definition of Wikipedia
|Single by Richard Berry|
|Genre||R&B, rock and roll, garage rock|
|Richard Berry singles chronology|
"Louie Louie" is an American rock 'n' roll song written by Richard Berry in 1955. It has become a standard in pop and rock, with hundreds of versions recorded by different artists. The song was originally written and performed in the style of a Jamaican ballad; and tells, in simple verse-chorus form, the first-person story of a Jamaican sailor returning to the island to see his lady love.
A recording by The Kingsmen in 1963 is the best-known version. The Kingsmen's edition was also the subject of an FBI investigation about the supposed but non-existent obscenity of the lyrics, an investigation that ended without prosecution. In 1985, comedian Ross Shafer led a movement to make "Louie Louie" the state song of Washington, which failed. The song is ranked #55 on the Rolling Stone magazine's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".
Richard Berry was inspired to write the song in 1955 after listening to and performing the song "El Loco Cha Cha" with Ricky Rillera and the Rhythm Rockers. The tune was written originally as "Amarren Al Loco" ("Tie up the crazy guy") by Cuban bandleader Rosendo Ruiz Jr. – also known as Rosendo Ruiz Quevedo – but became best known in the arrangement by René Touzet which included a rhythmic ten-note "1-2-3 1-2 1-2-3 1-2" riff. Touzet performed the tune regularly in Los Angeles clubs in the 1950s. In Berry's mind, the words "Louie Louie" superimposed themselves over the bass riff. Lyrically, the first person perspective of the song was influenced by "One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)", which is sung from the perspective of a customer talking to a bartender. Berry cited Chuck Berry's "Havana Moon" and his exposure to Latin American music for the song's speech pattern and references to Jamaica.
Richard Berry released his version in April 1957 (Flip Records 321), originally as a B-side, with his backing band the Pharaohs, and scored a regional hit on the west coast, particularly in San Francisco. When the group toured the Pacific Northwest, local R&B bands began to play the song, increasing its popularity. The track was then re-released as an A-side. However, the single never charted on Billboard's national rhythm and blues or pop charts. Berry's label reported that the single had sold 40,000 copies. After a series of unsuccessful follow-ups, Berry sold his portion of publishing and songwriting rights for $750 to the head of Flip Records in 1959.
Robin Roberts developed an interest in rhythm and blues records as a high school student in Tacoma, Washington. Among the songs he began performing as an occasional guest singer with a local band, the Bluenotes, in 1958 were "Louie Louie", which he had heard on Berry's original single, and Bobby Day's "Rockin' Robin", which gave him his stage name. In 1959, Roberts left the Bluenotes and began singing with another local band, The Wailers (often known as The Fabulous Wailers and no relation to The Wailers headed by Bob Marley years later), who had had a hit record with the instrumental "Tall Cool One". Known for his dynamic onstage performances, Roberts added "Louie Louie" to the band's set and, in 1960, recorded the track with the Wailers as his backing band. The arrangement, devised by Roberts with the band, included Roberts' ad-lib "Let's give it to 'em, RIGHT NOW!!". Released on the band's own label, Etiquette, in early 1961, it became a local hit in the Seattle area, before being reissued and promoted by Imperial Records in Los Angeles. However, it failed to chart. Roberts was killed in an automobile accident in 1967.
|Single by The Kingsmen|
|from the album The Kingsmen In Person|
|Released||May 1963 (Jerden 712)
October 1963 (Wand 143)
|Genre||Rock and roll, garage rock|
|Producer||Ken Chase, Jerry Dennon|
|The Kingsmen singles chronology|
In the U.S. music industry of the 1950s and 1960s, mainstream white artists often covered songs by black artists. On April 6, 1963, a rock and roll group from Portland, Oregon, called The Kingsmen, chose "Louie Louie" as their second recording, their first having been "Peter Gunn Rock."
The Kingsmen recorded the song at Northwestern, Inc., Motion Pictures and Recording in Portland. The group paid a modest $36 for a one-hour Saturday morning session. Jack Ely (Kingsmen's lead singer) says he remembers paying $10.00, one-fifth of the $50.00 fee. The session was produced by Ken Chase. Chase was a local radio personality on the AM rock station 91 KISN and also owned the teen nightclub that hosted the Kingsmen as their house band. The engineer for the session was the studio owner, Robert Lindahl. The Kingsmen's lead singer Jack Ely based his version on the recording by Rockin' Robin Roberts with the Fabulous Wailers, unintentionally introducing a change in the rhythm as he did. "I showed the others how to play it with a 1-2-3, 1-2, 1-2-3 beat instead of the 1-2-3-4, 1-2, 1-2-3-4 beat that is on the (Wailers') record," recalled Ely. The night before their recording session, the band played a 90-minute version of the song during a gig at a local teen club.
