The Kingsmen

Louie, Louie

Composed by Richard Berry

Song Review by

"Louie Louie" is a song that exists almost in spite of itself, reviled by music critics and snobs alike. It's one of those songs that nobody likes but the people, from its original incarnation as a modified cha cha by composer and R&B star of the 1950s Richard Berry to its present day status as a bar band/garage band/frat house staple. Fueled by a simplistic riff played over the standard three-chord rock & roll format, "Louie Louie" is so basic that its musical contents could be taught to a reasonably energetic cretin. By far and away the most well-known version is the one recorded by the Kingsmen in 1962, a monument to both the D.I.Y. spirit of rock & roll and crappy recording techniques. And as much and as often as this tune has been covered (with versions numbering well over 1,000, including everyone from Iggy and the Stooges to Mongo Santamaria), no one has ever successfully topped the groove of the Kingsmen's version. There are reasons for that, of course. One of them is the sound of the record itself. There are only three microphones used on the Kingsmen's recording: a ribbon mic on the bass drum, an overhead vocal mic that also picks up the majority of the band track as well, and a mic in front of Mike Mitchell's lead guitar amplifier, which is only switched on and off during his solo. The out of focus result makes for a mix that's of the one band-one noise mode, but also sports a power and wallop undeniably all its own. The second unique component of the Kingsmen is the bass line. While 99.9 percent of all bass players play the standard duh-duh-duh...duh-duh figure, give a very close listen to what Bob Nordby plays on the Kingsmen's version. Quite simply, the bass line never resolves the three-chord progression, playing a syncopated part that puts the push-pull of the ham-fisted beat into a perfect groove for dancing. This simple change in the bass line separates their version from everyone else's. Finally, there's Jack Ely's vocal. While much has been made over the years about whether or not Ely sang "dirty" lyrics on the record, he doesn't, although drummer Lynn Easton accidentally clicked his sticks together before the second verse and quite audibly yells "f*ck" in the background. But Ely's vocal, sung standing on tiptoe into the overhead boom mic, is one of the great mysteries about the record that is part of the record's charm, all sore-throat warbling that goes out of control in several places. Few records delineate rock & roll the way the Kingsmen's version of "Louie Louie" does, and while the tune has become an anthem, no subsequent cover versions top the original.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
The Kingsmen in Person 1963 Sundazed 2:44
Oldies But Goodies, Vol. 11 1974
Various Artists
Original Sound Entertainment 2:43
No Image 1976
Various Artists
MCA 2:42
The History of Northwest Rock, Vol. 2 1978
Various Artists
Jerden 2:44
Oldies But Goodies: Legendary Hits 1979
Various Artists
Original Sound Entertainment 2:43
The Best of Louie Louie, Vol. 1 1983
Various Artists
Rhino 2:45
Louie Louie 1986 Prime Cuts 2:42
Toga Rock 1987
Various Artists
DCC Compact Classics 2:38
Cruisin' Years 1988
Various Artists
3:15
Billboard Top Rock & Roll Hits: 1963 1988
Various Artists
Rhino 2:45
The Best of the Kingsmen [Rhino] 1989 Rhino 2:47
No Image 198?
Various Artists
Rhino
Louie, Louie and More Golden Classics 1991 Collectables 2:44
Golden Age of American Rock 'n' Roll, Vol. 1 1991
Various Artists
Ace 2:42
The Scepter Records Story 1992
Various Artists
Capricorn 2:44
Louie Louie: Live and Unreleased 1992 Jerden 3:09
Billboard Top Rock & Roll Hits: 1962-1966 1993
Various Artists
Rhino 2:45
Dick Clark's All-Time Hits, Vol. 4 1994
Various Artists
Original Sound Entertainment 2:44
Radio Gold, Vol. 2 1994
Various Artists
Ace 2:43
Preppy Deluxe [1991 26 Tracks] 1994
Various Artists
Ripete Records
Super Hits, Vol. 3 [Hollywood] 1994
Various Artists
Hollywood/IMG / Hollywood 2:44
Fun Rock: Gold for the Road 1994
Various Artists
Peter Pan (ISP)
Only Rock 'N Roll 1960-1964: 20 Pop Hits 1995
Various Artists
Rhino / JCI Associated Labels 2:41
Party On 1995
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:43
Louie Louie Collection 1995
Various Artists
Jerden 2:49
Jock Rock, Vol. 2 1995
Various Artists
Tommy Boy 2:42
The Best of the Kingsmen [Laserlight] 1995 Laserlight 2:46
Party Time Rock & Roll 1996
