To Live Outside the Law You Must Be Honest: The Bobby Fuller Four

article by Kevin Harvey



Here’s how I got here: I’d been thinking about the Yanks, specifically how well they played when the Big Name, Big Salaried guys all went down at once; how much more exciting it was to watch them hitting consecutive singles with two outs than it was waiting for an opposing pitcher to throw at Stanton’s bat, a guy who I swear closes his eyes when he swings. We’ll leave young Judge out of this for now, let alone Jacoby Ellsbury who I hear is living in Utah and playing in The Mormon League, that most mysterious of organizations. (They play the Scientology winners in a one and out title game yearly that I hear the Fox Network is considering for a Saturday morning in late March. Cross your fingers.) Sticking with the verifiable, I really liked the fact that Yankee bench, made up of overlooked, under-rated, under-paid, nameless nobodies was playing actual- winning- baseball. Then I heard I Fought the Law and the Law Won, a song remembered by anyone who ever heard it. It didn’t matter if they could name the Bobby Fuller Four or not: the song played forever on the Jungian Jukebox. The way that Summer in the City or The Wanderer. Think The Lion Sleeps Tonight or Groovin’: there are songs, slices of magic really- that cannot die, that, after years of being ignored, will suddenly sit up like Dracula or lumber on to the stage like Peter Boyle’s monster; songs that play as well in the Collective Headset as they did the day they cracked the egg. Which brings me, starting in the Bronx to I Fought the Law in the aisles of WHOLE FOODS.

The Booby Fuller Four, whose sound if explored beyond the confines of their biggest hit, was a surprising blend of Dick Dale and Buddy Holly.  (Dale, the king of Lebanese Surf Guitar, deserves his own reconsideration, but that shall have to wait.) Fuller could sing and play- and conquer- any genre he chose. The Brits, bless them, release compilations of American music that are far superior to America’s random BEST OF sets, well-packaged, selected, informative- even respectful.  Nothing ever disappears in England. (The dark side of this is they never know when they’ve stayed too long at the party, or if they should leave.) The Magic Touch: the complete Mustang singles is one of those releases that forces one to reconsider Bobby Fuller. His range, unrecognized, was enormous: He is Jack Scott on the opening vocal; Link Wray on the first instrumental; Captain Beefheart on the Wolfman! Thunder Reef, pure Dale is the Ventures with guts. Take My Word is the Searchers; indeed, any band in that first wave of the British Invasion. She’s My Girl sounds like Phil Spector producing Bobby Vee; Let Her Dance is Chris Montez.  If you stay with him a blast of raw garage will be followed by Buddy Holly, The Seeds, The Blues Magoos.  The sounds are all there- the threads, if you will- are all there.  The argument could be made that he shifted styles because he was desperate for a hit; but I don’t feel that.  I feel a bench player, a utility guy, who when called upon could play any position asked of him. And, in the end, there is always I Fought the Law.  After some critical drubbing or other, Francis Coppola once said: I will always be the guy who made The Godfather. Bobby Fuller will always be the guy who recorded I Fought the Law and the Law Won. The badly beaten, 23 year-old, Bobby Fuller was found dead in his car. Listen closely. One suspects he knew it was coming.