The history of the song Louie Louie by Richard Berry is full of bright events and incredible achievements. It is considered the most recorded rock song in the world. More than 1,500 cover versions were performed on it. The FBI considered it dangerous enough to investigate, and the people of Washington seriously wanted to make Louie Louie the state anthem.
And this is not all the interesting facts related to the song, but let’s consider them in order.
Louie Louie Song History
In the fifties, Richard Berry played in many musical groups. The next group he was accepted into was Rick Rillera & the Rhythm Rockers. Her repertoire included the composition El Loco Cha Cha, Rene Touzet’s cover of the famous Cuban song Amarren Al Loco by Rosendo Ruiz.
It was then that Berry heard it for the first time and immediately went to the music store for Tuzet’s single, and a little later he decided to write a song himself based on the rhythm of El Loco Cha Cha. Another source of inspiration for him was Chuck Berry’s Havana Moon.
Richard composed the lyrics of the song during the performance, when he was sitting behind the stage during a break. They say he sketched it either on a napkin or on a piece of toilet paper. Berry made it in the form of a first-person story of a sailor who looks forward to being able to return to his beloved. Richard later said that the lyrics of Louie Louie were influenced by Frank Sinatra’s One For My Baby.
Louie Louie was introduced to the public on the back of the Rock Rock Rock single Berry recorded with The Pharaohs in the spring of 1957. The song was popular only on the west coast, and did not hit the major charts at all, although it was re-released several times. Two years later, Richard sold the rights to Louie Louie to Flip Records for $750.
Louie Louie song history after Richard Berry
Robin Roberts performed the composition Louie Louie with The Fabulous Wailers in 1960. Their version was very popular in Seattle, but again it did not reach real success.
And the song Louie Louie was made a hit by The Kingsmen, who recorded it with lead singer Jack Ely in 1963. A few months later, the track entered the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 and spent sixteen weeks on the charts.
But before that, Eli left the team. When Louie Louie sounded from all the radios, he asked to be returned, which his former colleagues refused him. After that, the uniform disgrace began. Jack toured as Jack Ely and the Kingsmen, and The Kingsmen themselves performed on television shows to the soundtrack with Eli’s voice. Of course, litigation began, to which another problem was added.
Someone saw obscenity in the illegibly performed text of Louie Louie. There was even a rumor that The Kingsmen deliberately sang it indistinctly to hide vulgar phrases, and you can hear them by scrolling the recording in slow motion. Moreover, teenagers began to share with each other the supposedly real words of the song.
Gradually, many radio stations refused to put Louie Louie on the air. It was even banned in some states, and the FBI launched a special investigation to find out if the song promotes pornography. The trial lasted a long time and ended, one might say, with nothing, since the accusations were really ridiculous.
However, some researchers believe that this whole story with the FBI arose not by chance and was designed to draw attention to the song. In The Year The Music Died, 1964-1972, Dwight Rounds was very skeptical about it:
Louie Louie’s words are almost unintelligible and are rumored to be obscene. Undoubtedly, this greatly increased the sales of the single. Perhaps somewhere there was information that the text was indecent. Otherwise, no one would have realized it. It was the most ingenious marketing ploy of all time.
Further history of Louie Louie
After The Kingsmen, the composition was sung by all and sundry: Black Flag, Motorhead, Iggy Pop and hundreds of other bands and singers. Many of them supplemented or completely rewrote the text.
Several collections of cover versions have been released:
- Louie Louie: The Best of Louie, Louie (1983)
- The Best of Louie Louie, Volume 2”(1992),
- The Louie Louie Collection (1994)
- Love that Louie: The Louie Louie Files (2002).
I won’t even begin to list the ratings that Louie Louie has entered – there are so many of them. I will limit myself to mentioning that the version of Louie Louie The Kingsmen is included in the list of the 500 greatest songs of all time according to Rolling Stone magazine.
Louie Louie as Washington State Anthem
And finally, let’s remember how Louie Louie claimed to be the anthem of the state of Washington. This campaign was started by comedian Ross Shafer. His idea could have been nothing more than a hilarious joke, but it was picked up by City Council member Craig Cole. He went further and proposed the creation of Louie Louie County. Naturally, his resolution was not approved at the government level, and music lovers had to be content with the establishment of the official Louie Louie song day, which since 1985 has been celebrated on April 11, the birthday of Richard Berry.
- Jack Eli’s unusual vocals in Louie Louie are attributed to two reasons: the braces on his teeth, which he put on before recording, and the high-mounted microphone, because of which he had to tilt his head back while singing.
- Decent royalties (about two million) for the song Louie Louie Richard Berry received only in 1993.
- The title of the song is often written with a comma, but Berry argued that the correct variant is Louie Louie.
- There is a sculpture in Portland called Louie Louie, 2013.
- Several books have been written about the song (Dave Marsh’s Louie Louie, Dick Peterson’s Louie Louie: Me Gotta Go Now), and there are a number of sites devoted to it on the Internet.
- From 2003 to 2012, the city of Tacoma hosted the LouieFest.
- California radio station KFJC once played Louie Louie for 63 consecutive hours. However, not a single record was repeated.
Lyrics Louie Louie
Louie, Louie, oh, oh, I gotta go
Louie, Louie, oh, oh, I gotta go
Fine little girl she waits for me
Me catch the ship for cross the sea
Me sail the ship all alone
Me never think me make it home
Three nights and days me sail the sea
Me think of girl constantly
On the ship I dream she’s there
Me smell the rose in her hair
Me see Jamaica moon above
It won’t be long, me see my love,
I take her in my arms and then
Me tell her I never leave again
Louie Louie lyrics
Louie, Louie, oh it’s time for me to go
Louie, Louie, oh it’s time for me to go
Pretty baby is waiting for me
I will board a ship that sails across the sea
I will sail the ship alone
I think it will be very difficult for me
Three days and three nights I sail on the sea
And I keep thinking about my girl
Being on the ship, I think how she is there
I smell the rose in her hair
I see the moon of Jamaica in the sky
Very soon I will see my love
I will hug her and then
Tell her I’ll never leave again
If nothing else works, let’s go Louie Louie, right? This is what you learn in five years of playing in a student group. Play Louie Louie is the solution to any situation.
Iggy Pop (“Please Kill Me” by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain)