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Louie Louie

by

The Kingsmen



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This was written by an R&B singer named Richard Berry in 1955. With his group The Pharaohs, he was also the first to record it, and it got some airplay in some cities in the Western US when it was released in 1957. Various garage bands heard it and started covering the song, until it became a phenomena with the Kingsmen's 1964 version. While much of the song's notoriety comes from the indecipherable lyrics, in Berry's original version words are quite clear: the song is about a sailor who spends three days traveling to Jamaica to see his girl.
Dwight Rounds, author of The Year The Music Died, 1964-1972, writes: "The words to Louie, Louie are almost impossible to understand, and are rumored to be obscene. No question that this added significantly to the sales of the single. There was probably a leak somewhere that the lyrics were obscene; otherwise no one would have realized it. This was the most ingenious marketing scheme ever. The FBI tried to track down Richard Berry, The Kingsmen, and various record company executives. They were never able to determine the actual lyrics used. To this day, the Kingsmen insist they said nothing lewd, despite the obvious mistake at the end of the instrumental, where Jack Ely started to sing the last verse one bar too soon, and can be heard yelling something in the background. Ely also said that he sung far away from the microphone, which caused the fuzzy sound, and that the notoriety was initiated by the record company. The words sound much more like the official version seen below, especially the word "rose" instead of "bone." The lyrics rumor was a sham. The official lyrics are in plain print, and one of the many alternative versions are in ().

Chorus: "Louie, Louie, oh no. Me gotta go. Aye-yi-yi, I said. Louie Louie, oh baby. Me gotta go."

"Fine little girl waits for me. Catch a ship across the sea. Sail that ship about, all alone. Never know if I make it home.

"Three nights and days, I sail the sea." (Every night and day, I play with my thing.) "Think of girl, constantly." (I f--k you girl, oh, all the way.) "Oh that ship, I dream she's there. (On my bed, I'll lay her there.) "I smell the rose in her hair." (I feel my bone, ah, in her hair.)

"See Jamaica, the moon above." (Hey lovemaker, now hold my thing.) "It won't be long, me see my love." (It won't take long, so leave it alone.) "Take her in my arms again." (Hey, senorita, I'm hot as hell.) "Tell her I'll never leave again." (I told her I'd never lay her again.)
Many bands in the Northwest US played this at their concerts. The Kingsmen lifted their version from The Wailers, a Seattle band who missed out on the song's success.
This song was prominently featured in the film Animal House, starring John Belushi, despite the fact that it wasn't actually recorded until almost two years after the period of time in which the movie is set (1962). (thanks, Sam - Lincoln, NE)
This cost $50 to record. The Kingsmen went to the studio after a radio station executive in Portland saw them perform it live and suggested they record it.
Paul Revere and The Raiders, also on the Northwest touring scene, recorded their version the day after The Kingsmen at the same studio. Their version was superior musically, but was just regional hit as they could not generate the publicity The Kingsmen did.
This was the only Kingsmen song with lead vocals by Jack Ely. Before this became a hit, he quit when band leader Lynn Easton assumed vocals and ordered Ely to drums. When this became a hit, Easton would lip-sync to Ely's vocals on TV performances.
Ely tried to capitalize on the success of this by releasing similar songs on his own, including "Louie Louie 66," "Love That Louie," and "Louie Go Home."
This became a national hit when a disc jockey in Boston played it and declared that it was the worst song he ever heard.
Indiana governor Matthew Welsh was particularly offended by this song. He declared it "Pornographic" in 1964 and asked the Indiana Broadcasters Association to ban it.
According to lead singer Jack Ely, the studio had a 19-foot ceiling with a microphone suspended from it. Ely claims that was the cause of the "garbled" lyrics, but Paul Revere and the Raiders recorded their version of "Louie Louie" in the same studio the day after the Kingsmen's session, and their partly ad-libbed lyrics are clearly heard. (thanks, Brad Wind - Miami, FL)
On August 24, 2003, 754 guitarists played this at "Louie Fest" in Tacoma, Washington. The event was held to raise money for music programs. Dick Peterson from The Kingsmen was one of the guitarists.
The "See" in the lyrics "See Jamaica" comes in one line too early and is repeated.
This was used in the movie Down Periscope with Kelsey Grammer. As a submarine captain in a series of war games, Grammer and his crew sing this song loudly to confuse their pursuer's radar into thinking that they were a fishing trawler full of drunk fishermen. (thanks, Brandon - Peoria, IL)
Iggy Pop recorded a version with new lyrics for his 1993 album American Caesar. His band The Stooges would often play the song and change the words to the supposedly offensive lyrics. This version of the song was the last one they played at their February 9, 1974 show at the Michigan Palace, which would be their last until a reunion in 2003. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
According to Kenny Vance, who was the musical director on Animal House, John Belushi sang in a garage band that used to perform this song at fraternities. Belushi would sing his version of the dirty lyrics, which he did in the studio while recording his vocals for the movie. Sadly, the tape of Belushi singing his dirty version of the song was lost in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy wiped out Kenny's home in Queens. (Read more in our interview with Kenny Vance.)
In the 1990 movie Coupe de Ville, Patrick Dempsey, Arye Gross and Daniel Stern star as brothers who have an argument over the meaning of this song. They debate if it is about lovemaking, or if it is a sea shanty. (thanks, Gordon - Jacksonville, FL)
In 1966, The Sandpipers took this song to #30 in the US. Another notable cover: the West Coast Punk band Black Flag recorded this in 1981 and released it on their album The First Four Years. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
The Kingsmen
More The Kingsmen songs
More songs with boys' names in the title
More songs that were banned
More songs rumored to contain hidden messages
More songs used in movies
More songs that were hits for more than one artist

