Notes from a fellow archivist

(Here’s a little email that I found in my email box that I felt was worth sharing with others….)

So, I have this weird hobby. I became interested with a single song and the many different versions of it. I began collecting the different versions. I first did some simple searches on P2P networks, finding the most popular versions. An internet search led me to AllMusic.com, where I found a list of people who’d covered the song; I made a sustained effort to track down those versions. It seemed like a long list, but I soon learned that it only scratched the surface of the song’s full reach. In the interim, my internet meanderings led me to other, more obscure versions. Now I find myself trolling eBay for old vinyl, poring over esoteric music blogs, refining lists of different versions within genres and eras, and searching for biographical information of bands long since dissolved or newly created.

My original purpose—to simply collect as many different versions as I could find—has given way to a need to flesh out what I believe to be the oh-so-compelling narrative arc of the history of a single musical composition. The goal, ultimately, is to put together a website similar to louielouie.net.


I was first made aware of your existence (or, more accurately, the existence of a person or persons who were collecting versions of “Louie Louie”) this July. While visiting an old college friend, I (of course) needed very little encouragement to begin expounding on my hobby of the last couple years. I even had a hundred or so recordings of said musical number to share with him. He tolerated my rather breathless recounting of the song’s colorful history, then told me of a phenomenon called “Radio Louie Louie,” which he described as a radio station that only played “Louie Louie” twenty-four hours a day. A little research revealed that he may have been exaggerating slightly, but it did lead me to your website, which describes the event in 1983 which probably inspired his memory.

Looking at your website, I’ve experienced some conflicting feelings. On the one hand, I recognize an intention similar to my own, which is nice because I can find comfort in knowing that there is at least one other person out there doing something similar to what I’m doing. On the other hand, I have an eerie sense of looking at what I may become in the future.

So, I guess, I’m writing you to ask a few simple questions with possibly complicated answers, with the hope that it may lead to deeper understanding of what I am beginning to realize about my little “hobby”….

Is it worth it?

Are there others out there like you/us?

What are the other songs people are collecting in similar fashions?

And, finally, would you be available to me as a correspondent and sounding board for various insights and musings I’m having as I delve deeper and deeper into this process? Because it does seem like we have remarkably similar hobbies.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Oh, and the song I’m collecting? “A Taste of Honey,” by Bobby Scott and Ric Marlow, covered by Herb Alpert, the Beatles, the Ventures, and many more. I’m currently at 250 versions and counting.

Larry Barden
Click here to send email to Larry

UPDATE: A few comments were sent to me, addressing these notes:

First, something from Andy Martello:

Worth it? Not for any of us to say. if it is fun and it passes the time in a harmless way then enjoy to any extent you are willing to enjoy. You determine the worth of ANYTHING you spend any time enjoying or pursuing. I can’t say if it is worth it for you.

Other collectors? I thought I was the only one until I stumbled upon Theo’s and Eric’s respective sites many years ago on my mom’s computer during a visit. I was saddened to find out my then 50 strong collection of LL wasn’t even one TENTH the amount of the folks like Stretch and Eric, but I always found the hobby “worth it”.

To address the question about other collectors and other songs, I share a story from one of my trips to a vinyl & bootlegged concert collectors show some years back…

I am faithfully heading from booth to booth, searching through countless vinyl records and asking all the merchants if they are aware of any Louie Louie versions among the myriad recordings they offer. Many mock and stare after I utter the question. One guy, a man who looked as out of it as anyone you’d see twirl-dancing at a Grateful Dead show, looks at me so long I am forced to say, “Yeah, I know it is an odd thing to ask for. I have a collection of about 100 or so and I’m always looking for more.” This stoner/bootlegger dude simply replies,

“Don’t sweat it, man. I must have about 25 versions of Dylan’s ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door already. Still looking, ya know?'”

Does any of this answer the questions appropriately?

Jack Ely also replied:

You ought to try collecting horses. lol

Then Stretch added his reply:

Aww, that’s easy…you just buy two of them, then let nature take its course and give you more horses……!!!!!!!!!!

(And name one Louie and one Louise.)

Stretch

Drake also weighs in on the matter…

Larry,

I have a playlist in iTunes called BEST VARIANTS. In it I have all my favorite blues, R&B, and rock tunes with as many versions as I can find. Some of my favorites: Take Me To The River, Midnight Hour, Money, You Can’t Sit Down, Good Lovin’, Gloria, Roll Over Beethoven, Mustang Sally, Green Onions, C. C. Rider, Good Golly Miss Molly, What’d I Say, Kansas City, Johnny B. Goode, Sweet Home Chicago, Gimme Some Lovin’, Bring It On Home To Me, Route 66, Dust My Broom, etc.

Of course, Louie Louie gets a playlist all to itself.

I’ve found my songs from two sources — CD’s I’ve bought of the featured artists doing the tunes, and downloads of cover songs by (non-recorded) bands that put them up on the internet as demo’s. The latter can sometimes be quite good. I find them using the AltaVista, ProjectPlaylist, eSpew, Dogpile, Mpeg, and AlltheWeb MP3 search engines.

You learn real quickly that a lot of the bands are from other countries: Russia, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Australia. Of course England is in its own category when it comes to blues and R&B.

Anyway, I love collecting multiple versions of songs especially across different genre’s (e.g., classic rock vs punk). As of today my BEST VARIANTS playlist has 2003 songs and will play for 5 days nonstop! Which it did on my drive from Seattle to Ithaca, NY, this last week…

Best,
Drake

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