Thursday, May 17

Unintelligible At Any Speed

Image-Ask Mr. Music
By Grant Davies

On this day 1965, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced its findings on a matter of grave national concern.

What was threat that had been taking up so much of the time of the national police force? Why, it was that extra dangerous Louie, of course! More specifically, it was "Louie Louie", the hit song that was sweeping the nation and threatening to undermine the moral purity of every high school kid in America.

The lyrics of the song were said to be so pornographic and obscene that when the concerned citizens wrote letters to the US Attorney General demanding federal intervention they claimed the words couldn't be included in the text due to their vile nature. Actually, the problem was no one knew what the words really were.

As one historical account has it, lyrics like - "A fine little girl, she wait for me..." - came out sounding like "A phlg mlmrl hlurl, duh vvvr me." Such was the quality of the performance by the group "The Kingsmen" when they recorded the song in 1963 in one take.

So the feds began their investigation by interviewing the writer of the song, Richard Berry, who scribbled the words back in 1955.  He claimed that the lyrics referred to conversation between a Caribbean sailor and his bartender (you guessed it, a dude named Louie) about how much he missed his girlfriend back home. They also interrogated the record producers, with similar benign results.

That's when they really got down to business and went forensic. The crack lawmen and their scientific associates began to listen to the record over and over again at various speeds, going slower each time to see if the vile contents could be discerned so the evil doers could be brought to justice for violating the federal "Interstate Transportation of Obscene Material law."

In the end, they were forced to admit what anyone who ever heard it already knew, it was impossible to tell what the heck was being sung. I'm guessing they did come to one inescapable conclusion though: no matter how many people were buying the record, the song really sucked.

Their final report declared that it was "Unintelligible At Any Speed."  Which, come to think of it, is rather like almost every federal law.

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