Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Vinyl find: The Kingsmen / "Louie, Louie" b/w "Haunted Castle"

(Check out the first post in this series for the back story.)

Artist: The Kingsmen
Album: "Louie, Louie" b/w "Haunted Castle" 45 RPM 7" single
Label: Wand Records
Released: 1963

The concept of a B-side to a hit single no longer seems relevant in the digital era, does it? Remember when that shit mattered? I don't --- before my time, ya know? Do you think I can start this post with four questions in a row? Hell yes, I can, can't I? Oh shit, that's five, isn't it? Damn, I might as well go for six, eh? Is anyone still reading?

Anyhoozle, you absolutely know the A-side of this single by The Kingsmen. If you don't, you are not a human being who has ever owned a radio or seen a television program, so why the hell are you on the internet reading this? I don't think I have much to say about "Louie, Louie" except that it doesn't seem to have lost any of its luster as a straight-up rock 'n roll hit single. There's something about the way the singer yelps out those half-mumbled, fully-obscured lyrics and the keyboard chords chime with just the right amount of off-kilter melody and rhythm that sounds so perfect, and it probably will forever. Hearing it doesn't have quite the shock value as it must have back in 1963, and I don't think I will ever think of it as a covert "drug song" with "obscene lyrics" (although the singer may have been on some shit during recording, who's to say?), but it certainly endures as a classic garage rock single, worthy of its timelessness, for sure. Now, for five bonus points, can you name the original composer and performer of "Louie, Louie"? 30 second pause That's right, it was Richard Berry! You can collect your bonus trivia points if you buy me a beer at a show. In the meantime, relive the magic of The Kingsmen's "Louie, Louie" below (with all the lyrics!), and check out some famous and not so famous cover versions here: Richard Berry, Beach Boys, Paul Revere & The Raiders (my fave version of these, FWIW), Motorhead, Toots & the Maytals, Joan Jett, and finally Pittsburgh's very own 1960s scuzz punk band Swamp Rats (I got a compilation of their singles recently, been meaning to write something about them; keep your eyes peeled). Also, the crazy (and unverified) find of the day: this youtube user claims to have audio recording from the first ever Nirvana show, including some random bass riffs that sound like the intro to "Louie, Louie". Hmm, judges?

That song was pretty popular, staying at #2 on the charts for 6 weeks. (Seriously, it was never #1? My mind is blown.) The B-side to this song is a 2:45 instrumental entitled "Haunted Castle" and I wonder if anyone ever listened to it. I'd never heard nor heard of it, but I really like the sound. It has the same driving organ/guitar melody of the A-side, with a fun guitar solo right in the middle, and some punchy drum fills, and the dreamy organ chords that just seem to hang on the ends of the measures before picking up into the next beat are oh-so-catchy.
The weird thing is that I feel like I just keep waiting for the singer to chime in, like he keeps missing his cue verse after verse and then, after almost 3 minutes, the band just calls the whole thing off and calls it a day. Or a song, as it were.It's a catchy tune, for sure, but I can see why it's a B-side. Maybe I'm beginning to understand this whole B-side business after all... In any event, I'm glad to have randomly come across this record in a giant box of 45s, even if it does have big Xs draw in sharpie over the copyright info on both sides, and the letters "WAG" written on side B, too. Curses, past owner!

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