Rock ‘n’ Roll and the Politics of Hysteria

I’m trying to avoid the subject of politics at the LOUIE REPORT blog, but it’s not easy. Not every LOUIE enthusiast shares my views on politics, and I’m trying to use this webpage as a tool to unify the LOUIE community, rather than alienate.

Nonetheless, if it weren’t for certain political actions that happened in the past, there probably wouldn’t be so much interest in the song.

Governor Matthew Welsh
In January 1964, Indiana Governor Matthew E. Welsh received a letter from an Indiana resident stating that LOUIE LOUIE by the Kingsmen was an obscene recording. After listening to the record, Governor Welsh contacted Reid Chapman, a Fort Wayne radio and TV personality and President of the Indiana Broadcasters Association, recommending that the song not be broadcast in Indiana. A page 3 article in the February 1st issue of Billboard magazine quoted Welsh that his ears “tingled.”

Soon afterwards, the F.B.I. launched a major investigation of the song, and kids all over America exchanged hand-written interpretations of the “real lyrics.” As documented in the F.B.I. investigations, both Attorney General Robert Kennedy and F.B.I. director J. Edgar Hoover both received letters from citizens concerned about the objectionable qualities of this little song. This was exactly the sort of thing that helped record sales for an obscure little recording from a band of teenagers from Portland, Oregon.

There can be no doubt that the actions of certain politicians helped record sales in a major way.

A few months ago, I was reminded of how history repeated itself when I interviewed Howie Klein. Howie has had a fascinating career. He started off booking major rock and roll bands while attending college, dug ditches at Timothy Leary‘s farm, ran away to faraway lands across the globe, stumbled into San Francisco, where he hosted a radio show on KSAN, created the first San Francisco punk rock label, printed photos at Harvey Milk‘s camera store, moved to Los Angeles, managed Sire Records, became president of Reprise Records, and then retired to focus on teaching, traveling, and blogging about hypocrisy with his website DownWithTyranny.

Anyways, one of Howie’s notable achievements was that he was the executive producer for Ice-T‘s heavy metal-rap fusion group, Body Count. Like LOUIE LOUIE, nobody seemed to be giving Body Count much attention until certain politicians decided to focus on a certain composition entitled “Cop Killer.” Using this song to fuel the flames of hysteria, politicians like Dan Quayle, Joe Lieberman, and others decried this song as a means of advocating violence. What these short-sighted politicians failed to see was the fact that Ice-T was merely reporting the feelings of many frustrated members of the black community of Los Angeles after the trial of the officers that had been caught beating Rodney King on videotape. Ice-T was not advocating violence anymore than Johnny Cash was when he wrote of “(shooting) a man in Reno, just to watch him die.” It was merely a matter of exercising some creative license. As far as I know, neither Ice-T or Johnny Cash have actually killed anybody.

Once again, to generate more record sales, it helps to have hysterical politicians attack your music. Coincidently, both Richard Berry and Ice-T were from the South Central district of Los Angeles. Speaking of creative license, anyone remember Richard’s uncredited vocals on the Robins‘ “Riot Cell Block #9” in 1954? History does indeed repeat itself in most unusual ways…

Howie Klein

I put up a few excerpts of Howie’s interview on YouTube. If you are offended by naughty words, please don’t bother clicking on the link, as Howie does use strong language.

Today, I was pleasantly surprised to read an article about Paula Kerger, the new president and CEO of PBS. Ms. Kerger is opening questioning the Federal Communications Commission’s inconsistent stance on what constitutes indecency. Right now, KCSM, a PBS affiliate based San Mateo, CA, is facing a $15,000 fine from the FCC for the broadcast of an episode of Martin Scorsese‘s “The Blues” that included some rather “blue” language. Because of just one complaint, the FCC has decided to fine this PBS affiliate.

Thanks to current pinheaded politicians in Washington D.C., the U.S. Congress has passed legislation that would increase fines for “bad” language getting on the air to $325,000 for each infraction.

Ironically, there has been no attempt by the FCC to fine the President for his recent off-camera remark about Syria and Hezbollah. Instead, the FCC has chosen to target a small PBS station that broadcast a show about music by created by Black Americans.

Hypocrisy and hysteria are alive and well, unfortunately.

John Lennon

Lastly on the subject of rock ‘n’ roll and politics, I just found out about a new documentary about one of my heroes. The U.S. vs. John Lennon looks like it will be a great movie. I can’t wait to see this!

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