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When tax dollars meet paranoia: The FBI’s two-year quest to figure out the lyrics to “Louie, Louie”

The record cover for
The record cover for "Louie, Louie" by The Kingsmen

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A fine little girl, she wait for me;
Me catch a ship across the sea.
I sailed the ship all alone;
I never think I’ll make it home

Three nights and days we sailed the sea;
Me think of girl constantly.
On the ship, I dream she there;
I smell the rose, in her hair.

Me see Jamaica moon above;
It won’t be long me see me love.
Me take her in my arms and then
I tell her I never leave again.

Are you hearing something that we’re not? The FBI did. They spent two years investigating the song, "Louie, Louie" and its lyrics for obscene messages. The song, famously mumbled by The Kingsmen,  infuriated a Florida high school teacher in 1964. She wrote a letter to the FBI insisting that something be done to ‘stamp out this menace’.

So, the FBI spent two years analyzing the lyrics by listening to the song at different speeds and trying to decipher the words. After all the man hours and tax dollars that were invested into this investigation, perhaps the FBI's only payoff was more versions of this song and the memorable scene from ‘Animal House’.

Do you hear obscene lyrics while listening to Louie Louie? Do you remember alternative versions that may have been NSFW? Do you think that this was good use of the FBI’s resources?

Louie, Louie,
Me gotta go.
Louie, Louie,
Me gotta go.

Jon Wiener, professor of History at the University of California Irvine and author of “How We Forgot the Cold War: A Historical Journey across America”