The Kingsmen

The Kingsmen in Person

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The Kingsmen's version of Richard Berry's ubiquitous "Louie, Louie" was a smash number two hit in November 1963, and is still the most famous and best on oldies stations. So when the consumer says, "That's the version from Animal House that Belushi got down to, I want that for my parties," he or she blunders into history. That history was alluded to in Sundazed's reissues of early Paul Revere & the Raiders, the Kingsmen's friendly competitors in Portland, OR, from 1958 to 1964. (The Raiders actually may have covered the then-obscure "Louie" first.) This is the unabashed, wild, unruly, subversive-for-teens, pre-British Invasion Pacific Northwest scene (also see the Wailers). The crazed "Louie" stormed the U.S. months before the Beatles hit. (Even the FBI investigated, worried about the rebellious-sounding lyrics no one could decipher!) In other words, the initial rock & roll fad had "passed." Yet, like the 1963 Raiders, the Kingsmen had a tough, black R&B style and dirty sound that was made for live appearances. They also wore snappy suits (which will surprise some), but their murky din is rock'n'soul garage/basement. This is important, since their set is 75% covers, as expected for that era. If you're going to do James Brown, Isley Brothers, Barrett Strong, and tough Little Willie John, you better make 'em dance. From "Mojo Workout" to "Night Train" to "Money" to the instrumental "You Can't Sit Down," the keyboards swirl above the stomp of the rhythm section and guitars, and it still makes people want to get drunk and go nuts. The band is primitive, sure, but boy does the spirit feel like a hot time.

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