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In Praise of "Louie Louie"

by Mike McGuirk

In Praise of "Louie Louie"

About this playlist

The song "Louie Louie," or at least The Kingsmen's version, had an incalculable effect on the rock vocabulary. The Kinks' "You Really Got Me," The Troggs' "Wild Thing" and practically everything by The Stooges are directly descended from it. Granted, the chords and verses are infectious as hell, but it's more about the way the song sounds with those keyboards and blown-out drums and endlessly unintelligible vocals that makes it a true marvel of early rock 'n' roll.

When I was a kid, those unintelligible vocals were even the subject of a TV special debating whether the mumbled words were pornographic. I was like six years old, so I can't remember what the conclusion was I just remember being impressed that they considered whether or not the lyrics were "dirty" as being so important, especially since the idea of something being "dirty" was a total mystery to me. I was pretty sure it had something to do with either taking a bath or going to the bathroom, or maybe going to the bathroom while taking a bath. Anyway mysterious.

It turns out the lyrics aren't pornographic, it's just a product of the song being recorded with a single microphone that apparently was dangling from the ceiling, which means thebass player and vocalist had to lean back and yell into the air. That means he basically invented Lemmy's singing stance. Very cool. No wonder just about every garage-rock/punk-rock/whatever-rock band ever has covered it at one time or another.

Below, you'll find a playlist covering the song's origins (specifically, Richard Berry's original version, which can be deconstructed down to Louis Jordan's "Run Joe" and Chuck Berry's "Havana Moon"); the songs that were essentially rip-offs (but great anyway see " Brother Louie," basically an awesome Frankenstein twin); and a selection of the song's many cover versions. Don't miss the Don & the Goodtimes version, and be careful with the Stooges' definitely-not-for-the-kiddies take. Apparently, Iggy and his buddies never saw that special.