretaries of fairs,” as the issue categorized them, could pick up a magazine at a newsstand anywhere in the country and know what to expect on the opposite coast.

This is the first #1 tune on the first Billboard Hit Parade in 1936

Over the years as the entertainment industry expanded, so did Billboard’s coverage of it; from sheet music, to plays, to movies, to musicals, to radio, to recorded music, to downloads. It was all a natural progression to follow what was popular in ‘Merkin entertainment and technology. The WikiWackyWoo picks up the story:

On January 4, 1936, Billboard magazine published its first music hit parade.
The first Music Popularity Chart was calculated in July 1940. A variety
of song charts followed, which were eventually consolidated into the
Hot 100 by mid-1958. The Hot 100 currently combines single sales, radio airplay, digital downloads, and streaming activity (including data from YouTube and other video sites). All of the Billboard
charts use this basic formula. What separates the charts is which
stations and stores are used; each musical genre has a core audience or
retail group. Each genre’s department at Billboard is headed up by a chart manager, who makes these determinations.

For many years, a song had to be commercially available as a single to be considered for any of the Billboard charts. At the time, instead of using Nielsen SoundScan or Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems (BDS), Billboard obtained its data from manual reports filled out by radio stations and stores. According to the 50th Anniversary issue of Billboard,
prior to the official implementation of SoundScan tracking in November
1991, many radio stations and retail stores removed songs from their
manual reports after the associated record labels stopped promoting a
particular single. Thus songs fell quickly after peaking and had shorter
chart lives. In 1990, the country singles chart was the first chart to use SoundScan and BDS. They were followed by the Hot 100 and the R&B chart in 1991. Today, all of the Billboard charts use this technology.

IRONY ALERT: When I worked at Island Records Canada, I promoted this tune

There was a time in my life when I lived — literally — and died — figuratively — by the Billboard charts. When I worked for Island Records Canada as a Promotion Rep, I spent hours with each new issue of Billboard, trying to discern trends the same way astrologists look for signs in their charts.

Trying to get Bob Marley played on FM radio in Canada was a nearly impossible feat at the time. This was when Rastaman Vibration was just released. It was such an uphill struggle because few people even knew who Bob Marley was and Reggae still confused a lot of people. I told people it was just like Rock and Roll, except the beat didn’t go KUH-thunk, KUH-thunk. It went Thunk-kuh, Thunk-kuh.

We badgered one radio station in Canada after another to add Marley to their playlists, with almost no luck whatsoever. Only the odd campus radio station were sold on Marley’s power as an artist.

CHUM-FM was the station we worked on the hardest because it was the biggest station in the country. Consequently it was a leader among Canadian radio stations. CHUM’s music committee consisted of Benji Karsh and Brian Masters. They hated Marley. Week after week, we’d pitch them Bob Marley. Each week we’d send them photostatic copies of charts from around the world, showing which radio stations were smart enough to jump on the Bob Marley bandwagon. Every week they just laughed. Finally one week they said, “We won’t play this until it charts in Billboard.”

Guess what?

A few weeks later Rastaman Vibrations finally appeared on the Billboard chart. We were able to go back to CHUM-FM and make them eat those words. From that day on Bob Marley was heard on CHUM-FM. Later I was amused to hear them pretend to have discovered Bob Marley, even though they had to be dragged kicking and screaming all the way.

A Big Day for Florida & Music ► Monday Musical Appreciation

Two musical events occurred on this day in history — 8 years apart — that changed South Florida and music. 

In 1960 the teen comedy Where the Boys Are was released to theaters around the country. SPOILER ALERT: It’s the madcap story of 4 college girls who take a road trip to Fort Lauderdale on Spring Break for some sand, surf and sex.

Where the Boys Are made Fort Lauderdale an official destination for every footloose college student. Starting with the very next break in 1961, college students poured into Fort Lah De Dah. The media publicized it, creating new converts for the next year.

At first no one minded so much because the kids brought money. However, every year there were more Spring Breakers than the previous until, as TIME magazine told its readers in A Brief History of Spring Break:

By the free-loving ’70s, Fort Lauderdale’s fun and sun had become
decidedly raunchier. With gratuitous PDA and “balcony-diving” —
negotiating one’s way from balcony to balcony to get to other floors or
rooms, a practice typically performed in a drunken stupor and thus madly
dangerous — the norm, many communities began questioning why the heck
they had invited such unruly houseguests in the first place. By 1985,
some 370,000 students were descending on Fort Lauderdale (or fondly,
“Fort Liquordale”) annually — prompting yet another exploitative film, Spring Break
starring Tom Cruise and Shelley Long. But by the end of the ’80s, the
town had enough: stricter laws against public drinking were enacted and
Mayor Robert Dressler went so far as to go on ABC’s Good Morning America to tell students they were no longer welcome. As a result, spring
breakers were pushed even farther south, and to destinations outside the
U.S. where the sun was hotter and drinking ages lower.

