Kingsmen – Louie Louie

This song has been played in thousands of bars, clubs,  and garages. It’s an important milestone in Rock and Roll’s history.  Louie Louie caused a scandal when it was released. Many people thought the mumbled words were obscene. John Ely was the lead singer for the Kingsmen at the time. He had to sing from a distance or rather shout at a distant microphone.

The FBI got involved and started an investigation…even Robert Kennedy and J. Edgar Hoover received letters about it. The governor of Indiana, Matthew Welsh wanted it banned. Some technicians play it backward and forwards, they played it at different speeds, they spent a lot of time on it but it was indecipherable at any speed. The one person they didn’t ask about it was John Ely.

You have to wonder if the band or most likely the record company started the rumor about the lyrics. It was said some college student caused it but my money would be on the record company. The song peaked at #2 in the Billboard 100 and #27 in the UK in 1963.

The song was written by Richard Berry in 1955.

Here is the official FBI file on the Kingsmen’s Louie Louie.

Also, Eric Predoehl is supposedly making a documentary on the song.

The drummer did shout out something at 0.57 below that could have been the f-bomb after dropping a stick.

From Songfacts.

This was written by an R&B singer named Richard Berry in 1955. With his group The Pharaohs, he was also the first to record it, and it got some airplay in some cities in the Western US when it was released in 1957. Various garage bands heard it and started covering the song, until it became a phenomena with the Kingsmen’s 1964 version. While much of the song’s notoriety comes from the indecipherable lyrics, in Berry’s original version words are quite clear: the song is about a sailor who spends three days traveling to Jamaica to see his girl.

Dwight Rounds, author of The Year The Music Died, 1964-1972, writes: “The words to ‘Louie Louie’ are almost impossible to understand, and are rumored to be obscene. No question that this added significantly to the sales of the single. There was probably a leak somewhere that the lyrics were obscene; otherwise no one would have realized it. This was the most ingenious marketing scheme ever. The FBI tried to track down Richard Berry, The Kingsmen, and various record company executives. They were never able to determine the actual lyrics used. The Kingsmen insisted they said nothing lewd, despite the obvious mistake at the end of the instrumental, where Jack Ely started to sing the last verse one bar too soon, and can be heard yelling something in the background. Ely also said that he sung far away from the microphone, which caused the fuzzy sound, and that the notoriety was initiated by the record company. The words sound much more like the official version seen below, especially the word “rose” instead of “bone.” The lyrics rumor was a sham. The official lyrics are listed below in plain print, with one of the many alternative versions in italics.

Chorus: “Louie, Louie, oh no. Me gotta go. Aye-yi-yi, I said. Louie Louie, oh baby. Me gotta go.”

“Fine little girl waits for me. Catch a ship across the sea. Sail that ship about, all alone. Never know if I make it home.”

“Three nights and days, I sail the sea.” Every night and day, I play with my thing.
“Think of girl, constantly.” I f–k you girl, oh, all the way.
“Oh that ship, I dream she’s there. On my bed, I’ll lay her there. 
“I smell the rose in her hair.” I feel my bone, ah, in her hair.

“See Jamaica, the moon above.” Hey lovemaker, now hold my thing.
“It won’t be long, me see my love.” It won’t take long, so leave it alone.
“Take her in my arms again.” Hey, senorita, I’m hot as hell.
“Tell her I’ll never leave again.” I told her I’d never lay her again.

The FBI launched an extensive investigation into this song after Indiana governor Matthew Welsh declared it “Pornographic” in early 1964 and asked the Indiana Broadcasters Association to ban it. The investigation spanned offices in several states, with technicians listening to the song at different speeds trying to discern any obscene lyrics. None were found; the FBI eventually figured out what happened when they contacted the FCC. The report details this correspondence:

“She explained that for approximately two years her company has been receiving unfounded complaints concerning the recording of ‘Louie Louie.’ She advised that to the best of her knowledge, the trouble was started by an unidentified college student, who made up a series of obscene verses for ‘Louie Louie’ and then sold them to fellow students. It is her opinion that a person can take any 45 r.p.m recording and reduce its speed to 33 r.p.m. and imagine obscene words, depending upon the imagination of the listener.”

This song was prominently featured in the film Animal House, starring John Belushi, despite the fact that it wasn’t actually recorded until almost two years after the period of time in which the movie is set (1962). 

Louie Louie

Louie Louie, oh no
Me gotta go
Aye-yi-yi-yi, I said
Louie Louie, oh baby
Me gotta go

Fine little girl 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 oh no
Me gotta go, oh no
Louie Louie, oh baby
I said we gotta go

Three nights and days I sail the sea
Think of girl, constantly
On that ship, I dream she’s there
I smell the rose in her hair.

Louie Louie, oh no
Me gotta go
Aye-yi-yi-yi, I said
Louie Louie, oh baby
Me gotta go
Okay, let’s give it to ’em, right now!

See Jamaica, the moon above
It won’t be long, me see me love
Take her in my arms again
I tell her I’ll never leave again

Louie Louie, oh no
Me gotta go
Aye-yi-yi-yi, I said
Louie Louie, oh baby
Me gotta go

I said we gotta go now
Let’s take it on outta here now
Let’s go!!

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

23 thoughts on “Kingsmen – Louie Louie”

    1. Animal House does come to mind. One thing I didn’t know what was it was actually a FBI file.
      I’ll look for that one. I like Marsh…I’ve read a couple of his books on Springsteen.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love Marsh’s book on 1001 Greatest Rock and Soul Singles… I don’t know if he has written much of late though.. That is funny how a silly song gets the government all weirded out.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. That sounds like an interesting book…right up my alley. I always liked Marsh… The book I’m looking for from him is Before I Get Old. I haven’t read it since the 80s I believe.
        I’ll keep an eye out for the Soul book though…sounds great.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I think it is currently out of print…but don’t quote me… I read it in 83 or so… from there I purchased Full Moon by Dougal Butler…

        Liked by 1 person

  1. The book by Dave Marsh that you’re looking for is: “Louie Louie: The History & Mythology of the World’s Most Famous Rock ‘n’ Roll Song; Including the Full Details of Its Torture & Persecution at the Hands of the Kingsmen, J.Edgar Hoover’s F.B.I., & a Cast of Millions; & Introducing for the First Time Anywhere, the Actual Dirty Lyrics.” (Now that’s a title!) It was first published in 1993 and re-issued in 2004. Highly recommended.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. LOL…
      Compared to today even what people thought he sang would be nothing now. I think the record company started the rumor…it sold over a million then.


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