Thursday, February 26

Mama Kat Thursday: What Did That Song Say?

The Mama Kat Topic for today is: "Analyze a Popular Song You Heard on the Radio, Past or Present, and What Exactly Does It Mean?"

The Kingsmen, 1963
Funny thing--I just rather recently listened to a radio interview with Jack Ely , who was the lead singer for the Kingsmen at the time they recorded the song "Louie Louie" in 1963. He called in to the talk radio program to set the record straight on a number of things, including the song's lyrics. (You can hear that interview on YouTube here. That's where I heard it.)

I was generally familiar with Louie Louie when I was a teen in the early 70's, but I was unaware of the controversy originally surrounding it. So, I found Jack Ely's re-tell of the circumstances that created the controversy fascinating--particularly since I'm a Hoosier. He also explained the harmless lyrics, which I'll show you further on.

Mr. Ely spends a good deal of time putting out rumor-fires about both the Kingsmen and Louie Louie. Apparently a band member put out a book with numerous inaccuracies, including what was paid for the recording session. Jack said they recorded Louie Louie in a Portland, Oregon studio for the price of $10 per band member for a total of $50.00 for one recording session.
He also explained how the song came to have it's unique sound. Apparently the record producer was trying to get a "live performance" sound, so he mounted the microphone to the ceiling, 15 feet above the band members. He then arranged the band around Jack Ely, who stood in the center, his head leaned all the way back, yelling the song upwards at the microphone!
That's how "Louie Louie" came to have such a strange  pronunciation.

Then Mr. Ely explained how the rumors that a bad word was in the song got started. Apparently the teeny-bopper daughter of a woman who was friends with the Governor of Indiana listened to a 45 vinyl record of Louie Louie at 33 RPM speed, which is a slower phonograph speed then a 45 should be played at, resulting in heavy distortion. That's when the teen girl decided she detected a foul word--the worst foul word--the Queen Mother of All Foul Words in "Louie Louie." So she told her Mom, who told her bestie, the governor's wife, who told her hubby and he had the song banned in the State of Indiana.
  (That was Governor Matthew Welsh, by the way.)
Eventually a full blown investigation by the FBI resulted, which, in the end, turned up nothing on the song or the band.

As to the lyrics, Mr. Ely explained "Louie Louie," is as story song about a Jamaican sailor telling a bartender named "Louie," about getting home to see his girl. Here's the actual lyrics:

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
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.
Okay, let's give it to 'em, right now!
(Guitar Solo)
See Jamaica, the moon above
It won't be long, me see me love
Take her in my arms again
Tell her I'll never leave again
Let's take it on outa here now
Let's go!! 
Mr. Ely was lead singer with the Kingsmen only for Louie Louie. Due to some internal wranglings within the band, he left shortly thereafter. The Vietnam War was on-going at the time and his draft number came up in 1966 and he served until 1968. He presently owns a horse farm in Oregon, where he lives with his wife and is 72. He's a Christian now and released an Christian album in November 2012 called, "Love is All Around You Now."
(Info on that at if you're interested.)
So there you have it. There's no bad words in Louie Louie. 
(Something I can't say about a majority of songs these days!)
The moral of the story, I think, is never listen to a 45 record at 33 RPM and don't believe girls who do.
Thanks for visiting! 
For Friday Finds tomorrow I'll be featuring some of my Easter designs, so do stop back for a look!

1 comment:

Spazington said...

Hilarious! I've always wondered what that song was about! Neat story and it's cool to find out where he is now ☺️

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