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Friday, May 19, 2006

J. Edgar Hoover Raked the Lawn 

From Bean:

I hope to attend what looks like a fascinating talk on one of the strangest chapters in FBI history. In the early 1960s the Feds launched an official investigation into whether or not the song, "Louie, Louie" was in fact obscene. Rumors had followed the song through its many incarnations, from the Richard Berry original, The Wailers local hit, Paul Revere & The Raiders take and the most popular of them all, the version cut by the Kingsmen.

The investigation was conducted under the authority of the "Interstate Transportation of Obscene Material Act" and after years of "evidence gathering" including playing recordings of the song at different speeds and numerous interviews it was concluded that "Louie Louie" was "unintelligible at any speed."

What? The FBI plagiarized Ralph Nader?

From louielouie.net:

Spurred on by naughty notes from teenagers that claimed to know the "actual lyrics," concerned parents contacted government authorities to see what could be done to restrict distribution of this controversial rock song.

In the mid 1960s, many people considered this subject a very serious matter. Rock and roll was considered a subversive movement, and governor Matthew Welsh of Indiana actually used his powers to restrict airplay of this song. Of course, all of this controversy helped spur more record sales, as teenagers rushed to the record store to buy the record that shocked, or at least confused their parents. It was no accident that the extra notoriety contributed to the popularity of "Louie Louie" as one of the greatest party songs of all time....

The F.B.I. investigation of the song, which took over two years, uncovered very little relevant information. Despite a lengthy investigative process that included repeating listenings of the song at different speeds, and interviews with author Richard Berry, and members of Kingsmen, the study could find no evidence of obscenity....

The Louie Louie F.B.I. Files are a curious document to behold. Names are blacked out in this odd collection of paperwork, giving an appearance of Dadaist art manifesto that makes absolutely no sense. There's an assortment of imaginary lyrics, actual lyrics, copies of record labels, letters from concerned parents, and government forms filled out by lowly F.B.I. agents that were probably asking themselves "Why am I investigating this stupid little song, anyways?"

Deciphering this collection is something of a puzzle that few people would want to indulge in. Casual readers would probably be better served by tracking down Dave Marsh's out-of-print LOUIE LOUIE book, which summarizes some of the basic elements of the investigation into simple English.

Or you can look at excerpts at The Smoking Gun. It's interesting to note that the sample letter from an outraged parent was received at about the same time as foreign subversives had invaded our country to promote un-American hair grooming practices. (I refer, of course, to the Beatles.)

And it turns out the lyrics are bad Jamaican, mon. Argh.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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