ACCORDING TO THE army of online enthusiasts who celebrate the song and its legacy, there are over 2000 (and counting) versions of Louie Louie, yet none of them would exist but for two. Firstly there’s Richard Berry’s 1957 progenitor, which saw him fuse his own ideas and words onto a bass riff by Cuban bandleader Rosendo Ruiz Jr. Secondly, and unusually as it’s not the ‘original’, there is The Kingsmen’s garage rock re-thrash of the song which assured its place in history – so much so, the track’s fans now organise an annual Louie Louie day on April 11 to celebrate the song.
“The song is unintelligible at any speed”
Raw and rebellious, the Portland group’s 1963 cover transformed the song into an outsider anthem, sounding so dangerous and hedonistic that it inspired generation after generation to champion the song, and an FBI investigation at the time into find out what was actually being sung, such was the threatening, wild drawl of the vocal.
In fact the G-Men searching for obscenities or hidden messages apparently concluded the song was “unintelligible at any speed”. Their report – including the rude lyrics the investigators thought were being used – can now be read online at www.fbi.gov.
With the passing of Kingsmen vocalist Jack Ely earlier this week (April 27), the MOJO team have nominated ten of their favourite Louie Louies, ranging from garage rock homages to reggae re-imaginings and beyond.
And if you can’t find a version here that meets your approval, here’s a list charting over 2000 versions, so there’s bound to be a Louie Louie for you. Let us know your thoughts via Twitter or Facebook.