Comments (51):

On June 23rd 1965, the Kingsmen performed "Louie, Louie" on the ABC-TV program 'Shindig!'...
And on the same 'Shindig!' show the group sang 'The Climb'; it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 one month earlier on May 2nd, 1965 for a six week stay, peaking at #65...
R.I.P. Jimmy O'Neill (Shindig!'s host, 1940 - 2013).
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
On December 8th 1963, "Louie Louie" by the Kingsmen peaked at #2 (for 6 non-consecutive weeks) on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; it had entered the chart on November 9th, 1963 and spent 16 weeks on the Top 100...
The first two weeks it was #2 "Dominique" by the Singing Nun was #1 and then "There, I've Said It Again" by Bobby Vinton kept it out of the top spot for four weeks...
It re-entered the Top 100 again three years later in 1966 for a two week stay, peaking at #97...
John Belushi covered it in 1978; his version reached #89 and was on the Top 100 for 4 weeks.
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
Man, what a history this hit song has! In '64 I was a kid & knew that many in school and high school were talking about its dirty lyrics. So, a lotta boys bought it. Haa! It seemed like every kid was listening to a copy and trying to figure out the lyrics. I don't recall exactly when the word went out that the lyrics were not dirty, but it was a gigantic hit. Later, when I went off to college, this song was on most jukeboxes on campus and in off-campus taverns and was a blast to dance to ---dirty lyrics or not! Rock on!
- Elmer H, westville, OK
Robin Roberts developed an interest in 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 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 and no relation to The Wailers headed by Bob Marley years later), 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. The arrangement, devised by Roberts with the band, included Roberts' ad-lib "Let's give it to 'em, RIGHT NOW!!". Released on the band's own label, Etiquette, in early 1961, it became a local hit in the Seattle area, before being reissued and promoted by Imperial Records in Los Angeles. However, it failed to chart. Roberts was killed in an automobile accident in 1967.
- Duke, FRESNO, CA
2 things the only dirty lyrcs in the Kingmans version is the i felt my bona in her hair none of the others that are listed hear just before the guitar solo also in the Raiders version Lindsay has said that down real low during the solo he is saying do she f--k
- mike, newhall , CA
When I was at San Diego in the seventies I had a roommate that graduated from SDSU. For 4 yrs. I shared a condo with this trumpet player named Tom Eccleson. When I was at Highlands Intermediate School in Pearl City, Hawaii in '70 we had a school dance that played this as #1. Tom kept alot of his Gold records on the wall from when he also played with the Imperials. I have never heard him mention lyrics any different.
- Michael Scott, Punta Gorda, FL
I prefer the Raider's version of the song. One of the first times the song was played was at my high school and the group announced it would be a single. later in Health class we talked about the song and decided it would never be a hit since the melody is repetitious and the lyrics don't make any sense. but some deejay back east loved the song and played it over and over. I don't remember hearing it at all on our local top 40 station.
- Wayne, Portland , OR
Can't tell exactly what he says at the end of the song, but it sounds like "get that broad out of here". The lyrics that are currently posted are inaccurate, everyone can see that lol.
- Jessica, Tulsa, OK
Steve Van Zandt of the "E Street Band" dedicates an entire episode of his radio program "Little Steven's Underground Garage" to "Louie Louie" - it's one of his best. Also, if you can get your hands on a copy of Dave Marsh's book "Louie Louie," it's definitely worth a read.
- Brian, Brooklyn, NY
Louie, Louie a great song by the Kingsmen, but the
version by Paul Revere & the Raiders is my favorite,
but both are awesome.

