The F.B.I. Investigation of the song “Louie Louie”

FBI investigation of LOUIE LOUIE

Over the years, the F.B.I. has conducted a wide variety of rather unusual investigations. Created in 1908 under the United States’ Department of Justice department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation gathers information about potentially dangerous activities in order to protect the safety of the American citizens. As with any research project, time is spent gathering data that may or may not be useful. The process of proper investigation demands comprehensive research, an acute eye for detail, patience in dealing with complicated subjects, and an intelligent approach in evaluating the results of the data.

The F.B.I. has spent many hours investigating subjects that seem completely irrelevant by today’s standards. Sex lives of celebrities were monitored by government-paid voyeurs, all under the auspices of national security. Entertainers with political beliefs counter to the status quo were routinely harassed, while the crimes of corporate theft went undetected.

Very few F.B.I. efforts could compare with the Louie Louie investigation.

Under the auspices of “ITOM,” a federal law prohibiting Interstate Transportation of Obscene Material, “Louie Louie” was investigated by the F.B.I. to determine whether the song was actually obscene. Spurred on by naughty notes from teenagers that claimed to know the “actual lyrics,” concerned parents contacted government authorities to see what could be done to restrict distribution of this controversial rock song.

In the mid 1960s, many people considered this subject a very serious matter. Rock and roll was considered a subversive movement, and governor Matthew Welsh of Indiana actually used his powers to restrict airplay of this song. Of course, all of this controversy helped spur more record sales, as teenagers rushed to the record store to buy the record that shocked, or at least confused their parents. It was no accident that the extra notoriety contributed to the popularity of “Louie Louie” as one of the greatest party songs of all time.

In 1984, I petitioned the F.B.I. for information on the Louie Louie investigation, using the Freedom of Information Act. When Dave Marsh wrote his book on the Louie Louie phenomena, he acknowledged me as the original source for bringing these papers to the public.

The F.B.I. investigation of the song, which took over two years, uncovered very little relevant information. Despite a lengthy investigative process that included repeating listenings of the song at different speeds, and interviews with author Richard Berry, and members of Kingsmen, the study could find no evidence of obscenity. In fact, the bureau came up with the conclusion that the song was “unintelligible at any speed.”

The Louie Louie F.B.I. Files are a curious document to behold. Names are blacked out in this odd collection of paperwork, giving an appearance of Dadaist art manifesto that makes absolutely no sense. There’s an assortment of imaginary lyrics, actual lyrics, copies of record labels, letters from concerned parents, and government forms filled out by lowly F.B.I. agents that were probably asking themselves “Why am I investigating this stupid little song, anyways?”

Deciphering this collection is something of a puzzle that few people would want to indulge in. Casual readers would probably be better served by tracking down Dave Marsh’s out-of-print LOUIE LOUIE book, which summarizes some of the basic elements of the investigation into simple English.

For those interested in obtaining a copy of this investigation, I offering an archival collection of notes that duplicate my correspondence with the F.B.I. and their subsequent response; a total sum of approximately 140 pages This is something strictly for the serious collector, archivist, or scholar that wants a definitive document of the F.B.I. investigation.

For more information, drop a message to LOUIE over at LouieLouie.net, and we’ll see what we can do..