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Louie Louie

Louie Louie is a Jamaican-flavor ballad. It has been recorded hundreds of times by different artists; this article describes the commonest and most famous recording, with a brief overview of a recent version at the end.

Richard Berry (no relation to Charles (Chuck) Berry; see photographs at this link) wrote Louie Louie in 1955, inspired by René Touzet's "El Loco Cha Cha" and Chuck Berry's "Havana Moon." He recorded it in 1956, but the most famous recording, however, and the one discussed here, was by the Kingsmen, a group from Portland, Oregon, USA. Their version reached number two in the USA (largely due to its notoriety), although for a time it battled with a concurrent version by Paul Revere and the Raiders. The Kingsmen recorded it in April 1963 and released it on Wand Records (playing time 2:43).

Louie Louie has a controversial history. Although this song contains no profanity, it was originally banned on many radio stations, particularly those in Indiana (where it was banned by Governor Matthew Welch) and in Southern USA, because the lyrics were hard to understand and hence easily misinterpreted.

It is widely accepted that this was not by design, but was the result of a poorly-engineered recording session. Reportedly, there was only one microphone for both the band and the singer. It also did not help that the lead singer, Jack Ely, had a hoarse voice that day, wore braces on his teeth, and could not reach the microphone. The session cost $50.

However, according to the recording engineer's daughter, this explanation is an urban legend. She claims that the studio was state-of-the-art, the problem being with the band itself. See this link for further information about Louie Louie.

In any case, due to public furor the FBI analyzed the recording, and concluded after 31 months that they were "unable to interpret any of the wording in the record".( The supposed "filthy" version of the lyrics were used on the live version by Iggy Pop and The Stooges in 1974.) However, it seems that they never asked Jack Ely. Details about the FBI investigation are available through this link.

Further (but incomplete) details on the history of Louie Louie are available through this link.

Of particular interest are the lyrics of Louie Louie. Two versions are presented here. The first is claimed to be the actual words written by Richard Berry, the second the best attempt available of an exact transcription of the recording, courtesy of David Spector (and in the public domain). It is perhaps in the embellishments added by The Kingsmen that the charm of the song resides.

Table of contents
1 Original Lyrics
2 Transcribed Lyrics
3 External Link

Original Lyrics

Louie, Louie, me gotta go 
Louie, Louie, me gotta go. 

Fine little girl, she wait for me. Me catch the ship for across the sea. Me sail the ship all alone. Me never thinks me make it home.

Louie, Louie, me gotta go. Louie, Louie, me gotta go.

Three nights and days me sailed the sea. Me think of girl constantly. On the ship, I dream she there. I smell the rose in her hair.

Louie, Louie, me gotta go. Louie, Louie, me gotta go.

Me see Jamaican moon above. It won't be long, me see me love. I take her in my arms and then. Me tell her I never leave again.

Louie, Louie, me gotta go. Louie, Louie, me gotta go.

Transcribed Lyrics

Louie, Louie
Oh no, me gotta go.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, said, ah
Louie, Louie
Oh, baby, me gotta go.

A fine little girl she waits for me Me catch a ship for cross the sea. Me sail that ship all alone Me never think how I make it home.

Ah, Louie, Louie No, no, no, no, me gotta go. Oh, no. Said, Louie, Louie Oh, baby, said we gotta go. (indistinct yell in the background)

Three nights and days I sail the sea Think of girl, oh, constantly. Ah, on that ship I dream she there I smell the rose, ah, in her hair.

Ah, Louie, Louie Oh, no, sayin' we gotta go. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, but, ah, Louie, Louie Oh, baby, said, we gotta go. [Yelled] Okay, let's give it to 'em right now! [instrumental portion]

Me see Jamaica, ah, moon above. It won't be long, me see me love. Take her in my arms again, I got her; I'll never leave again.

Ah, Louie, Louie Oh, no, sayin' me gotta go. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, But, ah, Louie, Louie Oh, baby, said, ah, we gotta go.

I said we gotta go now,

Let's get on outta here.

[Yelled] Let's go.

External Link

The Kingsmen

(Original Article)

Louie Louie was a short EP (almost a single) released by Black Flag in 1981 on SST Records. It features Dez Cadena on vocals and includes the "long" version of Damaged I.

1. Louie Louie (Berry) 1:17
2. Damaged I (Cadena/Ginn) 4:07

Dez Cadena - vocals
Greg Ginn - guitar
Chuck Dukowski - bass
ROBO - drums