By the time I moved to the Fort Lauderdale area in 2015, Spring Break was just a shadow of its former Bacchanalian self.

Where the Boys Are is a pretty good movie and has held up over the years. It’s a wonderfully kitchy throwback to a simpler time, but still explores some serious social issues about teens and their sexuality. It also hosts a wealth of good acting, including Paula Prentiss in her first movie; Yvette Mimieux, playing an innocent who has a downfall; and George Hamilton, playing George Hamilton, the role he was made for.

However, avoid 1984’s Where the Boys Are. It’s so bad it’s not even good.

Eight years after Where the Boys Are came the Miami Pop Festival, a 3-day extravaganza featuring a who’s who of the music scene, including (alphabetical list stolen from the WikiWackyWoo): The Amboy Dukes, Chuck Berry, Blues Image, The Box Tops, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Canned Heat, Wayne Cochran, Cosmic Drum, James Cotton Blues Band, Country Joe and the Fish, José Feliciano, Fish Ray, Flatt and Scruggs, Fleetwood Mac, Marvin Gaye, The Grass Roots, Grateful Dead, Richie Havens, Ian & Sylvia, Iron Butterfly, Junior Junkanoos, Jr. Walker & The Allstars, The Charles Lloyd Quartet, Hugh Masekela, Joni Mitchell, Pacific Gas & Electric, Procol Harum, Terry Reid, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Steppenwolf, The Sweet Inspirations, Sweetwater, Joe Tex, Three Dog Night, and The Turtles. All for $7.00 per day!!!

The Miami Pop Festival was the first big festival on the east coast and was the precursor to Woodstock.

And, nothing was ever the same again.

Zappa, Elvis & Nixon ► Monday Musical Appreciation(s)

Frank Zappa before the mustache

There are two big events in today’s music history and I couldn’t decide between them. On this day in 1940 Frank Zappa was born. In unrelated news, 30 years later Elvis Presley bluffs his way into Nixon’s White House and is presented with a law enforcement badge so the drug-addled King of Rock and Roll can help fight the War on Drugs. No, really!

I can still remember the day I bought Zappa’s first LP, Freak Out. It was in the Kresge’s record department and the band was one of the ugliest I had ever seen. I was 14 years old and had never heard of The Mothers of Invention before, but there was something about the cover that made me buy it. The back cover has what purported to be a letter from what purported to be a Suzy Creamcheese:

These Mothers is crazy. You can tell by their clothes. One guy wears beads and they all smell bad. We were gonna get them for a dance after the basketball game but my best pal warned me you can never tell how many will show up…sometimes the guy in the fur coat doesn’t show up and sometimes he does show up only he brings a big bunch of crazy people with him and they dance all over the place. None of the kids at my school like these Mothers… specially since my teacher told us what the words to their songs meant. Sincerely forever, Suzy Creamcheese, Salt Lake City, Utah.

All of that added up to GOTTA HAVE IT!

I distinctly remember taking it home and being surprised by that it was a 2 LP set (apparently only the 2nd double album of the Rock era, following Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde by mere weeks). I also remember how utterly confused I was after I listened to the entire 4 sides. The first 2 sides consisted of what could only be described as Demented Doo Wop. It was hard to tell if Zappa was satirizing the genre or lovingly recreating it, especially after listening to the final 2 sides. I didn’t have the language then for what it was, but I was immediately hooked. I have been a life-long Frank Zappa fan ever since.

However, as I keep saying, it’s all about the music. Here’s Frank Zappa’s first official LP of a career that produced more records than anybody else in the Rock era:

The unanswered question is why my unformed, teenager mind so readily glommed onto Zappa, way ahead of the curve.

Animation created by author from public domain White House photos

The Elvis Presley incident is a bizarre footnote to the entire Watergate presidency of Richard Nixon and provided a strange capper to the long career of Elvis Presley.

To make a long story short: Nixon went on the lam from Graceland and the Memphis Mafia after an argument with his wife Priscilla and his father Vernon over the cost of Christmas gifts.

