The Kingsmen – The Best of The Kingsmen: #372 of best 1,000 albums ever!

The Kingsmen - The Best of The Kingsmen

So why is The Best of The Kingsmen on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?

Apologies for getting all book report-y, but I’d like to kick this one off with a question: what is frat rock?

All Music defines it as follows: “Frat Rock was garage rock before there was garage rock – big, dumb party music that was raw, ragged, and fun.” And then it goes on to name two examples, and one of them happens to be “Louie Louie” by a band called The Kingsmen.

Now, let me take a big step back from a moment. One of the best compliments I ever received was from a college friend who said that I’m a really good mix of liberal and conservative*.

* Very important note: this was meant in general terms, such as my personality and appearance, and NOT in terms of politics. Politics very rarely came up at all socially within my bubble of a college experience during the 1990s, if you can believe it!

When I look at myself these days, I see different parts, different pieces, different influences. I’ve never really been one “thing.” In college, I was an Resident Advistor, played bass in the symphony orchestra, and then stopped doing both of those things and played rugby senior year. These days, it’s my passion for pop culture, sports, media, and technology that likely represents me as much as anything else.

And writing. You know, like stuff such as compiling the best 1,000 albums ever.

I mention all of this as I’ve long thought that I have a bunch of different sides to my personality and outlook, none of which are dominant. I have a cerebral-ish side that’s driven by reading a ton from a wide array of sources, a philosophical-ish side that shows up with a certain group of old friends, a comedy-loving side that comes out most with other friends, and a dusting of a “frat” side* that brings back warm memories of hanging out by the keg in my far flung youth college days.

* I was never in a fraternity. In my view, being part of the rugby team at Binghamton University gave me all of the best parts of community and brotherhood and discipline and (yes!) more fun than one could hope to have in a lifetime without any of a fraternity’s… downsides, let us say.

Bringing things back to The Kingsmen, I kind of get how the “frat rock” label can be slapped on them, but then I also consider that they produced a ton of great and varied music. If “dumb” music was “easy” to produce and produce well, everyone would do it. And if by “dumb,” you want to replace that word with “simple,” Steve Jobs famously said that simple is hard.

And many of you are likely reading these words on a device sold by the company Jobs co-founded.  

Although The Kingsmen represent far more than the success of “Louie Louie,” any examination of the band has to start with the song that makes us all say me gotta go.

The piano hook is as catchy as it’s dead simple, and it’s a song that has that rare quality where you can sing/slur along with the lyrics without knowing most of the lyrics and no one will really notice or care. It’s a song that’s entered our collective pop cultural consciousness or “playbook” or whatever you want to call it. Which, ironically perhaps, makes it easy for some to dismiss it.

I’m always struck when I recall that The Doors – a band that has multiple sides to it, and one may well be a little bit frat-y – would cover “Louie Louie” during their coming up days on the Sunset Strip when they didn’t have a ton of their own material to work from.

The Kingsmen actually cover “Louie Louie” themselves, as the original artist who produced it was an R&B version by Richard Berry in 1957. And to showcase the legacy of this song, bands that have covered it range from the likes of The Beatles and Led Zeppelin to Black Flag and The Clash.

And for a certain generation, The Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie” is most closely associated with the classic campus comedy, National Lampoon’s Animal House.

Here’s a fun live version of “Louie Louie,” performed on Shindig!! in 1965.

Okay, as I mentioned there are tons of other great Kingsmen songs, so much as to make The Best of The Kingsmen #372 of best 1,000 albums ever worthy. “Death of an Angel” is a fantastic counterpoint to “Louie Louie” as it’s slower and quieter while losing nothing in terms of intensity and energy. And in fact it has a beguiling touch of darkness and mysteriousness to it that I much enjoy.

“Money (That’s What I Want),” a 1960s standard (it was originally recorded by Barrett Strong in 1959), is another song that The Kingsmen make absolutely their own, a riotous and joyful garage rock jam that has me repeating the following all day each time I listen to it.

Stomp, shout, and work it on out

“Jolly Green Giant” is representative of how much fun The Kingsmen obviously have in making music, and reminds me of very early Beatles in terms of the pure joy of rock and roll that these guys produce consistently.

Other stuff that has something to do with The Best of The Kingsmen

Here’s the full quote from Steve Jobs, pretty great stuff:

Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.

Some stats & info about The Best of The Kingsmen

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock Music, Garage Rock, Pub Rock, Dance Music
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – not ranked!
  • All Music’s rating – 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • When was The Best of The Kingsmen released? 2006
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #372 out of 1,000

The Best of The Kingsmen on Spotify

A lyrical snippet from The Best of The Kingsmen that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe

Louie Louie, oh no, me gotta go. Aye-yi-yi-yi, I said Louie Louie, oh baby, me gotta go.

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.