Various Artists
King / King 2:45
Sixties Groovy Hits [1996] 1996
Various Artists
Excelsior Recordings
Party Time, Vol. 1: Ultimate Party Album 1996
Various Artists
SPG 2:39
I Love Rock & Roll: Hits of the '60s, Vol. 2 1996
Various Artists
Priority Records / Priority 2:44
Louie Louie [Charly] 1996 Charly Records 2:47
Sixties Generation: 1963 1997
Various Artists
Retro Music 2:43
Greatest Sports Rock and Jams 1997
Various Artists
Cold Front Records / K-Tel Distribution
Golden Jukebox Hits, Vol. 1 1997
Various Artists
Galaxy Music 2:41
Rock N' Roll Legends 1997
Various Artists
Mega Stars 2:01
High School Dance Classics [Crown Collection] 1997
Various Artists
Crown 2:40
Blues Brother Soul Sister [Time Music] 1997
Various Artists
Crimson Productions
This Is...Son of Cult Fiction 1997
Various Artists
Virgin 2:44
Greatest Hits [K-Tel] 1998 K-Tel Distribution 2:44
Original Party Music 1998
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:43
The Very Best of the Kingsmen 1998 Varèse Vintage / Varese 2:45
Frat Rock! 3 Pac 1998
Various Artists
Rhino 2:43
Killer Classic Rock 1998
Various Artists
Original Sound Entertainment 2:42
Green Bay Packers Greatest Hits 1992-1996 1998
Various Artists
Alphabet City 2:41
60's Generation 1998
Various Artists
Crimson Productions
Greatest Sports Rock and Jams [Box] 1998
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:40
Party of the Millennium 1999
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:43
The Best Sixties Album in the World...Ever! [1998] 1999
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 2:43
Mods Vs. Rockers 1999
Various Artists
Dressed To Kill 2:46
DJ Don's Party Mix: Party Time 1999
Various Artists
Power Records (Fitness/Dance) 2:47
Are You Ready to Rumble, Vol. 2 1999
Various Artists
Platinum Disc 2:44
Budweiser Presents: Frank & Louie's Greatest Hits 1999
Various Artists
TVT 2:40
Instant Party Disc: Extra Strength 1999
Various Artists
Rhino 2:43
The In Crowd [Crimson] 1999
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 2:43
Rhythm and Blues Classics 1999
Various Artists
Crown 2:42
Louie Louie: The Very Best of The Kingsmen 1999 Collectables 2:45
No Image 1999
Various Artists
Image Entertainment
Party Time [SPG] 2000
Various Artists
SPG 2:39
America's Premier 60's Garage Band 2000 Edeltone 2:45
Sixties Generation: 1962-1963 2000
Various Artists
Boxsets 2:45
Nuggets from Nuggets: Choice Artyfacts From the First Psychedelic Era 2000
Various Artists
Rhino 2:44
Juke Box Heroes: A Moment of Love 2000
Various Artists
Scopus 2:46
Wild and Wooly: The Northwest Rock Collection 2000
Various Artists
Sub Pop 2:45
Green Bay Packers: Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 2001
Various Artists
Alphabet City Sports Records / Alphabet City 2:41
Modrophenia 2001
Various Artists
Dressed To Kill 2:46
A Decade in Sound 2001
Various Artists
Dressed To Kill 2:46
A Year in Your Life: 1963, Vol. 2 2001
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 2:44
The Sixties Groovy Hits [2002] 2002
Various Artists
Deuce Boxed Sets 2:45
Happy Days 50's & 60's 2002
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution 2:43
Ultimate Jukebox Collection [Ross] 2002
Various Artists
Ross Records 2:45
Rude Boy Revival 2002
Various Artists
Telstar TV Records 2:42
Love That Louie: The Louie Louie Files 2002
Various Artists
Ace 2:45
Golden Oldies, Vol. 4 [Original Sound 2002] 2002
Various Artists
Original Sound Entertainment 2:43
12 Hits of the '60s, Vol. 1: Five Star Collection 2002
Various Artists
Varèse Sarabande / Varese 2:47
Then: Totally Oldies, Vol. 4 2002
Various Artists
Varèse Sarabande / Varese 2:45
Garage Rock Classics 2004
Various Artists
Varèse Sarabande 2:45
Hot Rod Cruisin' Classics 2005
Various Artists
Legacy 2:43
Ultimate 16: Ultimate 60's Garage Band Rock 2005
Various Artists
Madacy 2:40
The Sixties: Frat House Hits 2006
Various Artists
American Beat Records 2:45
Ready Steady Sixties 2006
Various Artists
Horizon 2:40
No Image 2008
Various Artists
Delta 2:45
Fender: The Golden Age 1950-1970 2012
Various Artists
Ace / Ace UK 2:44
21 Super Golden Oldies
Various Artists
Bescol
No Image
Various Artists
Allegiance Records
Good Morning, Vietnam
Various Artists
Disky
Juke Box Heroes
Various Artists
Scopus 2:46
No Image Decal
No Image
Various Artists
2:56
No Image Richmond
Rock 'N' Roll Hall Of Fame, Vol. 13: Louie, Louie
Various Artists
No Image
Various Artists
Audio Fidelity
blue highlight denotes editor's pick