First he flew to Washington, but then took off to Los Angeles. There he concocted an incredible plan to meet President Nixon. According to the Smithsonian Institute, of all places:

Elvis was traveling with some guns and his collection of police badges, and he decided that what he really wanted was a badge from the federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs back in Washington. “The narc badge represented some kind of ultimate power to him,” Priscilla Presley would write in her memoir, Elvis and Me. “With the federal narcotics badge, he [believed he] could legally enter any country both wearing guns and carrying any drugs he wished.”

After just one day in Los Angeles, Elvis asked [Jerry] Schilling to fly with him back to the capital. “He didn’t say why,” Schilling recalls, “but I thought the badge might be part of the reason.”

On the red-eye to Washington, Elvis scribbled a letter to President Nixon. “Sir, I can and will be of any service that I can to help the country out,” he wrote. All he wanted in return was a federal agent’s badge. “I would love to meet you,” he added, informing Nixon that he’d be staying at the Washington Hotel under the alias Jon Burrows. “I will be here for as long as it takes to get the credentials of a federal agent.”

That’s all it took to get an Oval Office meeting with Nixon, who happily posed for pictures with the King of Rock and Roll. The National Archives has an entire online exhibit called When Nixon Met Elvis and there’s a hilarious movie, Elvis Meets Nixon, which takes some liberties with the truth and features my cyber-friend Curtis Armstrong as Farley Hall. Both are highly recommended by me.

Nixon went on to quit the presidency over Watergate, while Elvis died on the crapper.

Spike Jones on the Box ► Monday Musical Appreciation

On this day in 1911 Lindley Armstrong Jones was born. He later got the nickname Spike because he was as thin as a railroad spike.

Spike Jones was, essentially, a drummer. He got his first drum kit at the age of 11 and never looked back. As a young man he played in various bands, orchestra pits and radio shows as he was coming up. As a drummer in the John Scott Trotter Orchestra, Jones can be heard playing on Bing Crosby‘s biggest hit “White Christmas.”

Bored with playing the same music night after night, Spike found some musicians who were as warped as he was and they started playing parodies of the songs of the day for their own enjoyment. Then they started recording the songs to play for their wives.

One of those recordings found its way to RCA Records, where Spike Jones and His City Slickers recorded their first single, “Der Fuhrer’s Face.” The song, written by Oliver Wallace, was skedded for a 1943 Donald Duck cartoon called, originally, “Donald Duck in Nutzi Land,” and later “Der Fuhrer’s Face. It later won an Academy Award.

However, Spike Jones’ version was released first and became a huge hit.
Jones thought this would be a flash in the pan, but the ‘Merkin public surprised him. They demanded more from Spike Jones and His City Slickers and Jones was happy to accommodate them.

As the shows became more elaborate, Jones’ impeccable timing came to the fore, with guns, whistles, and pots and pans all taking the place of percussion in some songs. He called his concerts Musical Depreciation.

It wasn’t just the hit parade that Spike Jones and His City Slickers parodied. According to the WikiWackyWoo:

Among the series of recordings in the 1940s were humorous takes on the classics such as the adaptation of Liszt‘s Liebesträume, played at a breakneck pace on unusual instruments. Others followed: Rossini‘s William Tell Overture was rendered on kitchen implements using a horse race as a backdrop, with one of the “horses” in the “race” likely to have inspired the nickname of the lone chrome yellow-painted SNJ aircraft flown by the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels
aerobatic team’s shows in the late 1940s, “Beetle Bomb”. In live shows
Spike would acknowledge the applause with complete solemnity, saying
“Thank you, music lovers.” An LP collection of twelve of these “homicides” was released by RCA (on its prestigious Red Seal label) in 1971 as Spike Jones Is Murdering the Classics. They include such tours de force as Pal-Yat-Chee (Pagliacci), sung by the Hillbilly humorists Homer and Jethro, Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours, Tchaikovsky’s None but the Lonely Heart, and Bizet’s Carmen.

The first time I ever heard a Spike Jones tune, it was on an 78 RPM platter of “My Old Flame”at Craig Portman’s house. It was one of his parents’ records. We played it dozens of times and laughred because we were just old enough to recognize the impersonation of Peter Lorre talk/singing the lyrics as the scenario became more and more macabre. [Later we used the stack of wax as Frisbees, long before the Frisbee was invented. While I’m not proud of that fact today, I’d still like to find Craig Portman, who moved to California when we were still teenagers. Google has been no help.]

