For the Hit That Never Was this week we selected a request from Spencer, who wrote: “Dear Mr. B, I read that Jack Elyformer singer of The Kingsmen who had a hit with Louie Louie, died this past week, age 71. The article went onto say The Kingsmen‘s was the original version. I don’t think that is true. Am I correct in thinking there was an earlier version by Richard Berry? If I’m right, can you play that version as this week’s Hit That Never Was?”
Spencer is absolutely correct, and we will play the “original” version of Louie Louie for the Hit That Never Was. Singer Richard Berry wrote Louie Louie in 1955. Berry was inspired to write the new calypso-style song, Louie Louie, based on the Rhythm Rockers‘ version of René Touzet‘s El Loco Cha Cha, and also influenced by Chuck Berry’s Havana Moon. Berry also stated he had Frank Sinatra’s One For My Baby in mind when writing the lyrics. One night waiting backstage at the Harmony Club Ballroom, Berry took the rhythm of El Loco Cha Cha, and began to add lyrics, writing them down on toilet paper. Richard Berry & The Pharaohs recorded and released the song as the B-side to his cover of You Are My Sunshine on Flip Records in 1957. It was re-released as an A-side and, when the group toured the Pacific Northwest, several local R&B bands began to adopt the song and established its popularity. It finally became a major hit when The Kingsmen‘s raucous version – with little trace of its calypso-like origins other than in its lyrics – became a national and international hit in 1963 (Paul Revere & The Raiders also recorded the tune in the same studio the week after The Kingsmen, but their version was not a hit). The nearly unintelligible (and innocuous) lyrics were widely misinterpreted as obscene, and the song was banned by radio stations and even investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The song has been recorded over 1,000 times, However, Berry received little financial reward for its success for many years, having sold the copyright for $750 in 1959 to pay for his wedding. Berry commented in 1993, “Everybody sold their songs in those days. I never was bitter with the record companies. They provided a vehicle for five young black dudes to make a record.” In the mid eighties Berry was living on welfare at his mother’s house in South Central L.A.. Drinks company California Cooler wanted to use Louie Louie in a commercial, but discovered they needed Berry‘s signature to use it. They asked the Artists’ Rights society to locate him, and a lawyer visited Berry. The lawyer mentioned the possibility of Berry taking action to gain the rights to his song. The publishers settled out of court, making Berry a millionaire.
We’ll also introduce you to new music Norman B has discovered. First up, out of the UK, London-based DJ and producer, Throwing Shadewith Honeytrap featuring Emily Bee. The track serves as a taster for the upcoming sophomore EP, Fate Xclusive, due out on May 25th. When asked where and when Honeytrap would sound best, the answer was “whilst walking languidly through London on a hot summer evening.” We think it sounds excellent at anytime…anywhere.
Staying in the UK, we head down to Brighton, on the south coast and find Inad, a solo musician with the seemingly sweet Blue Nue. Yet listen closer and notice its got off-kilter sounds and a lovely guitar part. Also, we wondered if the title should be Crazy! Listen to the show and tell us what you think? We understand the record is coming out sometime this month on Hello Thor Records.
Make sure you visit our BACK. page and scroll down for many more of Norman B’s musical discoveries.
Life Elsewhere, airs Sunday, May 3, 12 noon ET, at The Source WMNF HD3 and Monday, May 4, 5.00pm PT at NWCZ Radio