The Kingsmen were a raggedly loose garage frat band from Portland, OR, but when lead singer Jack Ely began hollering the half-remembered lyrics to a Richard Berry & the Pharaohs song called "Louie, Louie" at a microphone suspended well above his head in a little Portland studio in 1963, a strange and enduring legacy was born. The Kingsmen's version of the song was as frustratingly infectious as it was ridiculously simple, and since the lyrics, as a FBI report has noted, were impossible to decode "at any speed," the single imprinted itself in the public consciousness as being lewd and dirty, starting a cottage industry in transcription, as expert after self-proclaimed expert provided lurid translations of the (ahem) text. Heard today, the song is still impossible to parse, but luckily singing along is no problem, since any syllable will do, which was probably Ely's general approach to "Louie, Louie" in the first place. Drummer Lynn Easton took over control of the Kingsmen shortly after "Louie, Louie" broke nationally in the U.S. in 1964, and Ely departed the group, with Easton taking over most of the vocal duties. Although the Kingsmen never hit the mythic and exasperating level of "Louie, Louie" again, they did manage a credible career in the mid-'60s with singles like "Jolly Green Giant" (which contains the immortal refrain "and then he hits you with a can of beans"), "Annie Fanny," and the ferocious, stomping "Killer Joe," which came complete with horn charts. This collection has everything you need, and it includes a couple of relative rarities, like a note-for-note cover of the Troggs' "Wild Thing," which is ironic, since the song is a distinct next-generation offspring of "Louie, Louie." Also included here is the original version of the Kingsmen's masterpiece by its author, Richard Berry, who sings the song's decidedly undirty lyrics as a sort of Caribbean doo wop shuffle. But you never know where things will go, and trading Berry's island clarity for Ely's murky shouting on a slippery little song called "Louie, Louie" gave the Kingsmen a solid place in the often weird history of rock & roll.
AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett
feat: Richard Berry