Friday, July 14, 2017

Musical Depreciation

This happened a few years ago, but it still seems like it could happen today. Paula Dawning, the school superintendent of Benton Harbor, Michigan, would not allow the McCord Middle School marching band to play their version of rock classic "Louie Louie" at a Blossomtime Festival parade because, well, "Louie Louie."

Image result"Louie Louie" is a song, originally written as a calypso tune in the 1950s by one Richard Berry, but when a group from Portland, Oregon, The Kingsmen, recorded it in 1963, it became a big to-do for this main reason. It was cheaply, and poorly, recorded. 

I mean super cheap, in a boxy room with one microphone hanging from the ceiling, which is why it sounds like singer Jack Ely was in Milwaukee phoning in his vocals. It would appear that only one take was made; 56 seconds into it, drummer Lynn Easton drops a drumstick (you can hear him shout a curse) and the whole thing just sounds shoddy on a technical level. On a musical level, at 2:02, Easton slams out a drum fill that has nothing to do with the beat or the melody whatsoever. And let's say that the guitarists and keyboard players were not exactly headed for glory either.

Again, because the record sounded so crappy, it was easy for the rumor to take root that the lyrics were really, really filthy. I remember guys in junior high passing around pieces of three-ring binder paper with the "real" lyrics scribbled on them, lyrics that took the song from one expressing the wistful wait for a love to come from another shore to this one and made it sound like something out of "Caligula."

We had nothing better to do, in that era after the Cuban Missile Crisis and before the Kennedy Assassination.

People love to think they're "in the know," getting the "real lowdown" from a guy who knew a guy whose sister dated the cousin of the bass guitar player from Frankie And The Frenchmen, who were such a hit last summer at Hampton Teen Center, until the drummer got grounded and Frankie's dad said he was tired of driving the band all over Towson every Friday night.  

Of course, this would never happen today, since the wise hands of true statesmen and stateswomen guide our ship of state, but the Federal Government of the United States of America, in the entities of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Postal Inspection Service, and the Federal Communications Commission spent two years and plenty of tax dollars looking into the matter of whether Sis and Junior were being ruined by these lascivious lyrics.  You can see the fruits of their labors here in the official, heavily redacted, files.  

Back to the Michigan misunderstanding, Superintendent Chalmers Dawning, as all good leaders will, blamed her staff for allowing the kids to even practice the song in the first place. "It was not that I knew at the beginning and said nothing," she said. "I normally count on the staff to make reliable decisions. I found out because a parent called, concerned about the song being played."

Ah. A PARENT called!  The bane of educators everywhere! A parent called and said this song is smutty and trashy, and without any further investigation, the marching band was forced to yield. 

Do you recall what was revealed, the day someone finally told you the real words?  

Louie, Louie, oh no, I said we gotta go
Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah I said
Louie, Louie, oh baby, I said we gotta go
A fine little girl, she waits for me
Me catch a ship across the sea
Me sail that ship all alone
Me never think how I'll make it home
Louie, Louie, no, no, no, no, no, I said we gotta go
Oh no, I said
Louie, Louie, oh baby, I said we gotta go
Three nights and days I sail the sea
I think of girl constantly
On that ship, I dream she there
I smell the rose in her hair
Louie, Louie, oh no, I said we gotta go
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah I said
Louie, Louie, oh baby, I said we gotta go
Okay, let's give it to 'em, right now!
Me see
Me see Jamaican moon above
It won't be long me see me love
Me take her in my arms and then
I tell her I'll never leave again
Louie, Louie, oh no, I said we gotta go
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah I said
Louie, Louie, oh baby, I said we gotta go
I said we gotta go now
Let's get on outta here
Let's go!

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