classic rock music


Ode to Louie Louie


The Dirtiest Hit Record of The Sixties




Louie Louie by The Kingsmen Tops The FCC's 10 Most Wanted


by Jim Esposito


In 1975 Oui Magazine, then owned by Playboy, assigned me to write a feature article on Donna Summer and “Sex Rock,” a new musical genre sweeping the country. This was according to Time Magazine, who’d printed a 300 word story on “Love to Love You Baby,” which claimed Donna orgasmed 22 times during this song. This was through the height of the Skin Book Wars, and the Editors at Playboy were all over anything involving sex.

Trouble was – “Sex Rock” did not exist. A minor point. Nonetheless, I wrote an insightful profile on Donna Summer, and Neil Bogart at Casablanca Records entitled “The Great Rocking Orgasmic Renaissance of AM Radio.” Since there was no “Sex Rock” I focused instead on the relationship between the FCC and radio stations as it pertained to sexual innuendo and profanity. I spoke to people in radio, people who worked for the FCC, communications attorneys, etc…

As I did I started asking about “Louie Louie” At first it was light, genial banter to break the ice. Still, I was somewhat surprised at the response mention of “Louie Louie” elicited. This was especially true with Jason Shrinsky, a prominent Washington D.C. attorney. Totally slick and polished, pontificating to a writer about his expertise was totally stroking his ego. When I mentioned “Louie Louie,” however, he reverted into Captain Queeg and the strawberries. “Slowly I turned…”

Ultimately, I dedicated a small sidebar section of my story to “Louie Louie,” an ode if you will, which I re-published here. Should you be so inclined to read the whole article, you can find it at Rock’s Backpages (dot com).

Read the Original Story on Rock's Backpages (dot com)

The first real sex record happened in 1964 when The Kingsmen recorded “Louie Louie” on Wand Records. There is still controversy surrounding this song.

Florence Greenberg, president of Scepter Records, which owned Wand, bought the master of “Louie Louie” from a bunch of kids from Seattle. “Louie Louie” is an old Cajun folksong about the shrimp boats. A sailor goes out to sea and thinks about his girl, who is waiting for him in Jamaica. Of course, you’d never know this unless you saw the lyric sheet because the vocals in the song were so mumbled, garbled and slurred you really couldn’t tell for sure just how the words went.

When Crosby, Still, Nash & Young did “Woodstock” they tried to top “Louie Louie” for unintelligibility. They couldn’t do it.

As the legend goes the secret of “Louie Louie” was discovered accidentally by some college kids in Michigan who put the record on a turntable. When played slow, “Louie Louie” seemed to contain direct sexual references and dirty four letter words.

One line sounded like: “Every night at ten I lay her again.” Another: “I felt my rolls in her hair. And another: “I tell her I never lay her again.”

(The lyric sheet, incidentally, says these lines go: “Three nights and days we sailed the sea;” “I smell the rose in her hair,” and “I tell her I never leave her again.”)

In 24 hours, almost every kid in the country seemed to know. Kids were locking themselves in their bedrooms, playing the 45 at 33 rpm’s. It was all anybody seemed to talk about in school. And kids who knew what the words meant were suddenly just a little cooler. You couldn’t go to a dance where it wasn’t played four or five times. And all the bands always knew the dirty version, which they’d sing, loudly, while all the kids snickered because your parents never paid any attention to that “noise” anyway.

Meanwhile, in Washington D.C., the Federal Communications Commission started getting complaints about “Louie Louie” with copies of what were supposedly the lyrics. The FCC had not drawn up any policies or guidelines that would apply to the case at the time, but they took one look at these alleged lyrics and decided they had to hear it for themselves. So the FCC ran out and bought a copy of “Louie Louie.”

William B. Ray, Chief of Complaints and Compliance Division in the Broadcast Bureau of the FCC called “Louia Louie” The Commission’s “most famous case.”

According to Ray, if you’d listened to “Louie Louie” with these so-called dirty lyrics in front of you, you would’ve sworn that’s what you were hearing.

The FCC then contacted Scepter Records, asked if these were really the lyrics to “Louie Louie.” Scepter Records told them those were not the lyrics, sent the FCC a lyric sheet.

These lyrics were “completely unobjectionable.”

According to Ray, if you’d listened to “Louie Louie” with these lyrics in front of you, you’d swear that’s what they were singing.

Ray claims The Commission dropped its investigation because the lyrics to “Louie Louie” were, “so mumbled and garbled you couldn’t tell what the hell was on it.”

Jason Shrinsky, however, a communications lawyer now in private practice who was the Attorney Advisor to Complaints and Compliance at the time, claims there were actually two different recorded versions of “Louie Louie” getting circulated.

“‘Louie Louie’ was scrutinized,” says Shrinsky. “It was played so slow the words were slurred. And I spent at least five days listening to that lyric. At least five days.”

According to Shrinsky one version of “Louie Louie” was “definitely profane as shit,” and he was certain it was this version which radio stations were playing over the air.

But when the FCC wrote the record company, says Shrinsky, they were given a totally different record – one on which the objectionable language had been removed.

Shrinsky says the reason The Commission never took any action on “Louie Louie” was because they could never prove which version was getting played on the air.

Florence Greenburg, president of Scepter Records, claims she’s never heard anything about any second version of the record. “It’s all nonsense,” says Florence Greenburg. “There was no dirty record. I wouldn’t take anything dirty.”

Whatever the reason, the Federal Communications Commission took no action against “Louie Louie.” Some time later, however, the FCC did get a call from the Justice Department. Justice was looking into “Louie Louie.” They heard The Commission had a copy of the record. They wanted to listen to it. The Commission sent the whole “Louie Louie” file over to the Justice Department.

The Justice Department never gave it back.

At Scepter Records Florence Greenburg got a little visit from the FBI. The FBI came down to Bell Sound Studios and wanted to hear every tape from the “Louie Louie” sessions to see if there had been any intent to record the song so that the dirty words could be understood when it was played slow. The FBI didn’t find anything wrong with “Louie Louie,” but in the course of its investigation it did discover that The Lord’s Prayer sounds a little funny if you play it slow enough.

“Louie Louie” sold several million records, popped up onto the charts several times through the Sixties, was re-released in 1966 and later banned as a Golden Oldie, leaving a bitter, disillusioned old Jewish man in the offices of Limax Music in Santa Monica.

At its peak “Louie Louie” climbed to Number 2 on the national charts. It finished Number 99 for the year in 1964.

“It was a hit three times,” Florence Greenburg remembers sadly. “I could use another one like that.”

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