Classic Garage B.L.L. (Before "Louie Louie") and a Circle

Somebody asked, “Why write about ‘Louie Louie’?”  The obvious answer should be, “Why not?”  But the real reason is its exalted status in rock ‘n roll lore.  “Louie Louie” has been covered on more recordings than any pop song except “Yesterday” and, as you know from our last blog, was the subject of a FBI investigation.

In my B.L.L. (Before “Louie Louie”) times, one of the classic garage band songs was “Money.”  It was in the same league as “What’d I Say” and “Shout.”

Now, younger music fans will say, “Oh, yeah.  That is a pretty good Pink Floyd song.”  But we older folks know that “Money” -- the real “Money” -- has nothing to do with Pink Floyd.  Besides what garage or party band would play Pink Floyd songs?

Can you hear the audience now?  “After ‘What’d I say,’ how about playing ‘The Wall.’”  I cannot and doubt that you can imagine that.

The real “Money” was a song performed by Barrett Strong and co-written by Berry Gordy.  “The best things in life are free, but you can give them to the birds and bees.  I want money.  That’s what I want. . . .”  Reciting those words makes you wonder if the song was the basis for the amorality of the 1980s greed generation and “trickle down economics.”

But before the hedonistic days of disco and before “trickle down economics” became way to justify benefits and tax breaks for the rich, we had raw-boned rock ‘n roll.  “Money” was released in 1959.  In the early 1960s, every party band was required to perform it.  No fraternity party or high school dance with a live band was complete without “Money.”

The Astronauts are known for “Baja,” “The Hearse,” “Surf Party,” and other instrumentals.  But they recorded “Money.”  So did the Trashmen -- the “Surfin’ Bird” guys.  The Sonics -- Northwest progenitors of garage and proto-punk music -- recorded a version of “Money.”  

Other well-known performers who sang “Money” back in the day include Jerry Lee Lewis, Joey Dee and the Starliters, the Knickerbockers, and Paul Revere and the Raiders.  Even the Beatles and the Rolling Stones covered it.

And . . . oh, yeah, the Kingsmen recorded “Money.”  Their recording made the top 20.  Even though it is a B.L.L. classic for me, it was their follow-up to “Louie Louie.”  So “Money” was A.L.L. (After “Louie Louie”) for the Kingsmen and some others.

Does that complete a circle?  Stay tuned.

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