Comedy music has a long and honourable history, as the Wiki also tells us:

There is a clear line of influence from the Hoosier Hot Shots, Freddie Fisher and his Schnickelfritzers and the Marx Brothers to Spike Jones — and to Stan Freberg, Gerard Hoffnung, Peter Schickele‘s P.D.Q. Bach, The Goons, Mr. Bungle, Frank Zappa, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, and “Weird Al” Yankovic. Billy Barty [who appeared with Spike Jones] appeared in Yankovic’s film UHF
and a video based on the movie. According to David Wild’s review in
Rolling Stone Magazine, Elvis Costello’s 1989 Album “Spike” was named
partly in tribute to Jones.

Syndicated radio personality Dr. Demento regularly features Jones’ music on his program of comedy and novelty tracks. Jones is mentioned in The Band‘s song, “Up on Cripple Creek“. (The song’s protagonist’s paramour states of Jones: “I can’t take the way he sings, but I love to hear him talk.”) Novelist Thomas Pynchon is an admirer and wrote the liner notes for a 1994 reissue, Spiked! (BMG Catalyst). A scene in the romantic comedy I.Q. shows a man demonstrating the sound of his new stereo to Meg Ryan‘s character by playing a record of Jones’ music.

As always, it’s about the music. Here’s a selection:

Rock, Rock, Rock! ► Monday Musical Appreciation

A precurser to the Baby Boomer Youth Culture to come, Rock, Rock, Rock! is one of the earliest Rock and Roll movies, released all the way back in 1956.

Youth culture was a phrase barely known when this movie was released and I was a mere 4 years old.

Top billed is Disk Jockey Alan Freed, who coined the term Rock and Roll and was an important link for teenagers until the Payola scandal brought him down in the early ’60s. Despite this disgrace, Freed was among the first class inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The RnRHoF was placed in Cleveland to pay tribute to Freed and his Moondog Coronation Ball, considered the first major Rock and Roll concert.

Rock, Rock, Rock! was the first movie for Tuesday Weld, years before she appeared as Thalia Menninger in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Her singing was dubbed by Connie Francis. This is also the film debut of Valerie Harper — seen at the middle table during the performance of Cirino and the Bowties‘s tune “Ever Since I Can Remember” — and actor Jack Collins, who played dozens of roles on tee vee.

Not only was the movie in Black and White, so were the performers. According to jgp3553@excite.com on the Internet Movie Data Base:

A young teenage girl desperately tries to earn enough money to buy a dress for a school rock and roll dance. This early rock and roll feature, the 3rd in a series of 5 staring Disc Jockey and Rock N Roll impresario Alan Freed, includes performances by artist Chuck Berry, LaVern Baker, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, The Flamingos, The Moonglows and The Johnny Burnette Trio.

Because the movie entered the Public Domain, as the result of not getting the copyright renewed, it can be posted here without fear of a lawsuit. Enjoy:

The Beatles Meet Brian Epstein ► Throwback Thursday

On this day in 1961 The Beatles meet with Brian Epstein to discuss whether he would manage them. And, nothing was ever the same again.

According to This Day In Music:

Brian Epstein invited The Beatles into his office to discuss the possibility of becoming their manager. John Lennon, George Harrison and Pete Best arrived late for the 4pm meeting, (they had been drinking at the Grapes pub in Matthew Street), but Paul McCartney was not with them, because, as Harrison explained, he had just got up and was “taking a bath”.

McCartney, bathed and dressed, eventually showed up and The Beatles decided to let Epstein become their manager. Over the next few years he helped take them to the “toppermost of the poppermost” as the most successful boy band of all time.

As the WikiWackyWoo tells us:

Epstein first discovered the Beatles in November 1961 during a lunchtime Cavern Club performance. He was instantly impressed and saw great potential in the group.[1] Epstein was rejected by nearly all major recording companies in London, then he secured a meeting with George Martin, head of EMI‘s Parlophone
label. In May 1962, Martin agreed to sign the Beatles, partly because
of Epstein’s conviction that the group would become internationally

