Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Louie times twoie

"If I told you the words, you wouldn't believe them anyway" - Richard Berry

You might not know it, but everybody's favorite drunken karaoke choice, "Louie Louie" by The Kingsmen, was investigated by the FBI in the early 60s. Seems there were some concern that the lyrics may have violated federal obscenity laws. Problem was, no one really could make out what the lyrics even were, let alone whether they were obscene. Recorded for fifty dollars in a primitive studio, lead singer Jack Ely yelled the lyrics into a boom mike suspended ten feet above his head. If the title wasn't on the 45, we probably wouldn't even know what to sing in the chorus, fer cryin' out loud.

The Smoking Gun got their mitts on some of the paper trail, including complaint letters from hysterical parents, responses from The Kingsmen and the FBI lab's analysis of the lyrics, who basically concluded that the song was sung so unintelligibly that they couldn't conclude with any certainty that there was anything there to prosecute.

The Louie Louie Pages track the complicated history of the song, originally written in 1956 on the back of a napkin by Richard Berry. In fact, this site is kind of a one-stop shopping source for all things LL, including (but not limited to) LL trivia, uses of LL in various movies and LL translations into French, Spanish, Serbo-Croatian and Zulu among others.

But of course it all comes back to breaching the impenetrable fortress that is lead singer Jack Ely's elocution. Does he really say "At night at ten I lay her again" there? Did I just hear " F%!$ you girl, oh all the way"?! Enunciate, Ely! Enunciate!

So then, what are the words to one of rock's most-covered tunes? The boring truth is that the lyrics are about as racy as one of Ricky Ricardo's numbers he used to perform at The Tropicana. Here's a sample:
A fine little girl, she waits for me.
Me catch the ship across the sea.
I sailed the ship all alone.
I never think I'll make it home.
Louie Louie, me gotta go.
Three nights and days we sailed the sea.
Me think of girl constantly.
On the ship, I dream she there.
I smell the rose in her hair.

And if those "real lyrics" aren't real enough, The LL Pages claim the only way to really sing the song correctly is to forget about the words, forget about dirty innuendoes, hell, forget you even speak a language. Instead, break down what was sung fo-net-ick-ly and sing it for all you're worth! What you get then is something that starts out with:
Looweeloowhy ono sadday we gowgow
yeh yeh yeh yeh yeh sadday looweeloowhy oh bebay sadday we gowgow

and ends with

Lastly but not leastly (hey, my blog, my words) the industrious folks at have compiled a (PDF) list of close to 1600 different bands covering you-know-what.

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