(For some reason, YouTube is no longer giving me Embed codes on my IPad.)
Earlier this evening I played rock n roll. How it works here is a local bar has a house band on Thursdays that you can sign up to play with - or sometimes a whole band comes and plays a few songs. I started a few weeks back and because keyboard players are rare I often sit in for most of the evening. My connection with the place is that a colleague of my wife goes with her husband, a guitarist and singer who has a band. He contacted me yesterday or the day before and asked if I knew Louie Louie.
Sure. But I went and reviewed it on YouTube, listened to exactly how it was played, and found the piano sound in my keyboard that most closely resembled the recording. And notes below the video led me to go read more about this, which I did in a few online places. The song, at least the original national hit recording, has an odd story. (The song has a story past that in that there is an insane number of recorded versions, but this is not the topic of the post.)
It was written in the 1950’s. In about 1962, a Washington State band recorded it and had a regional, in this case meaning statewide, hit with it. There was another area band called the Kingsmen. They were playing local gigs and noticed that whenever Louie Louie came on the jukebox, everyone got up and danced, so they concluded they should learn it, which they did, and it made them quite popular. They were the house band for a bar and the owner of the bar became their manager.
One day in April of 1963 they played a Louie Louie marathon, nonstop for an hour and a half. The next day, their manager brought them into a local studio to record it. Jack Ely, the singer, had a hoarse voice from the marathon, he was wearing braces, and when they went into the studio there were three mics hanging from the ceiling, one of which was over the singer’s head. He had to look up (try looking up and see how it makes your throat feel) and essentially shout at the mic to be heard over a live rock n roll band. The band thought they were doing a run-through but their manager liked the first take and released that take. He liked the raw quality. He turned out to be right and they had a national hit on their hands.
The result of all these factors affecting the singer during the recording is that the words are unintelligible. Someone started a rumor that the lyrics he was singing were obscene and came up with a mildly plausible set of lyrics. By "plausible" I mean you might be talked into thinking that's what Ely was singing, not that releasing anything with those lyrics was plausible. These lyrics spread like wildfire through college campuses. Eventually, parents got wind of this and started complaining to authorities about this obscene song on the radio. The Governor of Indiana banned it (plus ca change) and the FBI, by request of a lot of parents, investigated the song. It took them about two years. They listened, they interviewed the guy who wrote the song, Richard Berry; they interviewed the recording company guys. The only guy they didn’t interview, utterly inexplicably, was the singer.
After two years the FBI concluded that the recording was not obscene and could be played anywhere.
However, it turns out that the FBI was wrong. They missed an obscenity. How could they miss it after going through this recording for two years?
It isn’t in the lyrics.
Remember that this was supposed to be a rehearsal take, not the final product. The drummer dropped a stick at just before the one minute mark. His reaction to dropping a stick during a performance was pretty much the same as any drummer’s reaction to dropping a stick during a performance. He shouted “Fuck!” It’s audible on the recording, and I don’t mean you need a good set of speakers, I mean you can hear it on a cellphone.
I just find it a very interesting example of presumably unintentional misdirection. It worked kind of like a magic trick - keep the marks’ attention in the wrong place. The FBI didn’t notice it and the public didn’t either. I assume it can still be broadcasted.