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Friday, April 13, 2007

Episode 33: Oh Baby, Me Gotta Go

"I've recorded songs in my garage. Am I a 'garage band'?" - Bob Dylan, Theme Time Radio Hour Friends & Neighbors

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This month is the 50th anniversary of the first recording of inarguably the greatest garage band song ever written, and what better way to celebrate than with this rare clip of Dylan and Tom Petty doing a sound check at Farm Aid 1985 with a rocking - if very muffled - "Louie Louie." Check out the Dreamtime blog (that's right here) for a better watching experience of the YouTube video.

1985 was the year of the first Farm Aid, a benefit spurred by a comment Dylan made at Live Aid earlier that year,

"I hope that some of the money...maybe they can just take a little bit of it, or two million, maybe...and use it, say, to pay the mortgages on some of the farms and, the farmers here, owe to the banks...."
Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Neil Young took Dylan's comments to heart, and in September 1985, the first Farm Aid concert was held in Champaign Illinois. The annual benefit continues, with Nelson, Mellencamp, and Young still performing.

With the possible exception of Paul McCartney's "Yesterday," "Louie Louie" has been covered more than any pop song in history - over 1,000 different versions, according to In fact, a college radio station once played "Louie Louie" non-stop for over 63 hours... without repeating the same version twice. Here's the ultimate mashup of "Louie Louie," 50, yes, count `em 50 artists covering the song, all in two and a half minutes.

[Daily Reckless "Louie Louie" mashup]

Among 45 others, you just heard Iggy Pop, Led Zepplin, Blondie, The Grateful Dead, and Julie London. We'll be hearing more from Julie later in the show.

Originally written by Richard Berry in 19 and 55, and released by Berry two years later, "Louie Louie" was a moderate regional success, but wouldn't become a mega-hit until the early `60s when both Paul Revere and the Raiders and The Kingsmen recorded their different versions. While the PR&tR version of "Louie Louie" was extremely popular on the West Coast from San Francisco to Portland, Oregon, it was The Kingsmen who would have the national breakout hit with "Louie Louie."

Almost immediately there were adult complaints about the near-indecipherable lyrics, with concerned parents writing plaintive missives such as this one to then-attorney general Robert F. Kennedy...
"Who do you turn to when your teen age daughter buys and brings home pornographic or obscene materials... My daughter brought home a record of "LOUIE LOUIE" and after reading that the record had been banned from being played on the air because it was obscene, proceeded to try to decipher the jumble of words... The lyrics are so filthy that I can not enclose them in this letter."
Well, yes. Or, maybe no.

Actually there was something of a cottage industry among adolescents who were passing smudged, yellow, lined sheets of paper - the kind with the wood chips in the middle - to each other containing what were claimed to be the "real" lyrics of "Louie Louie." For example, while you might have thought you had heard these lyrics,
Louie, Louie,
me gotta go. Louie, Louie, me gotta go.
me catch a ship across the sea.
I sailed the ship all alone;
I never think I'll make it home
me think of girl constantly.
On the ship, I dream she there;
I smell the rose in her hair.
It won't be long me see me love.
Me take her in my arms and then
I tell her I never leave again.

A fine little girl, she wait for me;
Three nights and days we sailed the sea;
Me see Jamaica moon above;
Those nasty ol' Kingsmen were really singing - the crib sheets claimed,

Louie, Louie,
grab her way down low. Louie, Louie, grab her way down low.
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
I fuck my girl all kinds of ways.
And on that chair, I lay her there;
I felt my boner in her hair.
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.

A fine little bitch, she waits for me;
Each night at ten, I lay her again;
If she's got a rag on, I'll move above;
Even the nation's churches got into the act, producing a "clean" version of "Louie Louie," with a musical retelling of the Israelites flight from Egypt:
"Pharaoh, Pharaoh whoa whoa
Let my people go Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah Well Pharaoh Pharaoh whoa baby Let my people go."
"Pharaoh Pharaoh" is still sung at many summer camps to this day.

To add to the fun, the ever-watchful J. Edgar Hoover sicced his minions on this aural evil threatening the morals of the nation's children, and the F.B.I. spent much of 1964 through `65 investigating this dire threat to America. However, even when the Ace Investigators of Our Nation slowed down the 45 single to 33 1/3, "Louie Louie" remained impenetrable. The F.B.I. finally admitted defeat in May of `65, noting in a memo,
"The FBI Laboratory advised that because the lyrics of the recording "Louie Louie" could not be definitely determined in the Laboratory examination, it was not possible to determine whether this recording was obscene."
Justice thwarted and Louie triumphant.

We're closing out today's show with one last "Louie Louie," this one a hot and sultry version from Theme Time favorite, Ms. Julie London. You can find "Louie Louie" on Julie's last album, Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, which yes, does include that piece of bubblegum pop, as well as a cover of Dylan's "Quinn The Eskimo."

Here's Julie London and "Louie Louie."

Above another YouTube video for your education and entertainment, a "follow the bouncin' ball version" of "Louie Louie."

You can make your own decision whether the singer is saying, "We," or the more commonly accepted "Me gotta go."

Episode 33 of the Dreamtime podcast was brought to you with the help of Mr. Glad Head from the Expecting Rain Theme Time forums, and he'd like to give a shoutout to Mr. Buddy Guy,

"Buddy, don't close Legends! Keep the blues flowin' man!"

Agreed, Mr. Glad Head. Agreed.

Sources: All things Louie can can found at the eponymous "" The ever-wonderful "The Smoking Gun" has the documented F.B.I. lost war against "Louie Louie." explores the history of the "dirty" "Louie Louie" lyrics.

You've been listening to the Dreamtime podcast – occasional commentary on Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour.

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Until next time, dream well.


almax said...

Brilliant - as always

Reverend Frost said...

Yup, excellent !