“Louie Louie” Uncovered & Covered

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Like Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Crimson & Clover”, Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba” and the Beach Boys’ “Sloop John B,” “Louie Louie” is one of my very favorite songs of all time – I can listen to it and listen to it and listen to it.

Fifty-four years after it was first penned by Richard Berry, the song’s awesomeness remains the same, regardless of lyrical changes or performing artist:

Berry was inspired to write the song in 1955 after listening to and performing the song “El Loco Cha Cha” with Ricky Rillera and the Rhythm Rockers.  The tune was written originally as “Amarren Al Loco” (“Tie up the crazy guy”) by Cuban bandleader Rosendo Ruiz Jr.–also known as Rosendo Ruiz Quevedo–but became best known in the arrangement by René Touzet which included a rhythmic ten-note “1-2-3 1-2 1-2-3 1-2” riff. Touzet performed the tune regularly in Los Angeles clubs in the 1950s.  In Berry’s mind, the words “Louie Louie” superimposed themselves over the bass riff.  Lyrically, the first person perspective of the song was influenced by “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)”, which is sung from the perspective of a customer talking to a bartender. Berry cited Chuck Berry’s “Havana Moon” and his exposure to Latin American music for the song’s speech pattern and references to Jamaica.

I was able to track down twenty-one versions of “Louie Louie”ENJOY:

Richard Berry & The Pharoahs “Louie Louie”

The Kingsmen “Louie Louie”

Toots & the Maytals “Louie Louie”

The Ventures/Fabulous Wailers “Louie Louie”

Iggy Pop “Louie Louie”

Paul Revere & The Raiders “Louie Louie”

The Beach Boys “Louie Louie”

Angel Corpus Christi “Louie Louie”

The Flaming Groovies “Louie Louie”

The Pretenders “Louie Louie”

The Sonics “Louie Louie”

The IGUANAS “Louie Louie”

Motorhead “Louie Louie”

The Clash “Louie Louie”

The Kinks “Louie Louie (live)”

MC5 “Louie Louie (live)”

Friar Tuck “Louie Louie”

Black Flag “Louie Louie”

Brown Rainbow “Louie Louie”

Maureen Tucker “Louie Louie”

“Louie Louie” lyrics (via LouieLouieWeb):

The original lyrics written and recorded by Richard Berry

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

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

(chorus)

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

(chorus)

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

(chorus)

Lyrics from the Rockin’ Robin Roberts & the Wailers 1961 version (introduced the “yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah” to the chorus and the “Let’s give it to ’em right now” after the second verse)

Lyrics from Paul Revere and the Raiders 1963 version (added in the “oh baby” during the chorus, and introduced the “Stomp, shout, and work it on out”)

Lyrics from the Kingsmen 1963 version (combined the “oh baby” with the “yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah” in the chorus.  And then there is the famous mistake in which Jack Ely started singing the third verse too soon after the guitar solo, resulting in the extra “me see.”)

Louie Louie, oh no, me gotta go, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, baby.
Louie Louie, oh baby, me gotta go.

A fine little girl, she waits for me.
Me catch the ship across the sea.
Me sailed the ship all alone.
Me never think I’ll make it home.

Louie Louie, oh no, me gotta go, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, baby.
Louie Louie, oh baby, me gotta go.

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

Louie Louie, oh no, me gotta go, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, baby.
Louie Louie, oh baby, me gotta go.
OK, let’s give it to ’em right now

(guitar solo)

Me see . . .

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

Louie Louie, oh no, me gotta go, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, baby.
Louie Louie, oh baby, me gotta go
I said we gotta go now
Let’s step on out of here
Let’s go!

Black Flag version (lyrics by Dez Cadena)

Louie Louie, we gotta go
I said now, Louie Louie, we gotta go

You know the pain that’s in my heart
It just shows I’m not very smart
Who needs love when you’ve got a gun
Who needs love to have any fun

I said now, Louie Louie, we gotta go
Screwy Louie, we gotta go

(guitar solo)

Louie Louie, we gotta go
I said now, Louie Louie, we gotta go

Iggy Pop version (from the American Caesar album)

And now…the news:
Louie Louie
Oh baby I gotta go
Louie Louie
Oh baby I gotta go

The communist world is fallin’ apart
The capitalists are just breakin’ hearts
Money is the reason to be
It makes me just wanna sing Louie Louie

Louie Louie
Oh baby I gotta go
Louie Louie
Oh baby I gotta go

A fine little girl is waitin’ for me
But I ‘m as bent as Dostoevsky
I think about the meaning of my life again
And i have to sing Louie Louie again

Louie Louie
Oh baby I gotta go
Louie louie oh baby
I gotta go
Let’s give it to’ em right now

Oh man, I dunno like…health insurance
The homeless & world peace
& aids & education … I’ m tryin’ to do right
But. ..hey

Life after Bush and Gorbachev
The wall is down but something is lost
Turn on the news it looks like a movie
It makes me wanna sing Louie Louie

Louie Louie
Oh baby I gotta go
Let’s go

Washington State lyrics (written by Richard Berry in 1985, reportedly based on a train trip he took in 1983 from California to the ”Louie Louie Reunion” show held at the Tacoma Dome. This version was recorded by Jr. Cadillac.)

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

I get a call from Washington,
To the Northwest I must come,
To sing the song everybody knows,
Louie, Louie, me gotta go,

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

All day and night I ride the train,
Through the snow and through the rain,
The days are short, the nights are long,
Hurry train, to Washington.

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

The Wailers, and the Kingsmen, too,
We all on stage to get a groove,
All the people sing along,
I never leave Washington,

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

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