Galen,Lindsay, CA
- Galen Nations, Lindsay, CA
Louie, Louie was originally written as a calypso by RnB legend Richard Berry, he based it on a remake of a Cuban cha cha cha that was popular in Los Angeles at that time.. The original song was titled Amarra El Perro(tie down the dog)and was recorded in a flute/violin format orquesta-charanga but the L A based Cuban pianist/bandleader Rene Touzet took it and re-arranged for a big band and came up with the vamp. the hook, the clave beat of dum dum dum, dum dum

Another example opf the heavy influence of Cuban music, Latin music and Caribbean music on US music forms going back over 150 years
- Patequi, Pasadena, CA
all these clowns saying what the words are are full of it the only dirty lyrics are in the line on that ship i dream she there i felt my bone ah in her hair thats it nothing else nothing about hole of love or anything else now that you know when the song comes on sing those lyrics and it will siund right
- MIKE, STEVENSON RANCH, CA
Funny: the FBI did a 31-month investigation to determine if the rumuors of R-rated lyrics were true, but concluded it was inconclusive. The dirty version is as follows:
Louie, Louie,
grab her way down low.
Louie, Louie,
grab her way down low.

A fine little bitch, she waits for me;
she gets her kicks on top of me.
Each night I take her out all alone;
she ain't the kind I lay at home

Each night at ten, I lay her again;
I f--k my girl all kinds of ways.
And on that chair, I lay her there;
I felt my boner in her hair.

If she's got a rag on, I'll move above;
It won't be long, she'll slip it off.
I'll take her in my arms again;
tell her I'd rather lay her again.
- Cyberpope, Richmond, Canada
There isn't much I can say that hasn't already been said, but I found an error in the descriptions (not the comments)...It says it cost $50 to record, in actuality, the Kingsmen paid for a $36, one hour, saturday recording session and nailed the studio version in the first shot.
- Matt, Oakdale, NY
according to liner notes on Frank Zappa's album titled 'Strickly Commercial' during a concert at the Albert Hall in 1967 the band's keyboard player climbed up to the the halls' (pipe) organ and played 'Louie Louie' in order to turn the docile audience up a notch - and he did!
- roman, barrie, ON
Not the "official" lyrics, but listen to the song and look at this. I think you'll agree it nails it.

The sex laden versions are just wishful thinking.

Play and listen:

Ah, Louie Louie ...Oh, no said, we gotta go
Yea, yea, yea, yea, yea, yea said
Louie Louie ...Oh, Baby, said, we gotta go

A fine little girl ... She wait for me
Me catch a ship ... Across the sea
Me sail that ship by ... All alone
Me never think how I'll make it home

Ah, Louie Louie ... nah, nah, nah, nah
Said, we gotta go ... Oh, no said
Louie Louie ...Oh, Baby, said, we gotta go

Three nights and days ... I sailed the sea
Me think of girl ... Oh, constantly
Ah, on that ship ... I dream she there
I smell the rose ... Ah, in her hair

Ah, Louie Louie ...Oh, no said, we gotta go
Yea, yea, yea, yea, yea said
Louie Louie ...Oh, Baby, said, we gotta go

Okay, let's give it to 'em ... Right now!

Me see ...

Me see Jamaica ... The moon above
It won't be long ... Me see me love
Me take her in my arms again
I tell her ... I'll never leave again

Ah, Louie Louie ...Oh, no said, we gotta go
Yea, yea, yea, yea, yea said
Louie Louie ...Oh, Baby, said, we gotta go

I said we gotta go now
Let's go on outa here y'all
Let's go!
- Scott, Chelan, WA
In the movie Animal House it is shown being sung shortly after the start of the Sept 1962 school year. By the end of October 1963 it was #1 on Detroit music charts (see http://www.keener13.com/guides/Default.asp). In real life the song had been kicking round for years explaining how the fictional Delta house boys could have pickep up on it.

