LOUIE LOUIE by Dave Marsh


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 Here, rock critic Marsh (Born to Run, Glory Days, etc.) ventures beyond mere celeb biography or fan-boy appreciation. This cultural history of a single rock tune is an exercise in modern legend-making that also tells ``the story of rock 'n' roll in a nutshell.'' For Marsh, the official investigation of the allegedly obscene lyrics in ``Louie, Louie'' prefigures current efforts to censor pop music. The lesson in this case is skewed in Marsh's favor, since ``Louie, Louie,'' despite years of rumor and myth-making, is really a harmless sea chantey composed by a small-time performer in the mid-50's as ``an R&B dance tune with a hint of cha-cha.'' When Richard Berry sold the publication rights to the tune for $750, he had no idea it would reemerge in the early 60's as a monster hit. Although numerous West Coast artists cut versions, it wasn't until the Kingsmen recorded their slurred, one-track interpretation that the rumors began concerning the ``true'' lyrics. In Marsh's view, the ``protopunk'' sloppy recording of the song ``is the most profound and sublime expression of rock 'n' roll's ability to create something from nothing.'' Down and dirty, the Kingsmen's version frightened parents and inspired a thorough FBI investigation based on the underground circulation of spurious vulgar lyrics. Meanwhile, the ``stop-time cluster-chord'' song spawned offshoots by the Kinks, the Who, and Jimi Hendrix. The song was remade by the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Otis Redding, and disco king Barry White. There are instrumental remakes, jazz-fusion versions, punk homages, and a rap rendition. Despite references to Camille Paglia and Theodor Adorno, Marsh is no Greil Marcus. Though he tells the story of ``Louie, Louie'' well, his cultural analysis is shallow and dependent on all sorts of p.c. insights. A full discography attests to his central point: ``Louie, Louie'' lives! (Eight pages of b&w photographs)

Pub Date: Aug. 4th, 1993
ISBN: 1-56282-865-7
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Hyperion
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1993


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