The Kingsmen's studio version was recorded in one take. They also recorded the "B" side of the release, an original instrumental by the group called "Haunted Castle".
A significant error on the Kingsmen's version occurs just after the lead guitar break; as the group were going by the Wailers' version, which has a brief restatement of the riff, two times over, before the lead vocalist comes back in, it would be expected that Ely would do the same. Ely, however, overshot his mark, coming in too soon, before the restatement of the riff; he realizes his mistake and stops the verse short, but the band does not realize that he has done so. As a quick fix, drummer Lynn Easton covers the pause with a drum fill, but before the verse has ended, the rest of the band goes into the chorus at the point where they expect it to be; they recover quickly.
This error is now so embedded in the consciousness of some groups that they deliberately duplicate it when performing the song. There is also a persistent and oft-repeated story that the microphone for Ely was mounted too high for him to sing without tilting his head back excessively, resulting in his somewhat pinched and strangled sound through most of his vocal. This is exactly the way his head was pitched according to Ely. This seems unlikely, however, in view of the fact that it was recorded by professional personnel in a dedicated recording studio. According to Ely himself, "There were no professional personnel in the studio that day except maybe Lindahl. We set up all our own equipment in a circle facing each other underneath an overhead microphone up by the ceiling at which I sang/shouted the lyrics." It has also been reported that Ely had gotten braces on his teeth the day before, impeding vocalization.
The Kingsmen transformed Berry's easy-going ballad into a raucous romp, complete with a twangy guitar, occasional background chatter, and nearly unintelligible lyrics by Ely. A chaotic guitar break is triggered by the shout, "Okay, let's give it to 'em right now!", which first appeared in the Wailers' version, as did the entire guitar break (although, in the Wailers' version, a few notes differ, and the entire band played the break). Critic Dave Marsh suggests it is this moment that gives the recording greatness: "[Ely] went for it so avidly you'd have thought he'd spotted the jugular of a lifelong enemy, so crudely that, at that instant, Ely sounds like Donald Duck on helium. And it's that faintly ridiculous air that makes the Kingsmen's record the classic that it is, especially since it's followed by a guitar solo that's just as wacky".
First released in May 1963, the single was initially issued by the small Jerden label, before being picked up by the larger Wand Records and released by them in October 1963. It entered the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for December 7, and peaked at number two the following week; it would remain in the top 10 through December and January before dropping off in early February. In total, the Kingsmen's version spent 16 weeks on the Hot 100. (Singles by The Singing Nun, then Bobby Vinton, monopolized the top slot for eight weeks.) "Louie Louie" did reach number one on the Cashbox pop chart, as well as number one on the Cashbox R&B chart. The version quickly became a standard at teen parties in the U.S. during the 1960s, even reappearing on the charts in 1966.
Another factor in the success of the record may have been the rumor that the lyrics were intentionally slurred by the Kingsmen. Allegedly, this was to cover the fact that it was laced with profanity, graphically depicting sex between the sailor and his lady. Crumpled pieces of paper professing to be "the real lyrics" to "Louie Louie" circulated among teens. The song was banned on many radio stations and in many places in the United States, including Indiana, where it was personally prohibited by the Governor, Matthew Welsh.
These actions were taken despite the small matter that practically no one could distinguish the actual lyrics. Denials of chicanery by Kingsmen and Ely did not stop the controversy. The FBI started a 31-month investigation into the matter and concluded they were "unable to interpret any of the wording in the record."
After a protracted lawsuit that lasted five years and cost $1.3 million, The Kingsmen won the rights to their song "Louie Louie". The Supreme Court, in November 1998, declined to hear an appeal by the record company of an earlier legal ruling giving the rights to the band.[clarification needed]
Sales of the Kingsmen record were so low (reportedly 600) that the group considered disbanding. Things changed when Boston's biggest DJ, Arnie Ginsburg, was given the record by a pitchman. Amused by its slapdash sound, he played it on his program as "The Worst Record of the Week". Despite the slam, listener response was swift and positive.
By the end of October, the Kingsmen's version was listed in Billboard as a regional breakout and a "bubbling under" entry for the national chart. Meanwhile, the Raiders' version, with far stronger promotion, was becoming a hit in California and was also listed as "bubbling under" one week after the Kingsmen's debut on the chart. For a few weeks, the two singles appeared destined to battle each other, but demand for the Kingsmen single acquired momentum and, by the end of 1963, Columbia Records had stopped promoting the Raiders' "Louie Louie", as ordered by Mitch Miller.
By the time that the Kingsmen's "Louie Louie" had achieved national popularity, the band had split. Two rival editions—one featuring lead singer Ely, the other with Lynn Easton, who held the rights to the band's name—were competing for live audiences across the country.
