Thursday, February 25, 2010

FORGOTTEN MUSIC: Grab Your Woman, It's "Louie, Louie" Time!


You've heard the Kingsmen's version, probably many more times than you'd like. The all-thumbs guitar solo, the offbeat drumming, and most of all, the whiny, incomprehensible lyrics. Yeah, it's pretty bad, but somehow conveyed a primitive power that captivated a nation. Believe it or not, the recording was a hit even before word got out that the lyrics were dirty.

Anyway, the Kingsmen's version has so dominated the scene that other early (and some would say better) recordings of the song are neglected or forgotten. Though the song has now been recorded about 1,600 times (see, you'll rarely catch any of them on the radio (except, of course, the one by you-know-who).

Richard Berry, the doo-wop singer who wrote this classic ditty, released the first recording in 1957 with sort of a calypso beat. It was not a big hit. I prefer the Kingsmen's version to this, but present it as an historical arty-fact.

Though the song was forgotten elsewhere, bands in the Northwest discovered it made a great rock tune. Which group actually recorded it first is unclear, but this 1961 version by Rockin' Robin Roberts and The Wailers (of Tacoma, WA) was the one that got the air play and inspired the Kingsmen and the Raiders.

Legend has it this version was recorded in the same Portland, Oregon studio used by the Kingsmen, and during the very same week in 1963. Though the Raiders' version was a bigger hit in the Northwest, the Kingsmen caught a lucky break. Their record was picked up for national distribution, while the Raiders' rendition was squelched by Columbia Records mogul Mitch Miller, who hated rock 'n' roll.

This now-legendary Tacoma band was nurtured by The Wailers, and produced some of the most powerful rock of the sixties. In 1965, when most bands were trying to sound like The Beatles, The Sonics were doing this . . .

Yes, Louie had a softer side, too, and you've probably heard the one by The Sandpipers (of "Guantanamera" fame). But largely forgotten is this sultry rendition by Julie London. If you're sleepy at the end, play The Sonics' version again.

For links to more tunes on this first Forgotten Music Thursday, check out Scott Parker's blog!


Todd Mason said...

Thank goodness you included the band, of sorts, the Bunnies, recorded one of the worst recordings I've heard, but it was a damned lot of fun to do. (My ex's family raised rabbits and it was kind of a Box of Frogs concept, as well, though if we released any recordings it would've been a split 7"er of Covers (rabbits love to play in sheets and blankets) and original Droppings).

Evan Lewis said...

I hope you'll be posting that Bunnies song somewhere, Todd.

The Sonics are my all-time favorite band. I grew up near Tacoma, but my family moved away before the Northwest music scene really got hot. But every time I returned I'd hear The Sonics, The Wailers and other Northwest bands on the radio. Got to see the Sonics once in concert and once at a dance. It was like a religious experience. They reunited a couple of years ago and are touring the world. You can find them all over YouTube.

Chris said...

Good to know you're a Sonics fan, that makes you even cooler in my eyes, heh.

For me, "Louie, Louie" begins and ends with the mighty MOTORHEAD. Aye yai yai yai yai!

Evan Lewis said...

Nice one, Chris. Motorhead gets 'er done. One of my favorite "newer" versions is Iggy Pop's (the one with the Cold War lyrics).

Ray said...

Motorhead and The Kinks - two ends of the spectrum but best from the UK.

Julie London didn't send me to sleep - I like her.

George said...

I never knew about Julie London and "Louie, Louie"! Now I'll have to search for a copy!

David Cranmer said...

Well Julie is a favorite of mine and I enjoy her version but heck, even that first one has its good points. Bottom line: it is just a darn good song.

Interesting history Dave. Thanks.

Todd Mason said...

If I could find it, I might...more recently spotted was a piss-take version of "Kick Out the Jams" my brother and I (a fragment of the Buns) did one afternoon in our parents' family room, which is downstairs from the kichen and living room. We finish, there's a slight pause, and out mother has walked down the stairs and clearly instructs us, "Stop that right now...and don't ever do that again." Damned near put us on the floor.

Todd Mason said...

ROCKNROLLA and the car commercial didn't hurt the Sonics' current commercial viability any..."Have Love Will Travel" remains the necessary cut from them for me.

Evan Lewis said...

There are probably over 20 Sonics songs I'd put on the A List. I posted three more of them back in December:

Unknown said...

We want the Moops!

Richard Robinson said...

I'd only heard Kingsmen and Sonics before. That was enough. I'm L-L'd out. But thanks or the post. Now back to something more harmonic.

Evan Lewis said...

I'd guess the Sandpipers would probably come closest to pleasing you, Rick.

Scott D. Parker said...

Never heard of the Sonics but this one track alone makes me want to search out some tunes. Fascinating history. Particularly enjoyed the Raiders' costumes. Thanks.

Todd Mason said...

The only album I have is HERE ARE THE SONICS, and the only track I'd lose is "The Village Idiot"...but I love "Have Love, Will Travel" in a way that I love, say, the Holy Rollers' "What You Said"...or The Lyres' "Help You Ann"...

Todd Mason said...

Help You Ann

(hit the link on my name)

Evan Lewis said...

OK, you guys are really getting me into a Sonics mood. Here are some of my other Sonics favorites. I'd be surprised if most of them aren't on YouTube:

Dirty Robber
Shot Down
Boss Hoss
The Hustler
The Witch
Good Golly Miss Molly
Skinny Minny
He's Waitin'
Keep A Knockin'
Jenny Jenny
Bama Lama Lu
Leave My Kitten Alone
Maintaining My Cool
Santa Claus
You've Got Your Head on Backwards
Any Way the Wind Blows

-The rest are OK, too, with the exception (as Todd noted) of The Village Idiot. It was recorded for an Etiquette label Christmas album, and was really just the guys goofing off in the studio.

R/T said...

The Julie London rendition has to be the funniest (and--in some ways--the best) version of the song ever recorded. I don't suppose she intended it as a joke, but I couldn't stop smiling (and nearly laughing out loud). Perhaps she was under the influence when doing the recording session; it is hard to believe she could have consented to it without some sort of mind altering chemicals. Thanks for sharing such an outrageous moment in musical (?) history.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Julie London-must hear that version. When I was a teenager all the men I knew were in love with her.

Iren said...

Evan, glad to see the Sonics and the Wailers get thier due-- as both have been among my favorite bands from the 60s garage rock era. I like my Louie, Louie loud, over driven and wailin'.

Cap'n Bob said...

You really ought to show the Moops doing it at LouieFest. I hate to be a heretic, but I'm not that fond of the song. As Marv Lachman would say, good but not great.

Juri said...

WHAT?! No "Strychnine"?!

Evan Lewis said...

Holy Smoke! How did I leave Strychnine off that list?? As I've noted before, I even in a band called "The Strychnine Five"!