Sunday, March 12, 2006
I Never Thought It’d Come To This
I think it was Paul Westerberg who said rock ‘n’ roll is about making mistakes. There’s something to that, as you’ll hear about one minute and 58 seconds into Louie Louie by The Kingsmen. The singer comes in too early, but the drummer covers his mistake and they press on to finish the tune. This take becomes the smash hit single. This is the beginning of the smashing and hitting associated with Louie Louie.
Then The Sonics do a version of the tune. For my money this is the definitive version of Louie Louie. It has the swinging fun of the Kingsmen version, but it adds that signature violent edge of The Sonics.
I remember an acquaintance hearing The Sonics and describing them as so “Pre-Iggy.” True, and Iggy Pop has his own history with Louie Louie. His live version is here, taken from the last gig of Iggy and the Stooges as heard on Metallic KO. This performance takes place right after Iggy was beaten bloody in a confrontation with a huge Detroit biker during the show.
Here’s what Iggy said about it in the book Please Kill Me: “We went back on and played Louie Louie. If all else fails, do Louie Louie, right? That’s what you learn playing in a fraternity band for five years. Play Louie Louie and it will always get you outta anything.”
There must be some magical protective powers to Louie Louie, because the hostile audience threw everything from wine bottles to vegetables at Iggy, but he survived the onslaught, taunting the audience after the song ends: “Thank you very much to the person who threw this glass bottle at my head. You nearly killed me but you missed again so you’ll have to keep trying next week.”
My own theory is that Iggy was given supreme protective powers because he sang the dirty lyrics to Louie Louie, which he clearly enunciates in the song. No wonder the FBI worried about this song when it first came out. The lyrics of course are not obscene in the hit version by the Kingsmen, but they were slurred, and thus they became a kind of Rorschach test for the horny and the pious. Yes, it’s quite obscene in the hands of the Iguana.
Sometimes when I hear Metallic KO I think of it as one of the many deaths of rock ‘n’ roll. The fun of Louie Louie is gone on this record. It doesn't swing. It's just brutal punishment for everyone involved. Creem magazine called it the last rock ‘n’ roll concert. But maybe not. Maybe Iggy just made a mistake by confronting savage bikers and then something great happened.