Paul Revere & the Raiders also recorded a version of "Louie Louie" in April 1963 in the same Portland studio as The Kingsmen. This recording was paid for and produced by 91 KISN Radio Personality Roger Hart, who soon became Personal Manager for Paul Revere & The Raiders. Initially, their single was more successful locally, put out on Hart's SANDE label, then when signed to Columbia Records it was reissued in June 1963 nationally, where it went #1 in the West and Hawaii. The quick success of "Louie Louie" suddenly halted in the West. A few years later, Paul Revere & the Raiders learned why: Columbia Records A&R man Mitch Miller, who did not like rock n' roll, pulled the plug on Paul Revere & The Raiders' hit version.
Robert Lindahl, then-president and chief engineer of NWI, and the sound engineer on the Kingsmen's and Paul Revere & the Raiders' noted that the Raiders' version is not known for "garbled lyrics" or an amateurish recording technique. But despite these attributes, the single never seized the public's attention the way the less-polished Kingsmen version had.
After the Kingsmen and Raiders' versions, several other bands recorded the song:
By the 1970s the song was inspiring numerous cover versions.
|Single by Motörhead|
|from the album Overkill (re-issue)|
|B-side||Tear Ya Down|
|Released||30 September 1978|
|Motörhead singles chronology|
"Louie Louie" was Motörhead's first single for Bronze Records in 1978. It was a relatively faithful cover of the song, with "Fast" Eddie Clarke's guitar emulating the Hohner Pianet electric piano riff. It was released as a 7" vinyl single and reached number 68 on the UK Singles Chart. The reverse cover carries the dog Latin motto "NIL ILLEGITIMUM CARBORUNDUM", which is humorously said to mean "Don't let the bastards grind you down". The song is released with "Tear Ya Down" and appears later on the CD re-issues of Overkill and The Best Of Motörhead compilation. On 25 October 1978, a pre-recording of the band playing this song was broadcast on the BBC show Top of the Pops.
The cover featured Black Flag's new singer, Dez Cadena, and some of his improvised lyrics to "Louie Louie".
|Single by Black Flag|
|Writer(s)||Richard Berry, Dez Cadena|
|Producer||Spot, Black Flag|
|Black Flag chronology|
The Hermosa Beach, California hardcore punk band Black Flag released a cover version of "Louie Louie" as a single in 1981 through Posh Boy Records. It was the band's first release with Dez Cadena as singer, replacing Ron Reyes who had left the group the previous year. Cadena would go on to sing on the Six Pack EP before switching to rhythm guitar and being replaced on vocals by Henry Rollins. Cadena improvised his own lyrics to "Louie Louie", such as "You know the pain that's in my heart / It just shows I'm not very smart / Who needs love when you've got a gun? / Who needs love to have any fun?" The single also included an early version of "Damaged I", which would be re-recorded with Rollins for the band's debut album, Damaged, later that year. Demo versions of both tracks, recorded with Cadena, were included on the 1982 compilation album Everything Went Black.
Bryan Carroll of Allmusic gave the single four out of five stars, saying that "Of the more than 1,500 commitments of Richard Berry's 'Louie Louie' to wax ... Black Flag's volatile take on the song is incomparable. No strangers to controversy themselves, the band pummel the song with their trademark pre-Henry Rollins-era guitar sludge, while singer Dez Cadena spits out his nihilistic rewording of the most misunderstood lyrics in rock history." Both tracks from the single were included on the 1983 compilation album The First Four Years, and "Louie Louie" was also included on 1987's Wasted...Again. A live version of "Louie Louie", recorded by the band's 1985 lineup, was released on the live album Who's Got the 10½?, with Rollins improvising his own lyrics.
|1.||"Louie Louie"||Richard Berry, Dez Cadena||Berry||1:20|
|1.||"Damaged I"||Cadena||Greg Ginn||4:06|
The Grateful Dead covered the song live a few times in the 1980s with Brent Mydland on vocals.
The Fat Boys recorded a version of "Louie Louie" in 1988 on their album Coming Back Hard Again; their version features new lyrics written by the group about the history of the song and its original controversy.
In the 1980s Rhino Records released The Best of Louie Louie in support of KFJC's Maximum Louis Louis event. The album features Richard Berry's original recording, the Kingsmen's influential version, Black Flag's version, and several other versions, some bizarre. These included a performance by the Rice University Marching Owl Band, and the a cappella "Hallalouie Chorus", in which the song's title was sung to the melody of Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus". Other volumes in this Best of series followed.
In July 2004, Todd Snider played a released an album names East Nashville Skyline, which contained a song named "The Ballad of the Kingsmen." The song tells the story of the FBI investigation and relates it with song lyrics by Marilyn Manson and Eminem which some blamed for the Columbine High School massacre.
