1001 Songs Challenge #143: Louie Louie (1963)
On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
The Kingsmen – Louie Louie (1963)
Carrying on in the US we are, dear reader, but what we have in store today is a bit of rock, a bit of garage rock if you like, in the form of The Kingsmen. Today’s song was written by Richard Berry back in 1955 and began life as an R&B number. Other artists attempted the song before The Kingsmen gave it a rock makeover and spent a ludicrously low $50 recording the song. Such bargain recording time paid off with both chart success and a place on this 1001 Songs list.
Louie Louie sees The Kingsmen take on the narrator who in this song is a Jamaican sailor who is at sea but bound for home. He is counting the days before he can be home and waiting for him back in Jamaica is his love. He talks of sailing home alone, dreaming of this girl that is waiting for him, smelling the rose in her hair and, finally, seeing the moon casting its glow upon Jamaica as he steers his ship for the island. It sounds like it has been a long separation for the two lovers and the sailor assures us he won’t be going back to sea this time.
Louie Louie is an interesting song in that it was supposedly a lewd one. The lyrics were said to be so graphic that the FBI tried to track down both Richard Berry and The Kingsmen at one point. The reality is that this was a hoax and rather than hinder the song, it helped take The Kingsmen’s version to no.2 in the US charts. The confusion about the lyrics comes from the vocal delivery which makes the words very hard to make out. I had the luxury of the lyrics in front of me as I listened and even then it was hard to follow the words with the voice coming through my headphones. Being incomprehensible does hinder the song slightly but taking the history into account you can understand why it was done this way. It’s still a good rock song with a catchy guitar solo thrown into the mix. Amusing to think so much controversy came from such an innocent song.
Favourite songs so far:
Johnny Cash – I Walk the Line (1956)
Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode (1958)
Ritchie Valens – La Bamba (1958)
Eddie Cochran – Summertime Blues (1958)
Peggy Lee – Fever (1958)
The Everly Brothers – All I Have to Do Is Dream (1958)
The Shirelles – Will You Love Me Tomorrow (1960)
Edith Piaf – Non, je ne regrette rien (1960)
Ben E. King – Stand By Me (1961)
The Drifters – On Broadway (1963)