Thursday, April 12, 2012

Song of the Week: The Sonics - Louie Louie

Day four of our Louie Louie love fest. The Sonics -- Gerry Roslie, Andy Parypa, Larry Parypa, Rob Lind and Bob Bennet -- recorded Louie Louie in 1965 at Wiley/Griffith Studios up in Seattle with producer Kearney Barton manning the controls. The song was recorded live with two tracks. One for the drums and one for the rest of the band. Most notably, the Sonics change the song from it's familiar I-IV-V (A#-D#-E#m) arrangement and instead give it a major chord I-III-IV (A#-C#-D#) arrangement. The change takes the bop out of the song and replaces it with a good old crunch. Gerry Roslie rips the vocals as hard as Larry Parypa rips the unrelenting barre chord progression on guitar. The result is truly a mind melt. Particularly when put into the context of 1965.

The song was released as the Flip-Side to the band's stellar composition, Cinderella, and would prove to be their last for Etiquette Records.


  1. "Wowwwww" That lead guitar going into the guitar riff alone followed by that scream is fucking awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. The Sonics are, and were, GOD. Case closed.

  3. This song rips. I wonder how they came up with the different arrangement. Definitely gives it this tune a snarl that you don't get elsewhere. Apparently the Kink's You Really Got Me riff was born during the attempt to work out the standard Louie Louie arrangement for their version.

  4. Must be close to 22 billion versions of this song by now, the only two I can still stomach are those by the Sonics and Motorhead. As you mentioned, the Sonics replaced the good-timey bounce common to most versions and replaced it with some good ol' fashioned gonad-gripping grind. If this version spews from the speakers at your next collegiate bacchanal you better trade in your toga for a Kevlar vest.

  5. I remain a big fan of the Kingsman classic and the one guitar in the middle of the room. It was such a huge shot to the arm for the anemic R-n-R scene in 1963.

  6. It should be noted that the Kingsmen's is not the original. It was recorded in '55 by Richard Berry from Louisiana. The lyric's reference to Jamaica tipped it off for me. My (lengthy) research also turned up this wiki-gem regarding the Kingsmen: "The night before their recording session, the band played a 90-minute version of the song during a gig at a local teen club." One song, 90 minutes!

    1. Berry was born in Louisiana but grew up in Los Angeles. He performed from that base and released Louie Louie in 1955 on Flip Records. I also have a 1961 recording on Etiquette Records of Rockin' Robin Roberts doing the song. Etiquette, like RRR, was Pacific Northwest based. I believe Tacoma, WA to be specific, which is from where The Sonics hail. The RRR single is pretty easy to come by. The song became a standard in the Pacific Northwest at this time.

      Two years after RRR released it, and played down the calypso of the original and played up the stutter hop, The Kingsmen and Paul Revere and The Raiders recorded it in Portland, Oregon. At the same studio and within a week of each other. The Raiders' version became a regional hit and the Kingsmen version took root in New England at frat houses. I much prefer the low-fi Kingsmen version. The Raiders version is ok but I think Mark Lindsay hams it up a little too much. But the Raiders version does have a really nice guitar break from lead guitarist, Fang.

      What strikes me about these last two versions is how similar they are. Clearly the two bands were influencing each other before they recorded it.

      This is kinda like Hey Joe in LA, where everyone was doing it at the same time and with the same arrangement.