In February, 1964, an outraged parent wrote to Robert Kennedy, then the Attorney General of the United States, alleging that the lyrics of "Louie Louie" were obscene. The Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated the complaint. In June 1965, the FBI laboratory obtained a copy of the Kingsmen recording and, after two years of investigation, concluded that the recording could not be interpreted, that it was "unintelligible at any speed," and therefore the Bureau could not find that the recording was obscene. In September 1965, an FBI agent interviewed one member of the Kingsmen, who denied that there was any obscenity in the song.
The lyrics controversy resurfaced briefly in 2005 when the superintendent of the school system in Benton Harbor, Michigan, refused to let the marching band at one of the schools play the song in a parade. She later relented.
It is unknown exactly how many versions of "Louie Louie" have been recorded, but it is believed to be over 1,500 (according to LouieLouie.net.), surpassing "Yesterday" by The Beatles as most recorded rock song ever.
The Kingsmen version has remained the most popular version of the song, retaining its association with wild partying. It enjoyed a comeback in 1978-79 and was associated with college fraternity parties when it was sung, complete with the supposedly obscene lyrics, by Bluto (John Belushi) and his fellow Delta House brothers in the movie National Lampoon's Animal House despite the anachronism of the film taking place in 1962, a year before the Kingsmen recording (although this is mitigated by the fact that the Deltas are fans of at least one black rock musician, and 1962 was 7 years after Richard Berry wrote the song). Aside from the Animal House appearance, the song appeared in many other films, typically in raucous and humorous contexts. An instrumental version played by the Rice University Marching Owl Band (MOB) is heard in the final scene of The Naked Gun (1988). (In the film, the University of Southern California Marching Band is seen trampling Ricardo Montalban's already-flattened character, although it is the MOB that is heard playing.)
Some bands have taken liberties with the lyrics, including attempts to record the supposed "obscene lyrics". It is believed the first artists to do so were The Stooges, whose version can be heard on their live album Metallic K.O. Iggy Pop later recorded a more civilized cover version of the song, with new lyrics composed by Pop, for his 1993 album American Caesar. He continues to play it live at shows.
The Who were directed in their early recording career by the riff/rhythm of "Louie Louie". This was due to the song's influence on The Kinks, who, like the Who at the time, were produced by Shel Talmy, with the Kinks on the Pye label and the Who on Brunswick. Talmy wanted the successful sounds of The Kinks' 1964 hits "You Really Got Me", "All Day and All of the Night" and "Till the End of the Day" to be copied by The Who. As a result, Pete Townshend penned "I Can't Explain", released in March 1965. During a pre-song interview with host Brian Matthew on Saturday Club in May 1965, Pete explained that "I Can't Explain" was released to "introduce The Who to the charts" and that they were now trying to get away from all that and wanted to create the sort of sound they achieved on stage at present, hence their new single which they were about to sing live on Saturday Club now - the feedback-driven, Mod-inspired "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere". (In 1979 "Louie Louie" would be featured on the soundtrack album to Quadrophenia.)
"Louie Louie" repeatedly figured in the musical lexicon of Frank Zappa in the 1960s. An early live version of his original composition "Plastic People" (from his You Can't Do That Onstage Anymore series of live albums) was set to the melody of "Louie, Louie" (the official version was released on the album Absolutely Free in 1967). Zappa reportedly fired guitarist Alice Stuart from The Mothers of Invention because she couldn't play "Louie Louie". At a Zappa concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Mothers Of Invention keyboardist Don Preston climbed up to the legendary venue's pipe organ, usually used for classical works, and played the signature riff (this can be heard on the 1969 Zappa album Uncle Meat). Quick interpolations of "Louie Louie" also frequently turn up in other Zappa works.
In 1985, Ross Shafer, host and a writer-performer of the late-night comedy series Almost Live! on the Seattle TV station KING, spearheaded an effort to have "Louie Louie" replace "Washington, My Home" by Helen Davis as Washington's official state song. Picking up on this initially prankish effort, Whatcom County Councilman Craig Cole introduced Resolution No. 85-12 in the state legislature, citing the need for a "contemporary theme song that can be used to engender a sense of pride and community, and in the enhancement of tourism and economic development". His resolution also called for the creation of a new "Louie Louie County". While the House did not pass it, the Senate's Resolution 1985-37 declared April 12, 1985, "Louie Louie Day". A crowd of 4,000, estimated by press reports, convened on the state capitol that day for speeches, singalongs, and performances by the Wailers, the Kingsmen, and Paul Revere and the Raiders. Two days later, a Seattle event commemorated the occasion with the premiere performance of a new, Washington-centric version of the song written by composer Berry.
There is an article in TIME magazine from around 1965 or spring '66 or so discussing racy lyrics in rock 'n' roll songs. According to TIME, Princeton student first heard the dishy words when playing it at 33 rpm. Other songs mentioned: the Rolling Stones's "Satisfaction" and their cover of "King Bee."
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