In what has to be one of the more fascinating stories of government incompetence, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, along with the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission spent an incredible two years investigating the lyrics to the popular 60s song “Louie Louie,” only to realize they already had them.
Documents reveal the FBI launched the investigation in 1964 after parents began complaining that the song’s lyrics contained “pornographic or obscene materials.”
Apparently kids at a junior high school were passing around notes with obscene interpretations of what they believed to be the lyrics, since no one could understand the words to the song.
One mother, whose daughter bought the banned album, said of the interpretations: “The lyrics are so filthy that I can-not enclose them in this letter.”
As evidenced by the documents, federal agents listened to the song forwards and backwards numerous times “at various speeds but none of the speeds assisted in determining the words of the song on the record.”
Interestingly, the version of “Louie Louie” that was popularized by The Kingsmen was actually a cover, previously recorded by Richard Berry and subsequently by other bands, meaning the FBI could have actually looked at those copyrighted versions to find out the lyrics.
The documents also reveal it was almost two years before someone realized the copyright office probably had the original lyrics on file.
The investigation ultimately concluded the song’s lyrics contained absolutely no vulgarities.
Producer Eric Predohl, who’s making a documentary about the song and its controversy, says the FBI exhausted nearly every method of investigation, yet failed to question the man who sang the lyrics, Kingsmen singer Jack Ely, who died recently.
In a hilarious twist pointed out by TechDirt’s Mike Masnick, the feds still failed to discover an obscenity that actually appeared in the song not uttered by Ely, but the band’s drummer.
Oh, and as a general postscript, for all the hand wringing about possible obscenities in the song… there actually is one. Just not in the lyrics. At 54 seconds into the song, the drummer Lynn Easton actually fumbled his drumsticks banging them together and yells out “fuck.” The FBI never caught on to that, but you can actually hear it if you listen…