and "LOUIE LOUIE"
by Eric Predoehl, with lots of help
from Denn Simms and Stuart Penney, and a tip of the hat
to Jeff "Stretch" Riedle, Gerry Fialka, Chris
Perry, Charles Ulrich, Rom·n GarcÌa Albertos, and those that will not be named
last updated December 26, 2007
(This was originally
part of an article originally written for SOCIETY PAGES
in 1996, and has since been altered a few times as more
information comes in)
Of all artists to ever perform
the song "LOUIE LOUIE," no other artist has performed
it in so many diverse variations as Mr. Frank Zappa. On one
level, you get the feeling that he might have thought it to
be the most ridiculous song ever written. On the other hand,
he made references to it so many different times, he must
have felt a great affinity towards the song. The love/hate
relationship Frank Zappa had with the song was interesting
and noteworthy. Here are a few selected references to the
song made by Frank in interviews:
ONE: FRANK ZAPPA IN PRINT ABOUT "LOUIE LOUIE"
1) The first time he acknowledged
the song in print was in DownBeat magazine. The issue was
dated October 1969, and the following comment was on page
I don't think the typical rock fan is smart enough to know
he's been duped, so it doesn't make any difference ... Those
kids wouldn't know good music if it came up and bit them on
the ass. Especially in terms of a live concert where the main
element is visual. Kids go to see their favorite acts, not
to hear them. We work on the premise that nobody really hears
what we do anyway, so it doesn't make any difference if we
play a place that's got ugly acoustics. The best responses
we get from an audience are when we do our worst material.
Preston: Oh, how can you say that?
Zappa: It's true man. "Louie Louie" brings
the house down every time.
Preston: People were booing the last time you played
that. One guy wanted "Louie Louie", so you said
"Okay, we'll play "Louie Louie""... "Boo!"
Zappa: Maybe they were booing because we didn't play
Midnight Hour instead.
2) The second time Zappa acknowledged "LOUIE LOUIE"
in print was in an interview with Paul Zollo for SongTalk,
a trade journal for songwriters. The publication was printed
in 1987, volume 2, issue 5.
"If you had to name a few songs written by other people
that you consider to be great, what would they be?"
Zappa: "I liked 'Subterranean Homesick Blues'
by Bob Dylan, I liked 'Paperback Writer' by the Beatles and
'I Am the Walrus.' And no one may not underestimate the impact
of 'Louie Louie' the original Richard
3) Frank Zappa acknowledged LOUIE in an interview with Denn
Simms for the Society Pages fanzine. In issue #1,
page 24, we see the following comment:
There's a particular moment of [Jesus Thinks You're A Jerk]
that really gets me off a lot, and that is that metamorphosis
of, I think it's somethin' like Battle Hymn Of The Republic
mixed with ...
Denn: ... with Dixie, and Old Rugged Cross, and how
that changes into "Louie Louie".
Denn: That was really a sweet idea. Speaking of "Louie
Louie", that seems like sort of a joke for you, and
I'll just make the guess that that's because in your early
days you were in bands where lots of people seriously said,
"Play Louie Louie."
Zappa: Well, I was also in bands when "Louie
Louie", before the Kingsmen made it into the joke
that everybody recognizes now. "Louie Louie"
used to be a really cool tune, the Richard Berry version of
it. It had, y' know, a nice arrangement to it, and a whole
different feel to it. It wasn't until The Kingsmen version
that it became, y' know, the "Animal House" joke
that it is right now.
4) Frank Zappa mentioned LOUIE in his own autobiography, The
Real Frank Zappa Book, published in 1989.
* "I played the gig [with the
Soul Giants] for a while, and one night I suggested that we
start doing original material so we could get a record contract.
Davy [Coronado] didn't like the idea. He was worried that
if we played original material we would get fired from all
the nice bars we were working in. The only things club owners
wanted bands to play then were Wooly Bully, "Louie
Louie" and In The Midnight Hour, because if the band
played anything original, nobody would dance to it, and when
they don't dance, they don't drink."
*"When a guest conductor comes to town, he is not usually
giving a performance of something by a living composer - because
he can warm it up in one afternoon and make it sound okay.