According to snopes.com when the Kingsmen recorded it their lead singer had a cold and did not take care to sing the song lyrics clearly on the first take. There was no second take.
- Steve, Columbia Heights, MN
The original version of this song is pretty innocent, but make no mistake about it, the Kingsmen version is not. For example, the line "stick my finger up the hole of love" is pretty clear. Some of the other lines are pretty nasty, but I guess you could argue they are not clear enough to be definitively stated. If they had been, this song would never have been played on radio.
- lafite, ottawa, ON
The website www.musicianguide.com says that Wand records reissued Louie Louie in 1965 and 1966. They also list the movies which use Louie Louie on the soundtrack as Quadrophenia, Coupe de Ville, Spaced Invaders, Naked Gun, Past Away, Dave, Jennifer 8, and Mr. Holland's Opus.
- Doug, Detroit, MI
I remimber seeing the Kingsmen at the Oklahona City Fairgrounds in 1965. My sister and I were near the stage and one of the band members stepped on her hand and she wouldn't wash it for a month. LOL, I was never sure of the lyrics but who cares as the song was fun to dance to and made it easy to meet girls. Isn't that what the music is all about?????
- Dave, Portland , OR
The kingsmen is the SUPERIOR version.There is something about their take that keeps you guessing:dirty or clean.To hear the Raiders version just doesn't do it for me.I cringe when I hear it-horrible.Read somewhere Ely was wearing braces at the time so maybe he had trouble pronouncing his words.Many have covered the song and neither have come close.
- john, jasper, Canada
"The FBI commissioned a six-month study into the possible harmful effects of Louie Louie. Eleven hundred pages later, J. Edgar Hoover's Finest concluded that they weren't sure if there were any harmful effects to Louie Louie or not because they couldn't understand the words." - Jello Biafra
- Ekristheh, Halath, United States
Stefanie - the reason for the fuss was precisely beCAUSE no one could understand the words. That and the vocal 'attitude' it was delivered with strongly suggested that the words must have been too raunchy to enunciate clearly. So all the powers that be were sure that the band was trying to get away with something foul going out over the airwaves. Plus, being in college then, there were guys who were sure they *KNEW* what the words were, and according to them, they were totally raunchy. As we have since learned, this was just x-rated wishful thinking. *** Sunny (Hong Kong) - If not a trendsetter, it was at least a prime example of a 3-chord song. It was very popular at dances for several years. BTW, 'Get Off of My Cloud' is close to the other examples, but is actually a 4-chord song (I-IIIm-IV-V-IV), or 5-chord if you count the VIIb-V sequence in the last line of the chorus ("Don't hang around, cause two's a crowd, on my cloud, baby").
- Fred, Laurel, MD
glad all of you are still talking about it after all these years, lol.
Jack Ely
- j, ccr, OR
Shame that the song draws all the attention for the worng reason. Instead of being associated with some obscurely misheard naughty lyrics, it should be lauded as a trend-setter in 3-chord (I-IV-V) pop music. Opened the way for "Twist and shout", "Hang on sloppy", "Get off of my cloud", "Wild thing" and many others to follow.
- Sunny, , Hong Kong
In hindsight, it's pretty laughable what a controversy this song caused. Most people who were listening to this song and didn't know about the controversy, wouldn't think it was pornographic. They would if they were cyruiysm wonder what the lyrics meant. Many people don't think for themselves and are willing to follow what others think.
- Stefanie, Rock Hill, SC
The song was also featured in the movie Coupe De Ville, there was a long scene discussing the lyrics and what the song means. In the end it is revealed that the song is a Sea Shanty.
- andy, Toronto, Canada
A group of friends and I like to play this at parties in a medley with "Wild Thing," "Twist and Shout" and "La Bamba" because they all have the same chord progression and similar rhtythm. We call it the 3-chord medley.
- Dennis, Anchorage, AK
The band Flash Cadillac & The Continental Kids at the sock hop in the 1973 film American Graffiti sing this and the lyrics are clearly heard.
- James, Vidalia, GA
Some facts: This was featured in Animal House with a vocal by John Belushi. The Kingsmen's version was played over the ending credits in the episode when Homer returns to college. The Kinsmen played the riff differently than earlier versions of the song and unintentionally changed the song's rhythm. The words are not dirty but are difficult to understand. Many sang the songs with different dirty lyrics. Iggy & the Stooges perform a memorable live & dirty version on Metallic K.O.
- Don, Newmarket, Canada
this plays somewhat of a part in The film Mr Holland's Opus starring Richard Dreyfuss. I highly recomend it. Its one of the best films ever.
- Luna, London, England
There have been many cover versions of this song, ranging from the Rice University Marching Band to the original by Richard Berry. One version I remember was by The Sandpipers, who sang mst of the lyrics in Spanish. None of them were obscene.
- Howard, St. Louis Park, MN
It has been covered and recorded so many times that a college radio station in Los Altos Hills, Ca., KFJC, once played it for 63 hours without repeating the same recording twice. Though, I'm not sure how anyone would have known if a recording had been repeated.
- Garry, Anchorage, AK
The song lyrics are about someone sailing off to the war and having to leave his girlfriends behind, nothing dirty!
- Ann, London, England
Apparently there was a rumor that the lyrics were really dirty. You can read it on http://www.snopes.com/
- Iain, Dubbo, Australia
This made a rather humorous appearance in a 1988 Sunday strip of Bloom County,where each Presidential candidate had to interpret the lyrics his own way.
- Alex, New Orleans, LA
I still can't find any "subversive" lyrics, why was this song banned?
- Nathan, Defiance, OH
gary larson,author of "the far side",features a whale singing into a microphone coming from a boat in one of his panels. The whale is singing this song,except larson has intepreted the lyrics differently-the whale is singing "Louie Louie ohh we gotta go now"
- mary, medina, NY
I remember watching VH1 and they said how the lyrics were about a guy at a bar talking to the bartender, 'Louie', about his problems.
- Matt Storey, Okemos, MI
It sounds like a white guy falls for a black woman.
- AJ, Cleveland, GA
I don't see why there was a big fuss over the song if know one could understand it anyway. Besides,the singer sounds like he's drunk when he's singing it. Despite that, I think it's a good song. sometimes song are fun when you can't understand the words. Come to think of it, maybe the singer was tired. It makes sense.
- Stefanie magura, Rock Hill, SC
Lead singer Jack Ely was reportedly tired and had only just seen the lyrics to the song (and thus, didn't know them that well) at the time he recorded the song in a garage on a single take. (The whole story can be learned at www.louielouie.net.)
- Jena, Bonner Springs, KS
During the early 1980's Ross Schafer, a Seattle comedian, starred in a local show called "Seattle Live". As a joke, he tried to get the Washington State Legislature to designate "Louie, Louie" as the official state rock 'n roll song.

