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Louie Louie

"Louie Louie"
Single by Richard Berry
A-side You Are My Sunshine
B-side Louie Louie
Released April 1957[1]
Format Vinyl single
Recorded 1957
Genre Rhythm and blues
Length 2:09
Label Flip 321
Writer(s) Richard Berry
Richard Berry singles chronology
"Take The Key" "Louie Louie" "Sweet Sugar You"
Note: Flip 321 re-released later in 1957 with "Louie Louie" as A-side with "Rock, Rock, Rock" B-side.

"Louie Louie" is an American rhythm and blues song written by Richard Berry in 1955 and best known for the 1963 hit version by the Kingsmen. It has become a standard in pop and rock, with hundreds of versions recorded by different artists. The song was originally written and performed in the style of a Jamaican ballad. It tells, in simple verse–chorus form, the first-person story of a Jamaican sailor returning to the island to see his lady love.

The Kingsmen's edition was the subject of an FBI investigation about the supposed but nonexistent obscenity of the lyrics, an investigation that ended without prosecution.[2] Ironically, the song notably includes the drummer yelling "Fuck!" after dropping his drumstick at the 0:54 mark.

"Louie Louie" has been recognized by organizations and publications worldwide for its influence on the history of rock and roll. A partial list (see "Recognition and rankings" table below) includes the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Grammy Hall of Fame, National Public Radio, VH1, Rolling Stone, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Recording Industry Association of America. In addition to new versions appearing regularly on YouTube and elsewhere, other major examples of the song's legacy include the unsuccessful attempt in 1985 to make it the state song of Washington, the celebration of International Louie Louie Day every year on April 11, the annual Louie Louie Parade in Philadelphia from 1985 to 1989, the LouieFest in Tacoma from 2003 to 2012, and the ongoing annual Louie Louie Parade and Festival in Peoria.


  • Original version by Richard Berry 1
  • Cover versions 2
    • Rockin' Robin Roberts 2.1
    • The Kingsmen 2.2
    • Paul Revere & the Raiders 2.3
    • 1960s 2.4
    • 1970s 2.5
      • Motörhead version 2.5.1
      • Other 1970s versions 2.5.2
    • 1980s 2.6
      • Black Flag version 2.6.1
      • Other 1980s versions 2.6.2
    • 1990s 2.7
    • 2000s 2.8
    • "Louie Louie" compilations 2.9
  • Lyrics investigation 3
  • Cultural impact 4
    • Use in movies 4.1
    • Washington State Song 4.2
    • International Louie Louie Day 4.3
    • LouieFest 4.4
    • Louie Louie sculpture 4.5
    • Recognition and rankings 4.6
  • References 5
  • Notes 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8

Original version by Richard Berry

Richard Berry was inspired to write the song in 1955 after listening to and performing the song "El Loco Cha Cha" with Ricky Rillera and the Rhythm Rockers. The tune was written originally as "Amarren Al Loco" ("Tie up the crazy guy") by Cuban bandleader Rosendo Ruiz Jr. – also known as Rosendo Ruiz Quevedo – but became best known in the "El Loco Cha Cha" arrangement by René Touzet which included a rhythmic ten-note "1-2-3 1–2 1-2-3 1–2" riff.[3]

“Louie Louie” 10-note riff

Touzet performed the tune regularly in Los Angeles clubs in the 1950s. In Berry's mind, the words "Louie Louie" superimposed themselves over the bass riff. Lyrically, the first person perspective of the song was influenced by "One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)", which is sung from the perspective of a customer talking to a bartender (Berry's bartender's name is Louie).[4] Berry cited Chuck Berry's "Havana Moon" and his exposure to Latin American music for the song's speech pattern and references to Jamaica.[5]

Richard Berry released his version in April 1957 (Flip Records 321[1]), originally as a B-side, with his backing band the Pharaohs, and scored a regional hit on the west coast, particularly in San Francisco. When the group toured the Pacific Northwest, local R&B bands began to play the song, increasing its popularity. The track was then re-released as an A-side.[6] However, the single never charted on Billboard's national rhythm and blues or pop charts. Berry's label reported that the single had sold 40,000 copies. After a series of unsuccessful follow-ups, Berry sold his portion of publishing and songwriting rights for $750 to the head of Flip Records in 1959.[7]

While the title of the song is often rendered with a comma ("Louie, Louie"), in 1988 Berry told Esquire magazine that the correct title of the song was "Louie Louie", with no comma.[8]

Although similar to the original, the version on Rhino's 1983 The Best of Louie, Louie compilation[9] is actually a note-for-note re-recording created because licensing could not be obtained for Berry's 1957 version.[10] The original version was not released on CD until the Ace Records Love That Louie compilation in 2002.

