The FBI Investigated the Song ‘Louie Louie’ for Two Years | Smart News | Smithsonian
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The FBI Investigated the Song ‘Louie Louie’ for Two Years

The question apparently had to do with the lyrics of the song - which many find either confusing or simply impossible to understand

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The song “Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen might not strike you as Federal Bureau of Investigation material. But the song was under investigation by the FBI for two whole years. The bureau’s interest had to do with the lyrics of the song, which most listeners find either confusing or simply impossible to understand. Those muddled words turned out to be big trouble for “Louie Louie,” as at least one person heard a few things in there that weren’t exactly suiting for a teenage audience.

Part of the FBI’s job is to fight obscenity, and in the FBI’s files on the case, they explain that someone from Sarasota High School complained that the lyrics to the song were obscene. “The lyrics are so filthy that I can-not enclose them in this letter,’” the complaint read. “We all know there is obscene materials available for those who seek it,” it went on, “but when they start sneaking in this material in the guise of the latest teen age rock & roll hit record these morons have gone too far.” On Page 14 of the FBI document, someone did include what they thought the words to the song were. (Warning, they are not safe for work.)

Here are the actual, full lyrics:

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

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

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

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

You can understand why people might not have sorted those exact words out by listening to the song below.

And, in fact, rather than attempting to figure out where the different, dirty versions of the lyrics came from, the FBI spent two years analyzing the song. They even played it at different speeds to see if they were missing some hidden obscene message. And in all that time, the bureau never once contacted Jack Ely, the man who sang the words of the song in the first place. At the end of the two years, the FBI didn’t even exonerate “Louie Louie,” they simply said that “the lyrics of the song on this record was not definitely determined by this Laboratory examination, it was not possible to determine whether this recording is obscene.”

Whatever Jack Ely’s original intent, those rumored, dirty lyrics took on a life of their own, making their way into the movies Animal House and Coupe de Ville. But it’s pretty hard to pick out the differences:

More from Smithsonian.com:

The Hunt for a New, Copyright-Free Happy Birthday Song
Jewish Songwriters, American Songs

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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