It’s unlikely that any major newspaper will have an article about the historical significance of the role Robert Lindahl played in the creation of one of the most cherished musical recordings in American history. As an audio engineer, he recorded one of the great archetypes of rock and roll music, yet in his hometown newspaper, his death was given a minimal mention. Will the rest of the world pay attention? I have no idea, but here at the LOUIE REPORT blog, I’m happy to acknowledge his role within the LOUIE universe.
Robert Lindahl died on January 9, 2006 at the age of 83, a victim of a congenital lung disease known as Alpha-1 Antitrysin Deficiency. In his hometown paper, the Oregonian, a very small obituary on him mentioned that he was born in 1922 in Portland, graduated from Scappoose High School and was president of Northwestern Inc. Motion Pictures & Recording Studios for about 40 years. This obituary also mentioned that he married Marlene Gregory in 1949, who outlived him, had two daughters, one son, two brothers, three sisters, and six grandchildren.
Of course, such a brief overview only provides a small fraction of his life story. In the early 1960s, Northwestern Inc. was considered one of the finest recording studios in Portland, Oregon. During this period there was a local high school band that performed regularly at a local teen dance club known as “The Chase” operated by KISN disc jockey Mike Korgan aka “Ken Chase.” The big song that was performed by ALL the bands in the Pacific Northwest region was an obscure Richard Berry song made popular by Rockin’ Robin Roberts and the Fabulous Wailers, a successful rock band based in Tacoma, Washington. This little high school band decided they wanted to record their own version of this song, so they pestered club owner Ken Chase, who also happened to be their manager, to make this happen. Ken Chase scheduled a Saturday morning session at the Northwestern Inc. recording studio, and Robert Lindahl, owner of the studio, agreed to engineer the session.
The actual recording session was far from an idyllic collaboration. There was some hostility as Chase and Lindahl shared some heated words as both men had very different ideas about how the final product should should sound. Robert Lindahl was used to taking a more traditional approach in the recording studio, while Ken Chase had something else in mind with a radical mix that de-emphasized the voice.
Truth be told, the Kingsmen were originally very disapointed with the end result, as they thought it was a very sloppy take of the song, recorded poorly. After the session ended, the band was shocked to discover they would have to pay for Ken Chase’s production of both “LOUIE LOUIE” and the B-side, “Haunted Castle.” Apparently, Ken Chase didn’t feel that he needed to pay the $36 (or $50, depending on who you talked to) owed to Lindahl, as it was an expense that should be paid directly by the band.
Over the years, there’s been a lot of folklore spread about how this recording came to be, often with the false claim that lead singer Jack Ely sang into a microphone suspended from the ceiling. There were only a few people in the recording studio that day, and I’m fortunate to have interviewed most of them for my upcoming MEANING OF LOUIE documentary.
Robert Lindahl not only recorded the Kingsmen’s version of LOUIE LOUIE, he also recorded a version of the song by Paul Revere & the Raiders, another local band from Portland, Oregon, mere days apart!
As a special treat, I’ve decided to share some video excerpts from my Robert Lindahl interview, so you can hear a small sample of his side of the story, direct from the original source. Enjoy!
View Quicktime clip (1.5 MB)
View MPEG-4 clip (9.8MB)
View Windows Media clip (7.9 MB)