The History Lesson
For two years in the mid-’60s, American taxpayers funded a two-year investigation… of a frat party song. More precisely THE frat party song, a.k.a “Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen.
Now, the tune was originally performed in the ’50s by doo-wop act Richard Barry and The Pharoahs. In their version, you can hear the lyrics, nice and clear. It’s the lament of a Jamaican telling a bartender — Louie — about the girlfriend he left across the sea.
But the song wasn’t a hit until 1963, when The Kingsmen covered it. Recorded in one take for a grand total of $36, the record was a raucous mess, the vocals garbled beyond recognition. But it was great to drink tons of beer to.
Which is probably how the rumors began. Drunken frat kids swore they heard something dirty in the mumbled lyrics. Yeah, something about sex… or something! Parents caught wind of the rumor and were certain they could hear filthy obscenities too. Soon the song was banned in Indiana, and the FBI was on the case.
Agents spent months interrogating the Kingsmen and listening to “Louie Louie.” Over and over again. They tried to decipher the lyrics: Was the line “Me gotta go?” Or “Grab her way down low?” FBI lab technicians analyzed the tune at every possible speed. Their final conclusion? “Not sure.”
The Bureau’s final report declared the song, “Unintelligible at any speed,” and therefore tough to label obscene or otherwise.
“Louie Louie” went on to become one of the most covered songs of all time.
Made intelligible in liquid form by Jordan Magnuson, bar manager at Angel Face in Portland, Oregon, where The Kingsmen are from.
- 2 ounces Smith & Cross Rum
- 1 ounce Coconut puree
- 3 dashes chocolate bitters
- 1/4 ounce Laird’s Apple Brandy
- 1/4 ounce Maple syrup
Combine rum, coconut puree, chocolate bitters, brandy, and maple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Shake and double strain into a rocks glass, and then a little float Fernet-Vallet on top.