This makes the accountants happy, and allows the audience
to concentrate on his choreography (which is really why they
bought the tickets in the first place). Why is that any better
than a bunch of guys in a bar band jamming on "Louie
Louie" or Midnight Hour?"
4) In the liner notes of "Strictly Commercial,"
a greatest-hits type release that came out after Frank's death,
director/comedian Terry Gilliam (member of Monty Python's
Flying Circus, director of BRAZIL, BARON MUNCHAUSEN) acknowledges
Frank Zappa & the Mothers "pounding out Louie
Louie on that great Victorian organ" at the famous
Albert Hall show that was recorded for the UNCLE MEAT album/film
Frank Zappa has also discussed
LOUIE LOUIE in radio interviews, which may be documented in
a future update of this article. If you have any recordings
of such interviews, please
TWO: KNOWN EXAMPLES OF "LOUIE LOUIE" IN THE RECORDINGS
OF FRANK ZAPPA
Note: These examples are listed in the order of their release.
Whenever possible time indications are noted to allow the
reader to easily locate the LOUIE LOUIE references by using
the time counter on their CD player.
OUT! (released in 1966)
There seems to be the vaguest (almost indiscernible) hint
of a LOUIE LOUIE that is insinuated into the background of
"The Return Of The Son Of The
Monster Magnet" at about 7:30 into the track.
Also, Richard Berry is acknowledged in the liner notes as
one of the major influences on the Mothers of Invention ("Don't
hold it against them"). This 1965 debut recording
of Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention was quite revolutionary
for its time. Even the Beatles acknowledged FREAK OUT as an
inspiration for "SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND."
FREE (released in 1967)
LOUIE LOUIE is a major part of "Plastic
People," beginning with a near-identical opening. There
is an obvious reference to LOUIE LOUIE in the line "Plastic
people, oh baby, now you're such a drag," which replicates
the musical phrasing "Louie Louie, (oh baby) me gotta
go now." Much of rhythm is identical to LOUIE LOUIE,
but this studio rendition deviates from the LOUIE sturcture
to explore other musical territories. Other versions of "Plastic
People" are closer to the LOUIE LOUIE structure.
FREE (released in 1967)
I don't know how I initially forgot to mention "Son
of Suzy Creamcheese" in previous versions
of this article, but it's hard to ignore the influence of
LOUIE in this song. From a melodic point, I'd estimate that
LOUIE LOUIE comprises about 50% of the song. The main stanza
in the song "Suzie Creamcheese, oh baby, what's got
into you" would be a perfect musical match to the
line "Louie Louie, (oh baby) me gotta go"
if the phrase "oh baby" was actually a part
of the original lyrics.
GRAVY (released in 1968)
In the song"Lumpy Gravy Part
1, " the phrase "Louie Louie"
are sung at 9:23. This would be considered Frank's first solo
MEAT (released in 1969)
This is Frank's first actual cover version of "Louie
Louie" (well, sort of). Recorded live at the
Royal Albert Hall in London and featuring Don Preston at "the
mighty, majestic Albert Hall pipe organ," the juxtaposition
of the world's dumbest song, played on one of the biggest
pipe organs in existence, is simply exquisite! This version
is, of course, intentionally frivolous. UNCLE MEAT is also
a film produced by Frank Zappa, available on home video.
SIZE FITS ALL (released in 1975)
adds a LOUIE LOUIE riff (3:07-3:09) in the fourth verse, after
the line "She didn't wanna stay home an' watch the
pestle go mortar."
FURY (released in 1975)
This album is actually a collaboration between Frank Zappa
and Captain Beefheart, recorded live in Austin, Texas. The
LOUIE LOUIE riff (2:14-2:52) is thrown in behind Captain Beefheart's
bizarre lyrics right after the words "Sam was a basket
case!" in the song "Sam
With The Showing Scalp Flat Top," with lyrics
supplied by Beefheart.
TAN (orginally LÄTHER) (recorded between
1974-1976, released in 1978)
One cycle of the LOUIE LOUIE chord progression (12:17-12:19)
can be heard in "The Adventures
Of Greggery Peccary" after the line "They
proceed to perform lewd acts." (This track has re-appeared
on the recent re-assemblage of LÄTHER, the original
collection of music that was dissected by record label executives,
creating STUDIO TAN, and other records thatt were part
of Frank's original plan.)
