Much Ado About Louie Louie
By James Donahue
Since the Kingsmen made the song "Louie Louie" popular in the 1960s the tune has been
performed many times, much to the delight of the pop culture around the world.
But back in 2005 some nutty Christians in Benton Harbor, Michigan, tagged this
happy melody as something wicked when the Middle School marching band chose to play it in the city’s annual Blossom
It seems that one concerned citizen distributed letters to parents complaining that
the song’s lyrics were "inappropriate" for children to perform. The letter led to a decision by the district to order
the band not to play the music. The decision was later rescinded after the issue made headlines and the music director said
the band didn’t have time to work up another number.
As far as we know, Benton Harbor residents heard the band play "Louie Louie" during
the parade. Since it was a marching band, nobody was singing the lyrics anyway.
It wasn’t the music but the words used on the Kingsmen recording that somebody
found objectionable. Or so they thought.
Those lyrics were, indeed, controversial in their day thanks to the strange mindset
of the late FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover had his men study the recording for two and a half years, searching for lewd
messages. In the end, the final report concluded that the words were "unintelligible."
Some believe it was the FBI involvement that attracted the public to the song. Without
the negative publicity, "Louie Louie" might have gone down in music history as a tricky tune in its day but then forgotten
along with such music greats as "How Much Is That Doggie In The Window" and "Inky Dinky Doo."
So what is in those lyrics to create such a ruckus in the contemporary Christian world?
Here they are. You decide.
Louie Louie, oh no
Me gotta go
Aye-yi-yi-yi, I said
Louie Louie, oh baby
Fine little girl waits for me
Catch a ship across the sea
Sail that ship about, all alone
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!
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
These are the "official" lyrics. But there is an alternative line or two that some believe
can be found in the recording. It goes something like: "She’s never a girl I’d lay at home." Others think the
singer even used the "F" word somewhere in its midst.
But former Kingsmen drummer Dick Peterson denies that the words they used were obscene,
at least in comparison to some of the stuff appearing on contemporary recordings.
Peterson said the controversial vocals were only an afterthought, shouted into a single
microphone that was hanging from the ceiling to record the entire band.
"It was purposefully buried," Peterson said. "We were an instrumental band and the only
reason we put the singing on it was that we wanted this job on a cruise ship."
So there you have it. This is the true story about "Louie Louie." Somebody thought it
had sexual connotations and it probably did. So why was the FBI so involved? Did Hoover think the garbled words constituted
a secret code to the Communists?
Perhaps the Benton Harbor school board thought they signaled a message to the terrorists?
The truth is pretty dull. The song with the crazy words was about love with maybe a
hint at sex. And we all know how the Christians stand in that area. They seem to be having sex these days with anything that
moves, but they never want to talk about it.