Bobby Fuller Four – I Fought The Law

19th January 2023 · 1960s, 1966, Music

The first time I heard this song was when The Clash did it as the lead track on their Cost Of Living EP in 1979. Before long it sent me back to this, the original hit by the Bobby Fuller Four.

It’s so great: like a whole group of Eddie Cochrans backed by go-go girls, and the Buddy Holly-ish riff betrays its origins as a song by Sonny Curtis of The Crickets.

In fact they did it first, with Earl Sinks singing, just after Holly died in 1959 and Curtis, who had started out as Buddy’s sideman two years earlier in Lubbock, Texas, finally joined the band as his replacement.

Holly’s fellow Texan Bobby Fuller, from the border town of El Paso, recorded it in 1965, a year after Sammy Masters recorded his own version.

Fuller released it on his own Exeter label and it was so successful locally that he switched to a bigger label and renamed his band The Bobby Fuller Four.

It became a Top Ten hit but months later Fuller met a similarly early fate to Holly, being found beaten to death in his car outside his Hollywood home, with petrol in his stomach.

The police ruled it a suicide (yep, I know) and to this day rumours abound that he had become mixed up with the Mob by dating the wrong girl.

The Clash came across the song, which was also a minor hit for Sam Neely in 1975, when they went to San Francisco to record overdubs for their second album.

Strummer and Jones heard it on the studio jukebox and Strummer became fascinated by the details of Fuller’s mystery death.

A version with different lyrics was also recorded by the Dead Kennedys and included on their 1987 album Give Me Convenience Or Give Me Death.

The band seen here consists of Bobby Fuller (vocals, guitar), his younger brother Randy Fuller (backing vocals, bass guitar), Jim Reese (backing vocals, guitar), and the fabulously named DeWayne Quirico (drums).

Listen out for the best bit when the reference to “Robbin’ people with a six-gun” (a “zip gun” in the Crickets original) is accompanied, as in the Clash version, by a rat-a-tat-tat on the drums to represent six bullets.