May 7, 2015
This is a truly classic tale of government incompetence and confusion. From Techdirt:
You know the song. You also know the lyrics are completely indecipherable. However, with [“Louie Louie” singer Jack] Ely’s death, there’s been renewed attention to the fact that the FBI spent nearly two years investigating the damn song. It is just as ridiculous as it sounds, but the FBI has released the file on its investigation and it’s a rather hilarious read. It turns out it wasn’t just the FBI, but involved the FCC and the Post Office.
The motivation behind these efforts was essentially censorship. This all happened in the 1960s, and people were mishearing obscenities in the notoriously garbled song lyrics. They asked the government to figure out what “Louie Louie” was actually saying so it could be banned if need be.
But the brilliant minds at the FBI struggled to accomplish this task, forgetting that the lyrics could be easily acquired for examination from another government agency:
[I]t took nearly two years for someone in the FBI to think, hey, isn’t the song registered at the Copyright Office down the street? Maybe we should send someone over there to find out what it says? This was after the FBI had reached out to the record label (who gave them the accurate lyrics) along with the original author of the song, Richard Berry, who told them the lyrics. Oddly, apparently, the FBI never bothered to ask Ely himself what he sang
If you’d like to have your own go at deciphering the unintelligible lyrics, here you go. Funnily enough, there is one obscenity in the recording (the drummer yells a curse word after he fumbles), but in spite of two years of study the FBI didn’t notice it.