Today in 1964, Billboard Magazine reported that the governor of Indiana had called on the state’s broadcasters to stop playing the song “Louie, Louie” by the Kingsmen because of its allegedly dirty lyrics.
That alone is a lot, but let’s back up a little.
The song “Louie, Louie” had been written and recorded years earlier by Richard Berry.
The lyrics are written in a faux-Jamaican dialect and tell the story of a sailor who’s sorry to leave his favorite lady behind as he heads off to sea.
There isn’t much more to it.
But because it’s as basic a song as there is, three chords and a cha-cha beat, “Louie, Louie” became a song that any teenage band playing at a local dance would learn to play.
One of them was The Kingsmen, who recorded and released a pretty straightforward version of the song.
This version was super catchy, so no surprise that it caught people’s attention.
But the recording was also so lo-fi that you couldn’t really hear what the singer was saying.
It didn’t help that the singer, Jack Ely, had just had his braces adjusted, and he had to shout into a microphone placed way overhead during the recording.
And when people can’t be sure of what they’re hearing, their brains sometimes fill in the gaps.
Students started sharing sets of explicit lyrics and claiming those were what the Kingsmen were singing!
Two concerned students in Indiana wrote to the governor, who said his “ears tingled” end quote when he listened to “Louie, Louie.”
Soon, the federal government was investigating whether this teen party record was corrupting the youth of America.
They listened to the track at regular speed, high speed, low speed, trying everything they could to figure out what the band was saying.
Eventually they declared it “unintelligible at any speed.”
The controversy may have kept the Kingsmen off Indiana radio for a while, but it was worth it: people bought “Louie, Louie” by the truckload.
It’s since become a standard for marching bands, a part of iconic movies like “Animal House” and the subject of local festivals and parades.
The band had no hard feelings.
They issued a statement in which they thanked the governor for helping to boost their record sales,.
Starting tomorrow in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the ICE ART FEST gets underway.
Artists will carve hundreds of ice sculptures in the town square while visitors stroll through.
Or people can take horse and carriage rides.
What if they let the horses try ice sculpting?