The Seattle Mariners play "Louie, Louie" every 7th inning stretch, right after "Take Me Out to the Ballgame". They show live video of fans dancing in the seats on the big screen of the scoreboard.
- R, Seattle, WA
Recently, spring 2005, a parent complained that the band at a middle school in Benton Harbor, Michigan, was going to play the music, not sing the lyrics, to "Louie, Louie." The school principal then prohibited the band from playing the song.
- Garry, Anchorage, AK
I love to sing this song when i'm drunk, just get a bunch of other drunks together and sing it, it's easy to sing becuase even if they don't know the words it doesn't matter becuase your drunk anyways
- Tim, Milestone, Canada
yeh i guess it is a little like "Smells Like Teen Spirit" ("when i come around" by greenday has same similarity). They are alike in the fact most people need to read lyrics to know what the heck is being said. "Louie, Louie" is a classic.
- Ryan, Mobile, AL
Jack Ely lives near me in central Oregon. While working on his heating system, I asked him to write down the words to Louie, Louie. He did. I have it in a plastic protector. He also told me the story of the Kingsmen. And the recording of the song. The Kingsmen recently won the rights to the song after a long court battle.
- Darryl, La Pine, OR
We may never know for sure what The Kingsmen sang, but the lyrics that Richard Berry wrote and sang were:

Fine little girl she waits for me
Me catch the ship for cross the sea
Me sail the ship all alone
Me never think me make it home

Louie, Louie, me gotta go
Louie, Louie, me gotta go


Three nights and days me sail the sea
Me think of girl constantly
On the ship I dream she there
I smell the rose in her hair


Louie, Louie, me gotta go
Louie, Louie, me gotta go


Me see Jamaica moon above
It won't be long, me see my love,
I take her in my arms and then
Me tell her I never leave again


Louie, Louie, me gotta go
Louie, Louie, me gotta go
- Ted, Loveland, CO
This song was waaay ahead of its time. The rough lyrics would have fit in the 70's or 90's. Reminds me of Smells Like The Teen Age Spirit by Nirvana.
- Sam, Cleveland, OH
i wouldn't know how to do this myself but could not someone simply contact Richard Berry and ask him what the lyrics are??? does anyone know why this has been a mystery for so long?
- virginia, Leadville, CO
I once read the lyrics in a song book on sale at a book store on the Wayne State campus in Detroit, so I know at least one rendition is published. The song was reminiscent of "The Banana Boat Song" by Harry Belefonte in that its theme had to do with an island worker wanting to go back home. Very innocent actually.
- bob, canton, MI
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