The Rock Song Lyrics That Spurred A Two-Year FBI Investigation

By Heather Ramsey on Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Portrait of rock and roll artist singing
“Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won’t have as much censorship because we won’t have as much fear.” —Judy Blume

In A Nutshell

The silliest FBI investigation into rock music occurred when The Kingsmen’s song “Louie Louie” hit #2 on the charts in 1963. Parents were outraged by the alleged obscenities in the song. One even wrote to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. The governor of Indiana banned the record, and Michigan almost did, too. Some radio stations wouldn’t play it. But the FBI surpassed them all with a two-year investigation that ended with a 119-page report of their findings, which can be summarized as “the parents had really dirty minds.” The incredibly tame lyrics are about a sailor and his love for his girlfriend.

The Whole Bushel

The FBI spent quite a bit of time in the 1960s and 1970s investigating rock music and rock musicians. It didn’t take much to get on their radar.

In 1971, Elvis even offered to be an informant for the FBI. According to a memo in his FBI file, “Presley indicated that he is of the opinion that the Beatles laid the groundwork for many of the problems we are having with young people by their filthy, unkempt appearances and suggestive music. [ . . . [He advised that the Smothers Brothers, Jane Fonda and other persons in the entertainment industry of their ilk have a lot to answer for in the hereafter for the way they have poisoned young minds by disparaging the United States in their public statements and unsavory activities.” FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover refused to meet Elvis, who had his own image problems among the staid, older set.

In any case, it was a hypocritical move from someone who had been dubbed “Elvis the Pelvis” for his gyrating hips after singing “Hound Dog” on The Milton Berle Show in 1956. Critics called him vulgar and animalistic. In a later appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, Elvis was filmed from the waist up so as not to offend anyone.

Of course, the FBI didn’t need any encouragement to put The Beatles on their radar. When John Lennon met with anti-war activists in New York in 1971, the FBI put him under surveillance. He was almost deported the following year. The Nixon administration was especially concerned by Lennon’s activities because 18-year-olds had just received the right to vote. John Lennon was rightly seen as having influence on that demographic in a presidential election. He wasn’t granted a green card until Gerald Ford took office.

But easily the silliest FBI investigation into rock music occurred when The Kingsmen’s song “Louie Louie” hit #2 on the charts in 1963. The song uses exactly three chords, but it’s a catchy tune. It wasn’t the music that was the problem, though. It was the indecipherable lyrics.

When The Kingsmen recorded the song, the microphone was hanging from the ceiling too far above lead singer Jack Ely’s head. Standing on his tiptoes, he had to shout the song into the mic above the loud music. The fact that the 20-year-old was wearing braces on his teeth didn’t help, either.

Parents were outraged by the alleged obscenities in the song. One even wrote to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. The governor of Indiana banned the record, and Michigan almost did, too. Some radio stations wouldn’t play it. But the FBI surpassed them all with a two-year investigation that ended with a 119-page report of their findings, which essentially found that the parents had really dirty minds. The FBI had played the song at every speed imaginable and still couldn’t understand the lyrics.

Unlike the FBI, we’ve discovered what Jack Ely was singing. Before you read any further, get the kids out of the room. Here’s the uncut, uncensored version of the lyrics to The Kingsmen’s 1963 hit, “Louie Louie”:

A Louie Louie

oh no, said we gotta go
yeah yeah yeah yeah
ya said a Louie Louie
oh baby
said we gotta go.

A fine little girl, she waitin’ for me
me catch a ship, across the sea
me sail that ship ah all alone
me never think how I’ll make it home.

A Louie Louie
yeah nah nah now
said we gotta go
oh no, said Louie Louie
oh baby said a we gotta go.

[Obscenity shouted by drummer Lynn Easton when he dropped his drumstick, which the FBI seems to have missed.]

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

A Louie Louie
whoa no, said we gotta go
yeah yeah yeah yeah
ya said a Louie Louie
oh baby
said we gotta go.

Okay let’s give it to ’em right now!

Me see . . . 

Me see Jamaica a moon above
it won’t be long me see me love
me take her in my arms again.
I’ll tell her, “I’ll never leave again.”

A Louie Louie
oh no, said we gotta go.

Yeah yeah yeah yeah
ya said a Louie Louie
whoa baby
said we gotta go.

I said me gotta go now.

Let’s hustle on outta here. Let’s go.

Show Me The Proof

Baltimore Sun: Elvis offered to snitch for FBI
The New Yorker: Is This The Dirtiest Song Of The Sixties?
The True Lyrics to Louie Louie (video)
PBS Culture Shock: Elvis Presley
NPR: Uncovering The ‘Truth’ Behind Lennon’s FBI Files
Daily Beast: How ‘Louie Louie’ Launched a Boner-Related FBI Investigation

  • Hillyard

    Our tax dollars at work. Good thing there weren’t any actual crimes going on at that time.

    Bloom County did an excellent job of looking into the indecipherable lyrics of that song.

    http://www.gocomics.com/bloomcounty/2014/09/30

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