FBI Spent Years 'Researching' The Lyrics To 'Louie, Louie' Before Realizing The Copyright Office Must Have Them
from the really,-now? dept
Last week, as you may or may not have heard, a guy named Jack Ely passed away at the age of 71. The name may not be that familiar, but the voice almost certainly is. Jack Ely was — fairly briefly — the lead singer of the Kingsmen, and happened to do a cover song in a single take under poor conditions, that created one of the most memorable songs in rock and roll history, also known as Louie Louie:
There are lots of documents about the FBI playing the record, repeatedly, at different speeds, and all coming to the conclusion that you and I and everyone else already knows: the lyrics are basically indecipherable.
And that’s because the band was in a tiny studio with just three mics, played a single take of the song and Ely had to scream at a microphone on the ceiling trying to have his voice heard above the instruments (a task he basically failed at doing). But, the idea that there was a mystery to the lyrics is kind of ridiculous for a few reasons, the first one being that the song is a cover song, and the FBI could have easily listened to a few of the earlier versions of the song, such as the original by Richard Berry, or another popular one by Rockin Robin Roberts and The Fabulous Wailers (the one that inspired the Kingsmen to do the cover). You can hear both those and another one right here. Their lyrics are a lot more intelligible in all of those versions, and you can pretty quickly tell that the lyrics to the Kingsmen version is supposed to be the Rockin Robin Roberts version.
Also, as Marc Randazza notes, it took nearly two years for someone in the FBI to think, hey, isn’t the song registered at the Copyright Office down the street? Maybe we should send someone over there to find out what it says? This was after the FBI had reached out to the record label (who gave them the accurate lyrics) along with the original author of the song, Richard Berry, who told them the lyrics. Oddly, apparently, the FBI never bothered to ask Ely himself what he sang, though I’m sure he would have said the same damn lyrics, which are below:
Oh, and as a general postscript, for all the hand wringing about possible obscenities in the song… there actually is one. Just not in the lyrics. At 54 seconds into the song, the drummer Lynn Easton actually fumbled his drumsticks banging them together and yells out “fuck.” The FBI never caught on to that, but you can actually hear it if you listen…