Matthew Callan uncovers the Secret Record Reviews of J. Edgar Hoover, and it’s quite an eye-opener….
The FBI’s now infamous probe of “Louie Louie,” the ubiquitous garage rock hit of the early 1960s, was not only one of the weirder chapters in the history of the bureau, but it also had a profound, life-changing effect on FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.
The notorious “Louie Louie” investigation began when a worried parent complained to Attorney General Robert Kennedy that its garbled lyrics might contain some obscured obscenities. Hoover’s disdain for the Kennedy clan led him to believe that anything they disliked must be good. He gave The Kingsmen’s single a few spins on his old Victrola before feeling spontaneously transformed. To that point, Hoover had been suspicious of most youth culture music, at one point calling Fabian “a communist dupe of the highest order.” However, the raw energy of “Louie Louie” spoke to him in a way music never had. “I can’t explain it,” he confessed to friends, “and dammit, I don’t want to!”
Hoover secretly stymied the bureau’s “Louie Louie” investigation, even as he attended many of the band’s gigs incognito. (This came to an abrupt halt when a photo surfaced from a Kingsmen gig at Georgetown University, in which a stocky and blurry Hoover-esque figure can be seen in the background, doing a keg stand.) When the “Louie Louie” report finally crossed his desk two years later, Hoover brutally edited the content to absolve the band of any wrongdoing. It was he who added the infamous verdict of “unintelligible at any speed,” though he would later confide to his most trusted advisers, “Looking for any meaning–obscene or otherwise–in an aesthetic masterpiece like ‘Louie Louie’ is like searching for the point of the Mona Lisa.”
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