DISC (originally part of OLD MASTERS, BOX ONE) (recorded
in 1964?, released in 1985)
This is one of the earliest recordings by Frank Zappa,
and came about when Frank was just starting off at Studio
Z. Appropriately, this track is called "Opening
Night at Studio Z", which features someone
stating the phrase "Louie Louie" at approximately
24 seconds. Much of this dialogue is reminscent of the tracks
on the LUMPY GRAVY album.
10. MYSTERY DISC (originally
part of OLD MASTERS, BOX ONE) (recorded in 1966, released
On this typical concert version of "Plastic
People," the LOUIE LOUIE structure is more
pronounced than the original studio version on ABSOLUTELY
FREE, particularly in the way that the verses (compared to
the refrain) are sung. This version occurred at the Filmore
Auditorium on either June 24 or 25, 1966, when the Mothers
opened for Lenny Bruce.
CAN'T DO THAT ON STAGE ANYMORE, VOL. 1 (also appears
on YCDTOSA - SAMPLER) (recorded in 1969, released in 1988)
This is another live version of "Plastic
People" recorded on February 13, 1969 at bar
called The Factory in the Bronx, NYC. (It is more or less
from the same era as the MYSTERY DISC version.) In this recording,
Frank even lectures the audience about the similarities between
"Plastic People" and "Louie Louie." This
particular version is closer to the structure of LOUIE LOUIE
and is an example of what we at LouieLouie.Net would
label as a "LOUIE LOUIE clone." In fact, Richard
Berry is given co-writer's credit in the sleeve notes.
12. YOU CAN'T DO THAT ON STAGE ANYMORE,
VOL. 1 (recorded in 1974, released in 1988)
is an example of something that permeated the performances
of this particular tour: musically improvised reports of the
escapades of various musicians, roadies, managers, etc. things
that later became part of the "folklore." In this
case, the improvised words are those of Napoleon Murphy Brock,
who receives credit in the album notes. The "report"
pertains to Ruth barfing and kicking some poor, unfortunate
guy in the nuts. This track was recorded at the Capitol Theater
in Passaic, New Jersey on November 8 (not 18), 1974. Once
again, as this track begins to segue into the next, Frank's
words to the audience assert that this improvisation is derived
from LOUIE LOUIE. To date, this is the only legitmate rendition
of this song.
13. YOU CAN'T DO THAT ON STAGE ANYMORE,
VOL. 2 (recorded in 1974, released in 1988)
It would take a percussionist to find the LOUIE LOUIE reference
in this particular concert recording, and a drummer did indeed
find the hidden moment. In the song "Dupree's
Paradise," there is a "123-12-123-12
/ LOUIE LOUIE" type rhythm at approximately 23:20 minutes.
This particular recording took place on September 22, 1974
in Helsinki, Finland.
THE HARD WAY (released in 1989)
19. TIS THE SEASON TO BE JELLY (from BEAT THE BOOTS box set #1) (released in 1991)
In the song "Jesus Thinks You're
A Jerk," the last portion of the song transforms
into something of a LOUIE LOUIE clone at 8:15 minutes. The
names "Jim and Tammy" are substituted for
"Louie Louie," and the phrase "we
gotta go" is altered to become "they gotta
15 + 16. THE BEST BAND YOU NEVER
HEARD IN YOUR LIFE (recorded in 1988, released in 1991)
As in the original version of "Florentine
Pogen," this live track contains the LOUIE
LOUIE riff in the fourth verse (2:52-2:54). Another LOUIE
LOUIE reference from this 1988 concert recording can be heard
in an inspired rendition of "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling." which clocks in
at a brief :22-:24 mention.980.
17. UNMITIGATED AUDACITY (from
BEAT THE BOOTS box set #1) (recorded in 1974, released in
Tired of seeing the bootleggers release rare recordings of
his concerts, Frank Zappa teamed up with Rhino Records to
put out a series of albums that replicated the original unauthorized
releases. This quasi-officially released Zappa version of
was recorded May 12, 1974 at Notre Dame University, South
Bend, Indiana where LOUIE LOUIE was used as an instrumental
accompaniment to Frank's band introductons as the show came
to the end.
