Springing forth from Portland, Oregon, the Kingsmen dashed to the No. 2 spot on the national charts late in 1963 with a tune that was totally different than anything else going on at the time. Plastered to the core with noisy guitars clanking like chains, an annoyingly nagging chorus and indecipherable lyrics recited in a tauntingly mumbled tone, “Louie Louie” not only went onto become a highly imitated piece of frat rock fun and games, but it also holds the honor of being one of the most heavily covered songs in history.
Although the Kingsmen scored a couple of further hit singles, namely a remake of Berry Gordy’s “Money” and the silly cartoonish styled “The Jolly Green Giant,” they would forever be associated with “Louie Louie,” that believe it or not prompted the pop music police to try and ban the sloppy little sentiment, as they considered it sexually trashy. A wasted cause, indeed…
Here on the Kingsmen’s third album, On Campus (Wand Records), their greatest moments tend to arrive in the form of instrumentals, including a saxophone driven take of John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s “A Hard Day’s Night” and a smoking remake of Henry Mancini’s “Peter Gunn” that reveals some Northern Soul touches with its moody organ swills. Both these tracks, which jam good and tight, fully display the group’s insistent enthusiasm.
An original cut, “The Climb” is a dance-themed delight. Cemented by barnyard stomping rhythms and jubilant call and response harmonies, the hopelessly catchy song kicks in as an additional nugget, where “Annie Fanny” mimics “Alley Oop” by the Argyles, as it too pays tribute to a comic book character and casts a similar herky-jerky sound.
Screaming saxophone work fuels the throaty Little Richard influenced “Rosalie,” and Booker T. and The MGs are saluted on a vibrant version of “Shotgun” that nails a scruffy garage band stroke to a funky beat.
Reeking of cheeseburgers, french fries, beer and sweat, On Campus is a party-hearty classic. Pure, simple and practical, the record whoops and hollers with positive energy. The Kingsmen were a real-deal rock ‘n’ roll band — and this album offers only the best. Raw, raunchy and right on!
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