Of all the rock 'n' roll classics in all the goldie-oldie record libraries in all the world, which one is headed for the high honor of becoming the State of Washington's official song?
The official designee is not "Walla Walla Woman." The chosen song is not "It Must Be Raindrops," although that title would jibe nicely with the state's moist climate.
Instead, the rock standard that has improbably won the hearts of the state -- and, more importantly, its legislature -- is the 1963 chart-buster "Louie Louie."
The hard-rocking song, which was infamous in the 1960s for its indecipherable but allegedly filthy lyrics and reappeared in the '80s as the theme for the college gross-out movie "Animal House," is now the subject of a rocking, reeling political battle among three Northwest states, each pledging a particular allegiance to the rock hit.
"It started as a lark, but now it's become something pretty serious," says Dennis L. Heck, chief clerk of the Washington state House of Representatives. "We're passing resolutions right and left on the thing, and now Idaho and Oregon are trying to get in on it."
The drive to install "Louie Louie" (the second word of the title is pronounced "Looeye" on some recordings and "Looee" on others) stems from the fact, known only to a few diligent students of early rock 'n' roll, that the people of Seattle made "Louie Louie" a hit in 1961, two years before it swept the rest of the country.
To make the most of this historical distinction, a Seattle TV personality, Ross Shafer, began a campaign in February to make the song Washington's official theme. He said the rock standard was preferable by far to the long-established state song, "Washington, My Home," a gentle ballad with melody and lyrics ("Washington my home/ Wherever I may roam . . .") characteristic of official state songs around the country.
To the amazement of many, Shafer's campaign caught on, not only with the general audience but also with political types.
"We had some local and county governments passing resolutions calling on the legislature to change to 'Louie Louie,' " says Hecht, the legislature's clerk. "And then the House passed a resolution of its own and we had the big ceremony on the steps of the Capitol" in Olympia.
All three major rock groups that recorded "Louie Louie" in the '60s -- the Wailers, the Kingsmen, and Paul Revere and the Raiders -- showed up and belted out an uninterrupted half-hour version of the song.
But as all popular political movements do, the push for a state song best known for its supposedly suggestive lyric prompted a backlash.
One group of legislators mounted a rear-guard action to preserve the traditional "Washington, My Home."
Another faction began agitating for a third choice: "Roll On, Columbia," an advertising ditty written by Woodie Guthrie in the 1930s for the Bonneville Power Administration, which generates hydroelectric power in a series of dams on the Columbia River.
Woodie Guthrie's son Arlo was flown to Olympia for a performance of his own on the Capitol steps, where he sang the lyric glorifying hydroelectricity ("Your power is turning our darkness to dawn/ Roll on, Columbia, roll on.")
All this turmoil in Olympia naturally drew attention -- not entirely favorable -- in neighboring states.
A columnist in The Idaho Statesman declared resolutely that "if 'Louie Louie' is to be the song of any state in the Northwest, it should be Idaho's." The rationale was that Paul Revere and the Raiders, the first group to hit the charts with "Louie Louie," were Idahoans.
This suggestion, in turn, raised hackles in Oregon, where the locals noted that the Kingsmen, the group that made "Louie Louie" the No. 1 song nationally, were Oregonians.
Meanwhile, back in Olympia, legislators began to hear a chorus of complaints from constituents who were not completely satisfied with "Louie Louie," new lyrics or no.
The solution? A classic political compromise: "It looks like we're going to make 'Louie Louie' the official state rock song, 'Roll On, Columbia' the official state folk song, and keep 'Washington, My Home' as the official state song song," Heck says.