Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Louie-Louie Life Lesson

No single experience in my life comes anywhere near the mental fear and physical trembling associated with The Brainerd Jr. High School Louie-Louie Incident of 1964

As soon as The Kingsmen's version of the song started getting radio airplay, the rumor exploded that the words to the song were dirty-dirty-dirty. Even 43 years later no one seems to know where the rumor originated, though the thing spread like wildfire across the country. Talk about a meme! Some radio stations even banned the song based on this crazy accusation.

OK picture it: sweet, conservative, Peter Pan-collared, Weejun-wearing 7th graders in Chattanooga, Tennessee, copying and distributing the words to the rumored version during Mr. Sylar's music class at a rate of 10-12 copies every 5 minutes (depending on how many of us sweetie-pies were doing the copying). Xerox had nothing on us. (Was there a Xerox in 1964?)

Who started the lyrics around the class to begin with? Who knows? (No, not me - where would I get such a thing??) But everybody wanted their own personal copy, even though we didn't know what many of the words meant. It was a kind of initiation into soon-to-be teenagehood, and we were all on board.

Until Susan Hicks' mother discovered a copy of the lyrics. I'm boldly using Susan Hicks' real name because she was a rat fink - we all thought she showed the words to her mother to get the rest of the 7th grade class into trouble - and deserves a little real-life blog-scorn. (I'll repent later, I'm sure.)

Well, just guess what came next?

Hoards of us were marched into Mr. Bible's office (yes, the principal with the overly-moralistic moniker) in our Villager dresses and with our John Romaine pocketbooks to face the complete shock and disdain of the school's main authority figure. And the scorn of the school secretary, to boot, who just sat there "tsk-tsking" and shaking her head. What a lost generation we were! (I bet she didn't know what the words meant, either.)

Of course, we got our little talking-to, then Mr. Bible said in his slow Southern drawl, "Well, I haven't decided whether to call your parents about this or not." Damn! How low! Either you're gonna do it or not, Sir, but don't make us live in limbo indefinitely about this! But he did.

Our thinking was that the only way we'd truly know if our parents had been called was if we reaped their wrath. And waiting for that expected wrath was unbearable. Couldn't eat. Couldn't sleep. Lots of praying. Volunteering for extra chores. Diligent homework-doing. Complete terror.

I was in one big knot for about 2 weeks. And when I hadn't seen a sad, disappointed look come across Mother's face by then, I figured I was in the clear. Never heard a word from my parents on the subject. I can't help but think if Mr. Bible had called them, I would have for darn sure heard about it - can't imagine Mother would've let something like that slide. Still . . .

But whenever I hear Louie-Louie today, it makes me feel just fine. Because nothing will ever come close to the experience of dodging that bullet, I tell ya'. Wheeeeeeewwwww!


Anonymous said...

My parents did get a call from dear Mr.Bible on another matter when I had done something terribly wrong . So he DID make calls . I had a copy of "Doug Clark & the Hot Nuts" taken away when I was doing time at military school. My roomate had it blaring all over the campus when the commandants wife walked by our window and hears "The Big Friggin Wheel" come out of our dorm room. I served confinement for two weekends , but everyone else enjoyed it.. I was glad to serve my fellow classmates , and is still a topic over drinks at reunions. I was presented a "bootleg" copy at a recent get together from the commadants son who told me that his dad wore the record out playing it , and had many hours of fun with other faculty members. Glad to serve my fellow man!!

MaryB said...

Jay - I suspect Mr. Bible didn't call because there were so many of us caught, many of whom had parents active in the PTA and other fund-raising activities, that he just wanted to scare us, not piss off the parents.

And one of my friends gave me The Kingmen's Louie Louie for my 13th birthday, a couple of months after the big brouhaha.

(Love the Hot Nuts story, though!)

Elsie said...

I got in trouble with my mom (thank goodness school wasn't involved) for listening to Rod Stewart's "Tonight's the Night." "Good girls should not EVER listen to that!"

I don't get it, what's so bad about the Louie Louie lyrics?

MaryB said...

Nothing's dirty about the real Louie Louie lyrics. But because the words were hard to understand, somehow a naughty version of the lyrics went mainstream. I think the Snopes link prints the dirty words, if you care to find out for yourself.

And oh, the bad Rod Stewart! (Fortunately, I was old enough not to get trouble over those!)

Peter (the other) said...

A great telling of a tale that was repeated in every school across the land. What a curious social phenomenon. Of course, I was in Boston, where things were banned weekly. I always get a kick telling younger people (it seems like yesterday) that you would be sent home from school if you wore jeans, and if a girl wore slacks at all. This brought on the battle of the shorter skirts with the various lines drawn on the thigh. And the Beatles brought on suspensions due to long hair (a length we wouldn't even notice today). In public schools, no less!

In the end we won those battles, but I am not sure that we didn't lose sight of something else. I scare myself with my consideration of the return of school uniforms.

MaryB said...

But PtO - they DO have school uniforms: baggy, underwear-showing jeans, backward baseball caps (which should be reserved for catchers and film DPs), and any top that shows a belly-button piercing and butt tattoo!

Well, we didn't wear uniforms but, then, we were too afraid of the authority figures to push the skirt-length limit much. The hem had to reach the floor when got down on our knees. What a sick skirt-length-checking system that was!