Wednesday, October 19, 2016

SHG: The Kingsmen: "Louie Louie"

The Kingsmen: “Louie Louie”
Entered the chart on: 11/30/63
Peaked on: 12/14/63
Weeks at #2: 6
Songs at #1: “Dominique” by the Singing Nun and “There! I’ve Said It Again” by Bobby Vinton

And so we say farewell to 1963 with this song. Spoiler alert for people unfamiliar with popular music history: we’ll be saying goodbye to a lot of things in 1964. Remember those consistent hitmakers up to this point? Most of them will be long gone by next year. You’ll see why ere long.

In the meantime...what more is there to say about this, perhaps the quintessential “garage rock” anthem? I will say that the fact that it stalled at Number Two for six freaking weeks behind two of the most white-bread pieces of crap is extremely suspicious. You see, there was a rumour that there was all sorts of filthy sailor talk and pornographic poesy lurking under the murky production and Jack Ely’s marble-mouthed delivery. It wasn’t true, of course, but it apparently required an FBI investigation, of all things, to get to the bottom of things. They could have just listened to Richard Berry’s original and saved a lot of time and taxpayer money!

In any case, the rumour help build the song’s legend, and went on to make it the most-covered song of all time.

I’ve talked about iconic riffs before, but I don’t think anything can top that electric piano intro to this. After years of increasing slickness in rock & roll, we’re back in Sun Records territory with this. This literally sounds like it was recorded in someone’s garage, the vocal mic sounds like it’s four feet away*, while the drums sound like they’re at the other end of the room.

The high point of this is undeniably the guitar solo, which somehow I completely forget about every time I listen to it. I don’t know why, the stinging tone the guitarist uses absolutely slayed me this time. The sludgy production is part of the song’s charm; the band’s energy and excitement comes through even though it sounds like it was recorded on a cheap Montgomery Ward’s tape recorder.

This is one of those records like “Walk—Don’t Run” and “Be My Baby” that inspired lots of people to pick up instruments and form bands. There weren’t a lot of songs that sounded like this before, but there were tons after.

Rating: 5

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