Cover versions

By some accounts "Louie Louie" is the world's most recorded rock song with over 1,600 versions and counting (with more appearing regularly on YouTube and elsewhere).[11]

Rockin' Robin Roberts

"Louie Louie"
Single by Rockin' Robin Roberts
B-side Maryanne
Released 1961
Recorded 1960
Genre Rhythm and blues, rock and roll
Length 2:40
Label Etiquette ET-1

Robin Roberts developed an interest in rock'n'roll and rhythm and blues records as a high school student in Tacoma, Washington. Among the songs he began performing as an occasional guest singer with a local band, the Bluenotes, in 1958 were "Louie Louie", which he had heard on Berry's obscure original single, and Bobby Day's "Rockin' Robin", which gave him his stage name. In 1959, Roberts left the Bluenotes and began singing with another local band, the Wailers (often known as the Fabulous Wailers, who had had a hit record with the instrumental "Tall Cool One"). Known for his dynamic onstage performances, Roberts added "Louie Louie" to the band's set and, in 1960 recorded the track with the Wailers as his backing band.[12] The arrangement, devised by Roberts with the band, included Roberts' ad-lib "Let's give it to 'em, RIGHT NOW!!".[13] Released on the band's own label, Etiquette, in early 1961, it became a hit locally and was then reissued and promoted by Liberty Records in Los Angeles, but it failed to chart. Roberts was killed in an automobile accident in 1967.[12]

The Kingsmen

"Louie Louie"
Original release
Single by The Kingsmen
from the album The Kingsmen in Person
B-side Haunted Castle
Released May 1963
Recorded April 1963
Genre Rock and roll, protopunk, garage rock
Length 2:42
  • Jerden 712 (first release)
  • Wand 143 (release that charted)
Writer(s) Richard Berry
Producer(s) Ken Chase, Jerry Dennon
The Kingsmen singles chronology
"Louie Louie"

On April 6, 1963,[14][15] a rock and roll group from Portland, Oregon, called the Kingsmen, chose "Louie Louie" as their second recording, their first having been "Peter Gunn Rock". The Kingsmen recorded the song at Northwestern, Inc., Motion Pictures and Recording in Portland. The session cost $50, and the band split the cost.[16] (On September 5, 2013, the city of Portland dedicated a plaque at the site, 411 SW 13th Avenue, to commemorate the event.[17] An earlier version placed by the Oregon Historical Society had been stolen shortly after its dedication in 1993.)

The session was produced by Ken Chase. Chase was a local radio personality on the AM rock station 91 KISN and also owned the teen nightclub that hosted the Kingsmen as their house band. The engineer for the session was the studio owner, Robert Lindahl. The Kingsmen's lead singer Jack Ely based his version on the recording by Rockin' Robin Roberts with the Fabulous Wailers, unintentionally introducing a change in the rhythm as he did. "I showed the others how to play it with a 1–2–3, 1–2, 1–2–3 beat instead of the 1–2–3–4, 1–2, 1–2–3–4 beat that is on the (Wailers) record," recalled Ely. The night before their recording session, the band played a 90-minute version of the song during a gig at a local teen club.

The Kingsmen's studio version was recorded in one take. They also recorded the "B" side of the release, an original instrumental by the group called "Haunted Castle".

A significant error on the Kingsmen version occurs just after the lead guitar break. As the group was going by the Wailers version, which has a brief restatement of the riff two times over before the lead vocalist comes back in, it would be expected that Ely would do the same. Ely, however, overshot his mark, coming in too soon, before the restatement of the riff. He realized his mistake and stopped the verse short, but the band did not realize that he had done so. As a quick fix, drummer Lynn Easton covered the pause with a drum fill, but before the verse ended, the rest of the band went into the chorus at the point where they expected it to be. This error is now so embedded in the consciousness of some groups that they deliberately duplicate it when performing the song.

The Kingsmen transformed Berry's easy-going ballad into a raucous romp, complete with a twangy guitar, occasional background chatter, and nearly unintelligible lyrics by Ely.[18] A guitar break is triggered by the shout, "Okay, let's give it to 'em right now!", which first appeared in the Wailers version,[19] as did the entire guitar break (although, in the Wailers version, a few notes differ, and the entire band played the break). Critic Dave Marsh suggests it is this moment that gives the recording greatness: "[Ely] went for it so avidly you'd have thought he'd spotted the jugular of a lifelong enemy, so crudely that, at that instant, Ely sounds like Donald Duck on helium. And it's that faintly ridiculous air that makes the Kingsmen's record the classic that it is, especially since it's followed by a guitar solo that's just as wacky."[20]

First released in May 1963, the single was initially issued by the small Jerden label, before being picked up by the larger Wand Records and released by them in October 1963. It entered the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for December 7, and peaked at number two the following week, a spot which it held for six weeks; it would remain in the top 10 through December and January before dropping off in early February.[21] In total, the Kingsmen's version spent 16 weeks on the Hot 100. (Singles by the Singing Nun, then Bobby Vinton, monopolized the top slot for eight weeks.) "Louie Louie" did reach number one on the Cashbox pop chart for two weeks, as well as number one on the Cashbox R&B chart.[22] It was the last #1 on Cashbox before Beatlemania hit the United States with "I Want to Hold Your Hand".[23] The version quickly became a standard at teen parties in the U.S. during the 1960s, even reappearing on the charts in 1966.

"Louie Louie"
Second Wand release with "Lead vocal by Jack Ely" text
Single by The Kingsmen
from the album The Kingsmen In Person
B-side Haunted Castle
Released October 1963
Recorded April 1963
Length 2:42 (2:24 on label)
Label Wand 143
Writer(s) Richard Berry
Producer(s) Ken Chase, Jerry Dennon

Another factor in the success of the record may have been the rumor that the lyrics were intentionally slurred by the Kingsmen---allegedly to cover the fact that it was laced with profanity, graphically depicting sex between the sailor and his lady. Crumpled pieces of paper professing to be "the real lyrics" to "Louie Louie" circulated among teens. The song was banned on many radio stations and in many places in the United States, including Indiana, where it was personally prohibited by Governor Matthew Welsh.[24]

These actions were taken despite the small matter that practically no one could distinguish the actual lyrics. Denials of chicanery by Kingsmen and Ely did not stop the controversy. The FBI started a 31-month investigation into the matter and concluded they were "unable to interpret any of the wording in the record."[2] Ironically, however, drummer Lynn Easton later admitted that he yelled "Fuck" after fumbling a drumstick at 0:54 on the record.[16][25][26][27]

Sales of the Kingsmen record were so low (reportedly 600) that the group considered disbanding. Things changed when Boston's biggest DJ, Arnie Ginsburg, was given the record by a pitchman. Amused by its slapdash sound, he played it on his program as "The Worst Record of the Week". Despite the slam, listener response was swift and positive.

By the end of October, it was listed in Billboard as a regional breakout and a "bubbling under" entry for the national chart. Meanwhile, the Raiders version, with far stronger promotion, was becoming a hit in California and was also listed as "bubbling under" one week after the Kingsmen debuted on the chart. For a few weeks, the two singles appeared destined to battle each other, but demand for the Kingsmen single acquired momentum and, by the end of 1963, Columbia Records had stopped promoting the Raiders version as ordered by Mitch Miller.

By the time the Kingsmen version had achieved national popularity, the band had split. Two rival editions—one featuring lead singer Ely, the other with Lynn Easton who held the rights to the band's name—were competing for live audiences across the country. A settlement was reached later in 1964 giving Easton the right to the Kingsmen name but requiring all future pressings of the original version of "Louie Louie" to display "Lead vocal by Jack Ely" on the label.

On November 9, 1998, after a protracted lawsuit that lasted five years and cost $1.3 million, the Kingsmen were awarded ownership of all their recordings released on Wand Records from Gusto Records, including "Louie Louie". They had not been paid royalties on the songs since the 1960s.[28]

When Jack Ely died on April 28, 2015 his son reported that "... my father would say, 'We were initially just going to record the song as an instrumental, and at the last minute I decided I'd sing it'." When it came time to do that, however, Ely discovered the sound engineer had raised the studio's only microphone several feet above his head. Then he placed Ely in the middle of his fellow musicians, all in an effort to create a better "live feel" for the recording. The result, Ely would say over the years, was that he had to stand on his toes, lean his head back and shout as loudly as he could just to be heard over the drums and guitars.[29]

Paul Revere & the Raiders

"Louie Louie"
Single by Paul Revere & the Raiders
from the album "Here They Come!"
B-side Night Train
Released June 1963
Recorded April 1963
Length 2:38
Label Sandē 101
Producer(s) Roger Hart
Paul Revere & the Raiders singles chronology
"So Fine" "Louie Louie" "Louie Go Home"

Paul Revere & the Raiders also recorded a version of "Louie Louie", probably on April 13, 1963, in the same Portland studio as the Kingsmen.[30][31] The recording was paid for and produced by KISN radio personality Roger Hart, who soon became personal manager for the band. Released on Hart's Sandē label, their version was more successful locally. Columbia Records issued the single nationally in June 1963 and it went to #1 in the West and Hawaii. The quick success of "Louie Louie" suddenly halted, however, and a few years later Paul Revere & the Raiders learned why: Columbia A&R man Mitch Miller, who did not like rock n' roll, had pulled the plug on their version.

Robert Lindahl, president and chief engineer of NWI and sound engineer on both the Kingsmen and Raiders recordings,[32] noted that the Raiders version was not known for "garbled lyrics" or an amateurish recording technique. But despite these attributes, the single never seized the public's attention the way the less-polished Kingsmen version did.


After the Kingsmen and Raiders versions, several other bands recorded the song:


Motörhead version

"Louie Louie"
Single by Motörhead
from the album Overkill (re-issue)
B-side Tear Ya Down
Released September 30, 1978
Format 7"
Recorded Wessex Studios
London 1977
Genre Hard rock
Length 2:47
Label Bronze Records/EMI
Producer(s) Neil Richmond
Motörhead singles chronology
"Louie Louie"

"Louie Louie" was Motörhead's first single for Bronze Records in 1978. It was a relatively faithful cover of the song, with "Fast" Eddie Clarke's guitar emulating the Hohner Pianet electric piano riff. It was released as a 7" vinyl single and reached number 68 on the UK Singles Chart. The reverse cover carries the dog Latin motto "NIL ILLEGITIMUM CARBORUNDUM", which is humorously said to mean "Don't let the bastards grind you down". The song is released with "Tear Ya Down" and appears later on the CD re-issues of Overkill and The Best Of Motörhead compilation. On October 25, 1978, a pre-recording of the band playing this song was broadcast on the BBC show Top of the Pops.[33]

