Thursday, March 3, 2022

"Keep trying next week!"

Alas, my essay on Iggy and The Stooges' infamous takedown of The Kingsmen's "Louie Louie" did not survive the First Round of this year's March Xness tournament-of-essays, the 2022 edition, "March Faxness," devoted to cover songs. (If you missed the news, I lost out to Ryan Carter's take on The Lemonheads' "Mrs. Robinson." Congrats, Ryan!)

"The Kingsmen found a home in 'Louie Louie,' the decades-long durability of which probably amazed them," I write near the end of my piece. "Some days I listen to The Stooges’ deconstruction of the song and it sounds like a bad joke, a desperate pose in the face of hostile indifference, a house of cards I could blow over. On other days their song sounds, and feels, like performance art of the highest order. On those days, what fascinates me is the movement from the mystery in Ely’s vocal to the transparency of Iggy’s, a move from wide-eyed innocence to heavy-lidded jadedness that’s nothing short of a lesson in cultural history."
The Kingsmen’s song wasn’t explicitly dirty, but playground and high school hallway rumors would have none of that, and desire took over, told its story, all manner of lascivious imagery and blue phrases filling the heads of kids all over the place. (A side note: The Kingsmen’s insane “Little Latin Lupe Lu,” released in 1964, has always sounded a lot filthier to me than “Louie Louie.” Recorded “dirty” with tons of distortion at what sounds like a single-bulb basement-party, the excitable percussion and rumbling floor-toms are impossibly sexy and nearly take the song down. Shake it, shake it, Lupe. I don’t know how the thing was released sounding as unbuttoned as it does.) Iggy Pop squeezed the mystery out of “Louie Louie,” making what was kinda-sorta heard (and certainly desired) into explicit, poor man’s porn, and that aggressive, bullying move was punk as hell, if unsubtle. Iggy and The Stooges Did It Themselves. What both versions of “Louie Louie” can’t extinguish is the mystery in the music, the eternally renewing three-chord majesty, the perpetual motion machine those chords create, the primal hip shake of it all. “Louie Louie” will never end.
You can read my essay for the duration of the tournament here.

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