The Beatles’ early success has been attributed to Epstein’s
management style, and the band trusted him without hesitation. In
addition to handling the Beatles’ business affairs, Epstein often
stepped in to mediate personal disputes within the group. The Beatles’
unquestioning loyalty to Epstein later proved detrimental, as the band
rarely read contracts before signing them.[3] Shortly after the song “Please Please Me” rose to the top of the charts in 1963, Epstein advised the creation of Northern Songs, a publishing company that would control the copyrights of all Lennon–McCartney compositions recorded between 1963 and 1973. Music publisher Dick James and his partner Charles Silver owned 51-percent of the company, Lennon and McCartney each owned 20%, and Epstein owned 9%.[4] By 1969, Lennon and McCartney had lost control of all publishing rights to ATV Music Publishing.
Still, Epstein’s death in 1967 marked the beginning of the group’s
dissolution and had a profound effect on each individual Beatle. In
1997, Paul McCartney said, “If anyone was the Fifth Beatle, it was Brian.”[5]

That’s not all that happened to The Beatles on this day. Today in Beatles History gives us the full lowdown:

1938: Marriage of Alfred Lennon and Julia Stanley. After the ceremony, they go to the movies and then to their respective houses.

1963: Concert at the Guild Hall, Portsmouth (‘The Beatles Autumn Tour’) (postponed 12 November).

1964: Brian flies from Los Angeles to London.
1964: Appearance on BBC-TV’s ‘Top Of the Pops’.

1965: Start of UK tour, with the Moody Blues and The Kobbas & Beryl Mardsen. Concert at the Odeon Cinema, Glasgow.
1965: UK single release: ‘We Can Work It Out’/’Day Tripper’. First single officially released as double A side.
1965: UK LP release: ‘Rubber Soul’.

1966: ‘Yesterday’… And Today’, 24th week in the Top 200 (Billboard).

1971: UK LP release: ‘Fly’.

1977: Start of ‘London Town’ LP sessions at AIR London Studios.

1980: John and Yoko’s apartment, Dakota Building. Photographic session of John and Yoko, with Annie Leibovitz.

1988: 10th episode of a BBC series, essentially based on ‘The Beatles At The Beeb’ collection.

1993: Paul’s concert at the Pacaembu Stadium, Sao Paulo, Brazil (‘The New World Tour’).

Bing Crosby’s Last Christmas Special ► Monday Musical Appreciation

On this day in 1977 (as The Music History Calendar tells us): Bing Crosby’s last Christmas special airs. The show was recorded in September, and Crosby died that October. The show is remembered for Crosby’s unusual duet with David Bowie, where they sang a modified version of “Little Drummer Boy,” with Bowie singing the new “Peace On Earth” lyrics composed by the show’s writers.

For many decades — and for millions of people around the world — Bing Crosby meant Christmas. His rendition of Irving Berlin‘s White Christmas has been certified by Guinness World Records as the best selling single in history, with well over 150 million copies. According to the WikiWackyWoo:

The first public performance of the song was by Bing Crosby, on his NBC radio show The Kraft Music Hall on Christmas Day, 1941; a copy of the recording from the radio program is owned by the estate of Bing Crosby and was loaned to CBS News Sunday Morning for their December 25, 2011, program.[5] He subsequently recorded the song with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and the Ken Darby Singers for Decca Records in just 18 minutes on May 29, 1942, and it was released on July 30 as part of an album of six 78-rpm discs from the film Holiday Inn.[5][8]
At first, Crosby did not see anything special about the song. He just
said “I don’t think we have any problems with that one, Irving.”[9]

Crosby reprised the tune in the 1954 movie White Christmas, which was virtually a remake of Holiday Inn.

One of my earliest posts here was called “Okay, I’ll Confess. I Love Bing Crosby!” It is a paean to one of my favourite vocalists, and one I used to make jokes about. However, as I explained, it took Louis Armstrong to make me appreciate Bing Crosby, who rocketed up to the top of my personal hit parade.

Here is the last time the country was able to celebrate Christmas with Bing Crosby.

Long may he sing.

Dan Penn ► Monday Musical Appreciation

Celebrating a birthday today is Dan Penn, a name almost unknown, but the writer of some of the greatest Soul tunes ever recorded.

Born Wallace Daniel Pennington according to his official biography he was:

 A native of Vernon, Alabama, Penn moved to the Florence/Muscle Shoals area while still a teenager and assumed the role of lead vocalist in a local group calling itself the Mark V Combo. When asked what kind of music they played, Penn replies, “R&B, man. There was no such thing as rock. That was somethin’ you picked up and throwed.” He laughs. “Or threw.” It was around this time that he penned his first chart record, Conway Twitty’s “Is a Bluebird Blue”. During the early ’60s, Penn began working with Rick Hall at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, first as a songwriter, and then as an artist under the names Lonnie Ray, Danny Lee, and finally Dan Penn. 