Track listing
  1. "Louie Louie" (Richard Berry)
  2. "Tear Ya Down" (Eddie Clarke, Ian Kilmister, Phil Taylor)
  • "Fast" Eddie Clarke – guitars, vocals
  • Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor – drums
  • Lemmy (Ian Kilmister) – bass, lead vocals
  • Photographs – Motorcycle Irene

Other 1970s versions

  • In 1972, Berry released the song again as a single on the Happy Tiger label. This was the label's final release before it folded.[34]
  • Also in 1972 Led Zeppelin performed a version of the song in Los Angeles which can be heard on the bootleg Burn Like a Candle. This performance is the source of most of the 2003 live album How the West Was Won, but "Louie Louie" was omitted from the official release.
  • MC5 also performed "Louie Louie" in Helsinki in 1972.
  • Toots & the Maytals recorded a version for their album Funky Kingston. It has been suggested that use of the Kingsmen's beat may have helped lead to the invention of reggae music,[35] but the Maytals track used a Jamaican beat unrelated to the Kingsmen version and their album was released at least four years after reggae became a distinct form, and at least six years after the "rock steady" beat on the Maytals track was first developed.
  • The 1973 song "Brother Louie" by the UK band Hot Chocolate was strongly inspired by "Louie Louie" and includes a minor-key reprise of the chorus. The song, about an interracial romance, became a No. 1 U.S. hit that same year in a cover version by the New York band Stories.
  • In 1974, the Stooges (a.k.a. Iggy and the Stooges) performed the song at their final concert, with some obscene lyric changes, which was released on their live album Metallic K.O. in 1976.
  • A version of "Louie Louie" performed by the Clash was released on the Louie is a Punkrocker vinyl bootleg in 1977.[36]
  • Re-recorded versions by Jack Ely were created in 1976 and 1980 and appeared on multiple "original artist" compilations of 60s hits as by "Jack Ely" or "The Kingsmen featuring Jack Ely".


Black Flag version

"Louie Louie"
The cover featured Black Flag's new singer, Dez Cadena, and some of his improvised lyrics to "Louie Louie".
Single by Black Flag
B-side "Damaged I"
Released 1981
Format 7-inch, CD
Genre Hardcore punk
Length 05:22
Label Posh Boy
Writer(s) Richard Berry, Dez Cadena
Producer(s) Spot, Black Flag
Black Flag chronology
Jealous Again
"Louie Louie"
Six Pack

The Hermosa Beach, California hardcore punk band Black Flag released a cover version of "Louie Louie" as a single in 1981 through Posh Boy Records.[37] It was the band's first release with Dez Cadena as singer, replacing Ron Reyes who had left the group the previous year.[38][39] Cadena would go on to sing on the Six Pack EP before switching to rhythm guitar and being replaced on vocals by Henry Rollins.[38][40] Cadena improvised his own lyrics to "Louie Louie", such as "You know the pain that's in my heart / It just shows I'm not very smart / Who needs love when you've got a gun? / Who needs love to have any fun?"[37] The single also included an early version of "Damaged I", which would be re-recorded with Rollins for the band's debut album, Damaged, later that year.[37] Demo versions of both tracks, recorded with Cadena, were included on the 1982 compilation album Everything Went Black.[41]

The front cover art shows the main verse of the lyrics to "Louie Louie" on a photograph by Edward Colver featuring Black Flag's singer Dez Cadena.

Bryan Carroll of AllMusic gave the single four out of five stars, saying that "Of the more than 1,500 commitments of Richard Berry's 'Louie Louie' to wax ... Black Flag's volatile take on the song is incomparable. No strangers to controversy themselves, the band pummel the song with their trademark pre-Henry Rollins-era guitar sludge, while singer Dez Cadena spits out his nihilistic rewording of the most misunderstood lyrics in rock history."[37] Both tracks from the single were included on the 1983 compilation album The First Four Years, and "Louie Louie" was also included on 1987's Wasted...Again.[42][43] A live version of "Louie Louie", recorded by the band's 1985 lineup, was released on the live album Who's Got the 10½?, with Rollins improvising his own lyrics.[44]

Side A
No. Title Lyrics Music Length
1. "Louie Louie"   Richard Berry, Dez Cadena Berry 1:17
Side B
No. Title Lyrics Music Length
1. "Damaged I"   Dez Cadena Greg Ginn 4:05
Total length:

Other 1980s versions

  • The Fat Boys recorded a version of "Louie Louie" in 1988 on their album Coming Back Hard Again; their version featured new lyrics written by the group about the history of the song and its original controversy.[46] The single reached #89 on the Billboard Hot 100.
  • The Kingsmen led the audience in a performance of "Louie Louie" at the end of Bud Clark's Inaugural Ball beginning his term as Mayor of Portland, Oregon in 1985.[47]
  • George Duke recorded a version in 1981 for their album The Clarke/Duke Project.
  • Australian Crawl recorded a live version of the song on their 1983 album Phalanx and also released the song as a single.


  • Jack Ely released two new versions, "Louie Louie (Cali '86)" and "Ska Louie", on his 1990 album The Kingsman.
  • Young MC's take on the song was included in the 1990 film Coupe de Ville. The movie includes a lengthy scene where the three brother characters argue over the lyrics while the Kingsmen's version plays. The movie then returns to the topic in the final narration and Young MC's version then plays as the credits roll.


In August 2003, 754 guitarists played a ten-minute rendition of "Louie Louie" at Cheney Stadium, in Tacoma, Washington. This event was part of the annual LouieFest in Tacoma.

In July 2004, Todd Snider released his East Nashville Skyline album which contained "The Ballad of the Kingsmen", a song telling the story of the FBI investigation and connecting it to song lyrics by Marilyn Manson and Eminem.

Played by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band within the song "Glory Days" during the 2009 Working on a Dream Tour.

The Smashing Pumpkins also released a cover of the song in their Live Smashing Pumpkins album series.

"Louie Louie" compilations

In 1983 Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus". The Best of Louie Louie, Volume 2[49] followed in 1992 with versions by Paul Revere and the Raiders, Mongo Santamaria, Pete Fountain, the Kinks, Ike and Tina Turner, and others.

In 1994 Jerden Records released The Louie Louie Collection,[50] a Northwest-oriented compilation featuring versions by the Kingsmen, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Don & the Goodtimes, Little Bill & the Adventurers, the Feelies, Ian Whitcomb, the University of Washington Husky Marching Band, and others. The UW Husky Marching Band has been playing "Louie Louie" for over 40 years.[51]

In 1997 The First Louie Louie Spanish Compilation[52] was released by Louie Records featuring 11 versions by the Flaming Sideburns, the Navahodads, and others.

In 2002 Ace Records released Love That Louie: The Louie Louie Files,[53] a comprehensive overview of the origins, impact and legacy of "the cultural phenomenon known as 'Louie Louie'." Featuring detailed sleeve notes by Alec Palao, the CD contains 24 tracks divided into eight sections titled "The Original Louie", "Inspirational Louie", "Northwest Louie", "Louie As A Way Of Life", "Transatlantic Louie", "Louie: The Rewrite", "Louie: The Sequel" and "Louie Goes Home". The first CD reissue of Richard Berry's original version is included along with multiple historically important versions.

Lyrics investigation

In February 1964, an outraged parent wrote to Robert Kennedy, then the Attorney General of the United States, alleging that the lyrics of "Louie Louie" were obscene. The Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated the complaint. In June 1965, the FBI laboratory obtained a copy of the Kingsmen recording and, after four months of investigation, concluded that it could not be interpreted, that it was "unintelligible at any speed,"[54] and therefore the Bureau could not find that the recording was obscene.[2] In September 1965, an FBI agent interviewed one member of the Kingsmen, who denied that there was any obscenity in the song. The FBI did not interview songwriter Richard Berry, nor did they consult the lyrics on file with the U.S. Copyright Office.[2][55]

A history of the song and its notoriety was published in 1992 by Dave Marsh, but permission could not be obtained to publish the lyrics.[56] Richard Berry told Esquire magazine in 1988 that the Kingsmen had sung the song exactly as written.[8]

The lyrics controversy resurfaced briefly in 2005 when the superintendent of the school system in Benton Harbor, Michigan, refused to let the marching band at one of the schools play the song in a parade. She later relented.[57][58]

Cultural impact

It is unknown exactly how many versions of "Louie Louie" have been recorded, but it is believed to be over 1,500 (according to[59] The Kingsmen version has remained the most popular version of the song, retaining its association with wild partying. It enjoyed a comeback in 1978–1979 and was associated with college fraternity parties when it was sung, complete with the supposedly obscene lyrics, by Bluto (John Belushi) and his fellow Delta House brothers in the movie National Lampoon's Animal House despite the anachronism of the film taking place in 1962, a year before the Kingsmen recording (although this is mitigated by the fact that the Deltas were fans of at least one black R&B musician, and 1962 was five years after Richard Berry released his original version of the song, plus the song had been popular with local bands in the Northwest following Rockin' Robin Roberts' 1961 single). Aside from the Animal House appearance, the song appeared in many other films, typically in raucous and humorous contexts. An instrumental version played by the Rice University Marching Owl Band (MOB) is heard in the final scene of The Naked Gun (1988).[60] (In the film, the University of Southern California Marching Band is seen trampling Ricardo Montalban's already-flattened character,[61] although it is the MOB that is heard playing.)

Some bands have taken liberties with the lyrics, including attempts to record the supposed "obscene lyrics". It is believed the first artists to do so were the Stooges, whose version can be heard on their live album Metallic K.O. Iggy Pop later recorded a more civilized cover version of the song, with new lyrics composed by Pop, for his 1993 album American Caesar. He continues to play it live at shows.

The Who were directed in their early recording career by the riff/rhythm of "Louie Louie", owing to the song's influence on the Kinks, who, like the Who, were produced by Shel Talmy — the Kinks on the Pye label and the Who on Brunswick. Talmy wanted the successful sounds of the Kinks' 1964 hits "You Really Got Me", "All Day and All of the Night", and "Till the End of the Day" to be copied by the Who. As a result, Pete Townshend penned "I Can't Explain", released in March 1965. During a pre-song interview with host Brian Matthew on Saturday Club in May, Pete explained that "I Can't Explain" was released to "introduce the Who to the charts" and that they were now trying to create the sort of sound they achieved on stage at present — hence the new single they were about to sing live on Saturday Club, the feedback-driven, Mod-inspired "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere". (In 1979 "Louie Louie" would be featured on the soundtrack album to Quadrophenia.)

"Louie Louie" repeatedly figured in the musical lexicon of Uncle Meat). Quick interpolations of "Louie Louie" also frequently turn up in other Zappa works.

The song has been used in a few Simpsons episodes: "Homer Goes To College" over the end credits, "Kill the Alligator and Run" when Homer is in the boat, and "We're on the Road to D'ohwhere" when Lisa's orchestra are rehearsing and their instruments begin to rust.

Use in movies

In addition to the previously mentioned American Graffiti (1973), National Lampoon's Animal House (1978), Quadrophenia (1979), The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988), Coupe de Ville (1988), Wayne's World 2 (1993), and Coffee and Cigarettes (2003), other movies and documentaries featuring versions of "Louie Louie" include Tijuana Blue (1972),[62] Heart Like A Wheel (1983), Nightmares (1983), Blood Simple (1984), The Cult: Live in Milan (1986),[63] Survival Game (1987),[64] The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1987), Love at Stake (1988), Fright Night Part 2 (1989), Jennifer Eight (1992), Passed Away (1992), Dave (1992), A Simple Twist of Fate (1994), Mr. Holland's Opus (1995), Man of the House (1995), Down Periscope (1996), My Best Friend's Wedding (1997), Wild Things (1998), ABC - The Alphabetic Tribe (1998),[65] Say It Isn't So (2001), La bande du drugstore (2002),[66] 24 Hour Party People (2002), Old School (2003), Friday Night Lights (2004), Guy X (2005), This Is England (2006), Bobby (2006), Capitalism: A Love Story (2009), Lemmy (2010),[67] Knight and Day (2010), and Best Possible Taste: The Kenny Everett Story (2012).[68][69]

The song was used in television commercials for Spaced Invaders (1990), but did not appear in the movie.

Washington State Song

In 1985, Ross Shafer, host and a writer-performer of the late-night comedy series Almost Live! on the Seattle TV station KING, spearheaded an effort to have "Louie Louie" replace "Washington, My Home" by Helen Davis as Washington's official state song.[70] Picking up on this initially prankish effort, Whatcom County Councilman Craig Cole introduced Resolution No. 85-12 in the state legislature, citing the need for a "contemporary theme song that can be used to engender a sense of pride and community, and in the enhancement of tourism and economic development". His resolution also called for the creation of a new "Louie Louie County". While the House did not pass it, the Senate's Resolution 1985-37 declared April 12, 1985, "Louie Louie Day". A crowd of 4,000, estimated by press reports, convened at the state capitol that day for speeches, singalongs, and performances by the Wailers, the Kingsmen, and Paul Revere & the Raiders. Two days later, a Seattle event commemorated the occasion with the premiere performance of a new, Washington-centric version of the song written by composer Berry.[71][72] While the effort failed in the end, the song is still played, following "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch at all Seattle Mariners home games.

International Louie Louie Day

April 11, Richard Berry's birthday, is celebrated as International Louie Louie Day[73][74] and is listed by Chase's Calendar of Events, the National Special Events Registry[75] and other sources. Support for International Louie Louie Day and other "Louie Louie"-related observances is provided by the Louie Louie Advocacy and Music Appreciation Society (LLAMAS)[76][77] and "Louie Louie" fans worldwide. Other "Louie Louie"-related events in April include the release of Richard Berry's original version (1957), the Kingsmen and Raiders recording sessions (1963), "Louie Louie Day" declarations by the mayor of Seattle and the State of Washington (1985) and the State of Oregon (1986), and the resolution of the court case awarding rights to the Kingsmen (1998) for their recordings including their version of "Louie Louie'".


The City of Tacoma held a summer music and arts festival from 2003 to 2012 in July named LouieFest.[78] The event began in 2003 as the "1000 Guitars Festival" and featured a group performance of "Louie Louie" open to anyone with a guitar. The event was renamed LouieFest in 2004. Members of the Wailers, Kingsmen, Raiders, Sonics and other groups with "Louie Louie" associations regularly made appearances. The grand finale each year was the "Celebration of 1000 Guitars" mass performance of "Louie Louie" on the main stage.

Louie Louie sculpture

A sculpture titled "Louie Louie, 2013" by Las Vegas-based artist Tim Bavington is displayed on the lobby wall of the newly renovated Edith Green - Wendell Wyatt Federal Building in Portland, Oregon. The work is constructed of 80 colored glass and acrylic panels representing the waveforms of the song using Bavington's concept of sculpting sound waves. [79][80]

Recognition and rankings

Summary of "Louie Louie" rankings and recognition in major publications and surveys.

Source Poll/Survey Year Rank
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll 1995 None[81]
National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Grammy Hall of Fame 1999 None[82]
National Public Radio The 300 Most Important American Records of the 20th Century 1999 None[83]
The Wire Magazine The 100 Most Important Records Ever Made 1992 None[84]
Mojo Magazine Ultimate Jukebox: The 100 Singles You Must Own 2003 #1[85]
Rolling Stone Magazine 40 Songs That Changed The World 2007 #5[86]
All Time Top 1000 Albums, Colin Larkin The All-Time Top 100 Singles 2000 #6[87]
VH1 100 Greatest Songs of Rock and Roll 2000 #11[88]
The Heart of Rock and Soul, Dave Marsh The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made 1989 #11[89]
Rolling Stone Magazine The 100 Best Singles of the Last 25 Years 1989 #18[90]
VH1 100 Greatest Dance Songs 2000 #27[91]
Mojo Magazine 100 Greatest Singles of All Time 1997 #51[92]
Rolling Stone Magazine The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time 2004 #54[93]
NEA and RIAA Songs of the Century 1999 #57[94]
Mojo Magazine Big Bangs: 100 Records That Changed The World 2007 # 70[95]
NME Magazine The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time 2014 #157[96]
WCBS-FM Top 1001 Songs of the Century 2005 #184[97]


  • (Marsh was unable to get proper legal clearance to print the lyrics to "Louie Louie" in this book.)  
  • Peterson, Dick (2005). Louie Louie Me Gotta Go Now.  
  • Blecha, Peter (2009). Sonic Boom! The History of Northwest Rock: From Louie Louie to Smells Like Teen Spirit.  


  1. ^ a b 45 Discography for Flip Records, Global Dog Productions, accessed 2009-11-11
  2. ^ a b c d "'"The Lascivious 'Louie Louie. The Smoking Gun. Retrieved 2009-02-18. 
  3. ^ Marsh, p. 31
  4. ^ Marsh, pp. 31–33
  5. ^ Liner notes, Rhino Records re-release The Best of Louie Louie (1989; Rhino R1 70605)
  6. ^ "Louie History", The Louie Louie pages, accessed 2009-11-11
  7. ^ Marsh, p. 45
  8. ^ a b  
  9. ^ a b "The Best of Louie Louie, Vol. 1 - Various Artists".  
  10. ^ Marsh, p.41
  11. ^ Blecha, Peter (April 1, 2007). "Garage Rock Anthem "Louie Louie" Turns 50".  
  12. ^ a b Peter Blecha, Biography of "Rockin' Robin" Roberts,
  13. ^ The Louie Louie Discography: Rockin' Robin Roberts
  14. ^ Peterson, p. 45
  15. ^ Blecha, p. 137
  16. ^ a b Blecha 2009, p. 138
  17. ^ Cheesman, Shannon (September 5, 2013). "'"Everybody sing! 'Louie Louie, oh no, me gotta go. Retrieved February 25, 2014. 
  18. ^ Marsh, p. 97. Ely had to stand on tiptoe to sing into a boom mike, and his braces further impeded his singing.
  19. ^ Marsh, p. 67
  20. ^ Marsh, Dave, 1989, The Heart of Rock and Roll, New American Library, p. 14. Marsh ranks the song as number eleven out of the 1001 greatest singles ever made.
  21. ^  
  22. ^  
  23. ^ Hoffmann, Frank (1983). The Cash Box Singles Charts, 1950-1981. Metuchen, NJ & London: The Scarecrow Press, Inc. p. 835. 
  24. ^ article
  25. ^ Marsh, p. 97
  26. ^ Milstein, Phil (June 28, 2006). "Seconds".  
  27. ^ Attig, Rick (August 4, 1987). "Ex-Kingsman brings act to C.O.".  
  28. ^ Lawsuit info at
  29. ^ Dubois, Steven; Rogers, Steven (April 28, 2015). Louie Louie' Singer Jack Ely Dies in Oregon at 71"'". Retrieved April 29, 2015. 
  30. ^ Blecha p. 139
  31. ^ Following the death of Kingsmen singer Jack Ely, Mark Lindsay tweeted on April 28, 2015, "To settle it once and for all: Jack Ely/The Kingsmen recorded Louie Louie 3 days BEFORE the Raiders."
  32. ^ Predoehl, Eric. "A Short History of Louie Louie". Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  33. ^ Burridge, Alan Illustrated Collector's Guide to Motörhead Published: 1995, Collector's Guide Publishing ISBN 0-9695736-2-6.
  34. ^ "45 Discography for Happy Tiger Records". Global Dog Productions. 2008. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  35. ^ Marsh, p. 124.
  36. ^ The Clash – Bootlegs & Rarities > Louie Is A Punkrocker
  37. ^ a b c d Carroll, Bryan. "'"Review: 'Louie Louie.  
  38. ^ a b  
  39. ^  
  40. ^ Azerrad, pp. 28–29.
  41. ^ Ogg, Alex. "Everything Went Black"Review: .  
  42. ^ Dougan, John. "The First Four Years"Review: .  
  43. ^ Dougan, John. "Wasted...Again"Review: .  
  44. ^ Raggett, Ned. "Who's Got the 10½?"Review: .  
  45. ^ "Known Grateful Dead Performances of Louie Louie". Retrieved 2013-09-25. 
  46. ^ The Fat Boys, Coming Back Hard Again, Tin Pan Alley/Polydor, 1988
  47. ^ "Old Rockers Still Boppin' to Kingsmen".  
  48. ^ Marsh, p. 41-42
  49. ^ "The Best of Louie Louie, Vol. 2 - Various Artists".  
  50. ^ "Louie Louie Collection - Various Artists".  
  51. ^ University of Washington Husky Marching Band
  52. ^ "The First Louie Louie Spanish Compilation". The Louie Louie Pages - Theo de Grood. Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  53. ^ "Love That Louie: The Louie Louie Files - Various Artists".  
  54. ^ RocKwiz, broadcast July 31, 2010
  55. ^ "Louie Louie". 2007. Retrieved June 28, 2011. 
  56. ^  
  57. ^ "'"Band Banned From Performing 'Louie Louie. Fox News. Associated Press. May 5, 2005. Retrieved 2009-09-16. 
  58. ^ Seib, Laura (May 6, 2005). Louie, Louie' gets go-ahead"'".  
  59. ^
  60. ^ "The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988) - Soundtracks".  
  61. ^ The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! at the Internet Movie Database
  62. ^ Tijuana Blue at the Internet Movie Database
  63. ^ The Cult: Live in Milan at the Internet Movie Database
  64. ^ Survival Game at the Internet Movie Database
  65. ^ ABC - The Alphabetic Tribe at the Internet Movie Database
  66. ^ La bande du drugstore at the Internet Movie Database
  67. ^ Lemmy at the Internet Movie Database
  68. ^ Best Possible Taste: The Kenny Everett Story at the Internet Movie Database
  69. ^ site by Theo de GroodThe Louie Louie Pages Retrieved May 12, 2013
  70. ^ Seattle Weekly (October 27, 1999) Music: "The State I'm In", by Kurt B. Reighley
  71. ^ The Bellingham Herald (February 20, 2006): "What Would You Pick as State Vegetable?", by Dean Kahn
  72. ^ The Best Of Louie Louie Volume 2Liner notes, (Rhino R1 70515), by Doc Pelzell
  73. ^ Sound+Vision (April 11, 2011) "International Louie Louie Day", by Michael Berk
  74. ^ Lincoln Journal Star (March 27, 2013) "April is the coolest month for holidays", by Erin Andersen
  75. ^ National Special Events Registry
  76. ^ LLAMAS web page Retrieved March 29, 2013
  77. ^ LLAMAS overview Retrieved March 29, 2013
  78. ^ LouieFest web page Retrieved April 16, 2013
  79. ^ "The Kingsmen's famously innocent "Louie Louie" now back in front of the feds at downtown Federal Building".  
  80. ^ "Editorial: Me gotta go now: 'Louie' sculpture is fitting tribute".  
  81. ^ """Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: "Louie Louie.  
  82. ^ "GRAMMY Hall Of Fame".  
  83. ^ "NPR 300"The Original .  
  84. ^ "The Wire - 100 Most Important Records Ever Made". Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  85. ^ "Ultimate Jukebox : The 100 Singles You Must Own". Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  86. ^ "40 Songs That Changed The World". Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  87. ^ "The All-Time Top 100 Singles". Retrieved September 16, 2014. 
  88. ^ "VH1: '100 Greatest Rock Songs': 1-50". Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  89. ^ "1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made - Part 1. Nos 1 to 500". Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  90. ^ "Rolling Stone - The 100 Best Singles Of The Last 25 Years". Retrieved 2013-09-12. 
  91. ^ "'"VH1 - '100 Greatest Dance Songs. Retrieved 2015-04-29. 
  92. ^ "Mojo - The 100 Greatest Singles Of All Time". Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  93. ^ "'"500 Greatest Songs of All Time: The Kingsmen, 'Louie Louie.  
  94. ^ "NEA and RIAA: The top 365 songs of the 20th century". Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  95. ^ "Big Bangs: 100 Records That Changed the World". Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  96. ^ "NME Magazine: 500 Greatest Songs". Retrieved 2014-12-26. 
  97. ^ "WCBSFM: Top 1001 Songs Of The Century". Retrieved 2013-09-21. 

Further reading

  • by Dave MarshLouie Louie (Dec. 1993): untitled Adam Block review of Artforum
  • (September 2, 1993): "Books of The Times: The Real Dirt About a Rock Hit of Ill Repute", by Margo JeffersonThe New York Times (review of the book Louie Louie by Dave Marsh)
  • (February 18, 2013): "The Birth of Wail" by Dave BarryThe Miami Herald
  • CD sleeve notes (Rhino R2 70605, 1988)The Best of Louie, Louie
  • CD sleeve notes by Doc Pelzell (Rhino R2 70515, 1992)The Best of Louie Louie, Volume 2
  • CD sleeve notes (Jerden JRCD 7011, 1994)The Louie Louie Collection
  • CD sleeve notes by Alec Palao (Ace CDCHD 844, 2002)Love That Louie - The Louie Louie Files

External links

  • Mikkelson, Barbara & David P. "Are the lyrics to 'Louie Louie' obscene?" at Urban Legends Reference Pages.
  • Excerpts from the FBI file about the song, from The Smoking Gun
  • Full FBI file on the song
  • "Louie Louie through the ages" from the Seattle Times
  • The Louie Louie Advocacy and Music Appreciation Society (LLAMAS)
  • International Louie Louie Day
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