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FBI investigated song ‘Louie Louie’ for 2 years

An accusation of obscenity against a rock 'n' roll hit.

By Rich_Maloof May 29, 2013 4:14PM

It was a citizen’s complaint that first called the FBI’s attention to “Louie Louie,” the rock 'n' roll staple that was a hit for The Kingsmen back in 1963.

Photo: Derek K. Miller via Flickr, http://aka.ms/louie In a letter of Feb. 7, 1964, addressed to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, an outraged parent (name withheld) exclaims, “My daughter brought home a record of ‘Louie Louie’ and I, after reading that the record had been banned from being played on the air because it was obscene, proceeded to try to decipher the jumble of words. The lyrics are so filthy that I can-not enclose them in this letter.”

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So began a two-year investigation by the FBI, which to this day is involved in fighting obscenity. According to the FBI case file, The Kingmen’s record was sent to the FBI Laboratory for analysis to “determine its obscene character,” in part by playing the 45 rpm single at the slower speed of 33 1/3 rpm.

Page 14 of the report shares one listener’s determination of filthy lyrics, which is entertaining but can’t be shared on a nice family blog such as ours. However, the FBI apparently failed to contact Kingsmen singer Jack Ely, who committed the lyrics to tape. Neither did they ever reach Richard Berry, who wrote the original song in 1955.

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Singing along to “Louie Louie” continues to be a major challenge for any cover band, due in large part to Ely’s slurred  performance. The vocalist has explained that he was yelling to be heard over other instruments in the recording session, and also that he was wearing braces at the time, which contributed to his infamously incomprehensible delivery. But when the record was banned by the governor of Indiana on accusations of obscenity, the continued popularity of the song and the band was guaranteed.

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The parent’s letter to AG Kennedy rants on: “This land of ours is headed for an extreme state of moral degradation what with this record, the biggest hit movies and the sex and violence exploited on T.V. How can we stamp out this menace????”

Ultimately, the FBI couldn’t determine what the lyrics were, but the agency never charged nor exonerated “Louie Louie” for obscenity. Check the actual song lyrics here, and let us know who really had the dirty mind:

Louie, Louie,
me gotta go.
Louie, Louie,
me gotta go.

A fine little girl, she wait for me;
me catch a ship across the sea.
I sailed the ship all alone;
I never think I’ll make it home

Three nights and days we sailed the sea;
me think of girl constantly.
On the ship, I dream she there;
I smell the rose, in her hair.

Me see Jamaica moon above;
It won’t be long me see me love.
Me take her in my arms and then
I tell her I never leave again.

Tip of the hat to Smithsonian.com for flagging this story.

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Photo: Derek K. Miller via Flickr, http://aka.ms/louie


914Comments
Jun 5, 2013 10:47PM
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I think somebody should make a song about the FBI AND ALL THE LITTLE NASTY THINGS THEY DO LOUIE LOUIE
Jun 5, 2013 4:17PM
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shocking, filthy, and disgusting....

oh, wait i'm thinking of what my old punk rock band "the cedar rats" did to that song in 1974

Lou reed didn't hold a candle baby where were the FBI then?

we should have been infamous

Jun 4, 2013 1:58AM
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The line that got the most attention, and is pretty clear, is "Stick my finger up the hole of love, it won't be long til we make love" and two lines that were not as clear, but well-known, "F+ck the girls all kinds of ways" and "I felt my nose in her hair." Now you know.

Still not something you'd hear on the radio today if it were sung clearly.

Jun 3, 2013 9:15PM
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interesting that given how hard it is for any one to try and sing the song fully besides just the Louie Louie me got to go now that the fbi even thought the song was obscene when all its about is a guy who is in love with  a girl and wants to make her his at last. two years and even the fbi could not figure out the song.
Jun 2, 2013 8:45PM
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History repeats itself (over and over). People continue to have their thoughts projected onto others.
Jun 2, 2013 9:08AM
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Haha! Makes you wonder what the complainer thought the real lyrics were! ^_^
Jun 2, 2013 3:02AM
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hey felix,  it doesnt matter if your drunk, stoned or tweekin'.  Oh yeah,  I forgot one more line in the song....

I FELT MY LOAD GO IN HER HAIR.

SING IT.....LOUIE, LOUIE, OHHHH WE GOT TO GO NOW.

Jun 1, 2013 9:30PM
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WOW that same mother today would be writing several letters a day wouldn't she.

In College drunk on weekends we could sing LOUIE LOUIE in perfect Mandrin.
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