The WikiWackyWoo picks up the story:

In early 1966, Penn moved to Memphis, began writing for Press Publishing Company, and worked with Chips Moman at his American Studios.[5]
Their intense and short-lived partnership produced some of the best
known and most enduring songs of the genre. Their first collaboration,
the enduring classic “The Dark End of the Street”, was first a hit for James Carr and has since been recorded by many others. A few months later, during the legendary recording sessions that saw Jerry Wexler introduce Aretha Franklin
to FAME Studios and her first major success, the pair wrote “Do Right
Woman, Do Right Man” in the studio for her, which went to #37 in
Billboard in 1967. In early 1967 Penn produced “The Letter” for The Box
Tops. He and long-time friend and collaborator Spooner Oldham also wrote
a number of hits for the band, including “Cry Like a Baby”, another
song which has been covered many times.[6]

As always, it’s all about then music. Here are just some of the many hit tunes penned by Penn:

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.

Paul Is Dead ► Monday Musical Appreciation

Forty-six years ago today occurred one of the craziest events in the annals of Rock and Roll Music History, in which I played a minor role. Here’s how it all came about

According to The Music History Calendar:

1969 : Russ Gibb, a DJ at WKNR in Detroit, takes a call from a listener who tells him that if you play The Beatles song “Revolution 9” backwards, a voice says, “Turn me on, dead man.” Gibb plays the record in reverse on the air, and the phone lines light up with astonished listeners offering more clues as to why Paul McCartney might be dead. For about a week, Gibb entertains a stream of rumors on the show, as ratings explode and the story goes national. Other clues include a voice at the end of “Strawberry Fields Forever” that says “I Buried Paul” (actually John Lennon saying “Cranberry Sauce”) and the cover of the Sgt. Pepper album, where Paul is wearing an armband that says “OPD” – “Officially Pronounced Dead.”

This Day In Music erroneously writes about this event:

1969, A DJ on Detroit’s WKNR radio station received a phone call telling him that if you play The Beatles ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ backwards, you hear John Lennon say the words “I buried Paul.” This started a worldwide rumour that Paul McCartney was dead.

What does this have to do with your humble correspondent? According to Paul is dead?!?, “introduced and explicated by saki” on the old USENET group rec.music.beatles:

source for clues invention was a popular radio show hosted by
disc-jockey Russell Gibb of WKNR-FM in Detroit was a vital element in
the spread of the hoax. A regular r.m.b. reader, Headly Westerfield, who
was not only a friend of Gibb but was present in-studio that afternoon
(12 October 1969), recalls reading an “underground newspaper” (it may
have been one of the the college papers then carrying the “clues”,
similar to the ones Dartanyan Brown remembers seeing) with a list of
“Paul Is Dead” clues.

Gibb and cohorts were sufficiently inspired
to read them on the air and to improvise new ones on the spot.
Listeners to the show even recall someone calling up Gibb to report that
if you played “Revolution No. 9” backward, you’d hear a secret message.
(Note: radio-show collectors used to offer an aircheck of this show or a
followup show for trade! Anyone have a copy?)

Within days, Gibb
& Co. were astonished when newspapers and reporters took their
on-air joke seriously and spread the tale more widely. Some clues which
have become part of established folklore, Westerfield reports, were
invented that obscure day at WKNR-FM, but have since been accepted as
part of the original hoax. Gibb and friends were not the source of the
hoax, he emphasizes, but played a part in its initial wider

TommyGarcia2’s YouTubery has a 2 part exposé on the Paul Is Dead rumour:

When this rumour broke wide I was shocked and ashamed. From just goofing around in a radio studio, to it becoming a worldwide sensation, freaked me out. I was just 17 years old and unsophisticated in the ways of the world. I was worried that somehow this would all blow back on me in a horrible way. Therefore, I didn’t mention my involvement to anyone for about 20 years. Then I allowed myself to be interview by saki, who got word of my involvement from a mutual friend.

When I saw what was finally printed, I went underground for another 20 years. Recently I told the whole, deeper story to my nephew Adam, one of the subjects of my blog post My Days With John Sinclair. He suggested I just live with it, in essence echoing the advice at the end of the wonderful 1962 John Wayne/James Stewart/Lee Marvin Western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance:

Ransom Stoddard: You’re not going to use the story, Mr. Scott?
Maxwell Scott: No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

I’ll let Sir Paul, with a little help from his friends, have the last word: