Today is the 48th anniversary of Portland, Ore., garage-rock group the Kingsmen recording their version of Richard Berry's "Louie Louie." The Kingsmen's version would end up being the most enduring and controversial take of the song, unleashing the U.S. government on the group and the song for its supposed masked profanity and depraved lyrical content.
Aside from being one of the first rock songs to get under the skin of scared parents, "Louie Louie" is one of the most influential garage songs in the genre, and would help form what rock would sound like for decades to come. Even today you can feel the mist of the Kingsmen on modern bands like the Black Lips and Best Coast, and even locals like The Cutters and Funboys.
As one of the monoliths of rock and roll, "Louie Louie" gets covered a lot, either reverently or otherwise. Black Flag covered it mainly because it was primal at its core, and also represented the old guard of rock that hardcore and punk were railing against, even as they shared equal qualities a decade or two removed.
In 1994, a compilation entitled The Louie Louie Collection was released with bands from the Northwest recording versions of the area's first true locally spawned hit.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
You can find versions of the song from Led Zeppelin, the Grateful Dead, The Kinks, The Clash, and the Doors online from various outlets, mostly bootlegs. Have fun searching them out. Our fave, though, is Thee Headcoats' take.