The version of “Louie Louie” recorded by Portland band the Kingsmen reached number 2 on the pop music charts in 1963. Parents were outraged by the song’s supposedly obscene lyrics. Teenagers reveled in what they thought was a dirty song being played on the radio. The Federal Bureau of Investigation even delved into it, analyzing whether “Louie Louie” was smutty. The band was close-lipped but enjoyed the controversy that drove record sales higher.
The Kingsmen had paid $50 to rent the studio. They recorded the song in one take, gathered around a single microphone. The singer Jack Ely stood on his toes shouting at the boom mic, place too high.
After more than two years of scrutiny, the FBI reported it could not reach a conclusion, saying the song’s lyrics were unintelligible. “Louie Louie” has since become a pop-music standard, beaming from high in the rock ’n’ roll firmament. Rolling Stone magazine rated it number 54 on its list of “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” (Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” was number 55.)
But the record did contain a dirty word.
If you don’t know who Steven Van Zandt, aka Miami Steve, aka Little Steven is, you should. Among his many endeavors is “Little Steven’s Underground Garage” on SiriusXM, Channel 21. A weekly feature on the channel is “Drew Carey’s Friday Night Freak-Out,” hosted by the comedian and game-show celebrity.
Mr. Carey recently reported that fifty-four seconds into the record, after the second “Louie Louie / Me gotta go,” the drummer flubs a fill and shrieks “Fuck!” Lynn Easton, the guilty drummer has conceded that yes, he did.
Now that you know this, you’ll hear it every time.
You can keep up with “all things LOUIE LOUIE” at The Louie Report.