18. ANYWAY THE WIND BLOWS (from BEAT THE BOOTS box set #1) (recorded in 1979,
released in 1991)
The song "Florentine Pogen",
first heard on ONE SIZE FITS ALL, is performed live in Paris
on February 24, 1979. The LOUIE LOUIE riff can be heard at
In the song "It Can't Happen
Here" someone says "Louie Louie, me gotta
go" around 1:31-1:35.
1978 (from BEAT THE BOOTS box set #1) (released in
LOUIE LOUIE is quoted in "Magic
Fingers," performed in Saarbr¸cken, September
21. YOU CAN'T DO THAT ON STAGE ANYMORE,
VOL. 3 (recorded in 1973, released in 1991)
The audience asks for it before "Dickie's
Such An Asshole," performed in Hollywood,
December 9-12, 1973
CAN'T DO THAT ON STAGE ANYMORE, VOL. 4 (recorded in
1974, released in 1991)
In the song "Smell My Beard,"
a George Duke composition, there is a quick snippet of the
LOUIE LOUIE riff at 4:10 minutes. This concert recording took
place during the winter of 1974 at some undisclosed location
in New Jersey.
23. ELECTRIC AUNT JEMIMA (from
BEAT THE BOOTS box set #2) (recorded in 1968, released in
On this particular authorized bootleg, we are treated to another
version of "Plastic People,"
Frank Zappa's most popular LOUIE LOUIE clone. This version,
recorded live in Denver sometime in 1968, starts at 5:45 on
NA MINCHA TANTA (from BEAT THE BOOTS box set #2) (recorded
in 1968, released in 1992)
On this marginally-authorized bootleg, LOUIE LOUIE is mentioned
in the intro of "What Will This
Morning Bring Me This Evening,"
CAN'T DO THAT ON STAGE ANYMORE, VOL. 6 (recorded in
1980, released in 1992)
The LOUIE LOUIE riff is recycled in the song "Magic
Fingers" at 1:46 minutes. This moment occurred
in Santa Monica, California on December 11, 1980.
SHARK (released in 1993)
On the last recording from Frank Zappa released during his
lifetime, there is a brief stanza of LOUIE LOUIE within the
composition entitled "Welcome to the United States." At 5:20 of track
14, "terrorist activities" are discussed,
using the LOUIE LOUIE riff to tie into a sense of musical
(recorded in 1978, released in 2003)
LOUIE LOUIE is quoted in "Magic
Fingers," performed in NYC, October,
CORSAGE (recorded in 1965, released in 2004)
This was actually one of the earliest variations of a Zappa
LOUIE LOUIE recording. It is believed that this version of
was recorded in 1965, the year before the release of FREAK
To date, these are the only authorized
recordings of Frank Zappa that utilize the LOUIE LOUIE theme.
The musical output of Frank Zappa
is one of the most eclectic collections of sounds to ever
emerge from an individual composer. Often trivialized by mainstream
media, Mr. Zappa was an intelligent spokesperson for the cause
of true freedom, using his music and interviews to pick at
the hypocrisies of modern culture. Combining various genres
of music, Frank Zappa created music with multiple textures
and harmonies, transcending the typical categories that musical
scholars tend to dump music into. Never afraid to combine
humor with complicated musical arrangements, Frank Zappa was
an prolific musical talent who left this planet way too soon.
I would encourage the uninitiated to seek out his music, and
his writings, as there was no other person like Frank Zappa.
He will be missed.
& 2004 ERIC PREDOEHL. All rights reserved.
For more information on FRANK
ZAPPA, I encourage you to explore some of the other websites
devoted to this man. The first place to check out on this
vast internet is the official website from the Zappa Family
Trust, aka Barfko-Swill at http://www.zappa.com.
places for the Zappa appreciator include:
Román Garcia's Frank Zappa &
LOUIE LOUIE pages http://globalia.net/donlope/fz/songs/Louie_Louie.html
Zappa-Analysis.com: Frank Zappa's Musical Language
What's New In The Zappa Universet http://www.catalog.com/mrm/zappa/html/whats-new.html
Charles Ulrich Planet of Zappa Dream http://members.shaw.ca/fz-pomd/
The St. Alphonzo's Pancake Homepage http://www.science.uva.nl/~robbert/zappa/