I Fought The Law

Album: The Bobby Fuller Four (1965)
Charted: 33 9
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  • This was written by Sonny Curtis, who was a member of The Crickets (Buddy Holly's group). The Crickets recorded it shortly after Buddy Holly's death in 1959 and released it on their 1960 album In Style With The Crickets. If Holly had lived, there's a good chance it would have been a huge hit for The Crickets.

    Fuller was a popular singer/guitarist from El Paso, Texas, and he first recorded this song in 1964 where it was a regional hit in New Mexico and West Texas. The hit version was recorded in 1965 at his label Del-Fi Records, using the same group of musicians.
  • The song is about a guy who goes to jail after a robbery spree. The phrase "I fought the law" caught on, and has remained in the American lexicon ever since. Both the song and the saying have appeared in many movies, TV shows, video games and other commercial enterprises. It's also been parodied a great deal, notably by Bob Rivers on his track "I Fought The Lawn."
  • When they recorded this song, the Bobby Fuller Four was: Bobby Fuller on vocals and guitar), his brother Randy Fuller on bass and backup vocals (the raspy heavy voice), Jim Reese on guitar and Dewayne Quirico on drums. Jim Reese died October 26, 1991 in Lufkin, Texas after playing a round of golf - he had a heart attack as he was getting into his truck. Randy lives in Colton, California and Dewayne in Chicago.
  • Fuller was found dead in the front seat of his mother's car shortly after "I Fought The Law" became a national hit. His death was ruled a suicide, but there were signs of foul play and the investigation was tainted, leaving the circumstances of his death a mystery and rumors to run rampant. Rick Stone, who was a roadie for the Bobby Fuller Four and good friends with the band, told Songfacts: "My mom, Mary Stone, wrote music with Bobby at our home at 7420 Catalpa Lane in El Paso, Texas. Bobby did NOT have gas in his mouth when he was found in the car, but he did die of asphyxiation.

    Bobby had I Fought The Law' released on his own label in El Paso two years earlier where it was a Top 10 Hit regionally. The original lyric was 'Robbin' people with a six gun,' but he would sing it as 'Zip Gun,' 'Shotgun' or 'Six Gun,' and joked about other guns when he sang it live.

    Bobby's body was found in a vacant lot in his mother's car and four years later Janis Joplin would walk out of her apartment and purchase pure bad heroin on the street corner of that same vacant lot... then overdosed not more than 250 feet away from where Bobby died. They were born in the same general area of Southeast Texas four months apart - both traveled to Hollywood the same year and both left about the same time - they never knew each other as far as I know.

    The song that should have made Bobby a star was 'Let Her Dance,' which was in The Fantastic Mr. Fox. 'A New Shade of Blue' was written by my mother - Bobby changed the melody a little and a line of lyrics. It was in Boys Don't Cry and Deadbeats."
  • Apart from Stephen McParland's book Bobby Fuller Four: Rock 'n' Roll Mustangs, Fuller hasn't gotten the biopic treatment given to many rockers who died before their time. There is an annual Border Legends of El Paso concert that honors Fuller and brings together many musicians who played with him. Rick Stone helps organize this event, and shared more of his memories about Fuller with us. Says Stone:

    "'Let Her Dance' we all felt was BF4's best recording but Bob Keane (who ran Fuller's label Del-Fi Records) had leased the recording to Liberty and they let it die - didn't promote it. When we were on the east coast in the spring of 1966, all we heard were complaints about how bad Del-Fi was shipping the records out. DJ's didn't want to play 'Love's Made a Fool of You' because the kids couldn't find the singles to buy in any of the record stores!"
  • The Clash recorded this in 1979 after they heard Fuller's version on a jukebox. They made the song more bleak, changing the line, "I left my baby" to "I killed my baby." Their version got them noticed in America, where the song was released on July 26th, 1979, with "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais" as the B-side. The Clash played a live version at the Lyceum Theater, London on December 28, 1978, which is featured as the ending of Rude Boy, the 1980 film by Jack Hazan and David Mingay.

    In the UK, the song was originally released in 1979 on the Clash EP, The Cost Of Living, which charted at #22. It was not until 1988, when their record company issued an actual single of the song, that it hit the UK singles chart, coming in at #29.
  • Other groups who covered this include Social Distortion and Green Day. In 2008 a novelty single by Oystar with the same title, based on this track peaked at #25 in the UK. It was a download-only not-for-profit single from fans of a financial website moneysavingexpert.com. They released it as part of their campaign against unfair bank charges for overdrafts.
  • The John Mellencamp hit "Authority Song" was inspired by this song.
  • The Dead Kennedys changed the lyric to "I fought the law and I won" for their 1986 reworking, which is about the former police officer who served just six years in jail after killing San Francisco mayor George Moscone and his aide Harvey Milk in 1978.

Comments: 36

  • Coy from Palestine, TexasRick Stone (roadie) was not present when Bobby's body was found! I once interviewed Ty Grimes, the drummer from El Paso, who was the first person to find Bobby dead. He said, "There was gasoline all in car, and a can of gasoline in the Mustang. The cops threw it away. Bobby's keys were also not in the car--but appeared later". He also said "Bobby was brutally beaten". Grimes very seldom will talk about Bobby's death. He left the scene, went straight to the airport and flew home to El Paso.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn May 28, 1966, Dick Clark conducted an interview with Bobby Fuller on his ABC-TV network Saturday-afternoon program 'American Bandstand'...
    Two week earlier the Bobby Fuller Four's "Love's Made A Fool of You" had peaked at #26 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart...
    It made quite a tumble off the Top 100, on it's sixth and final week on the chart it was at #29 and then gone...
    Earlier in the year the group's only other Top 100 record, "I Fought The Law"*, peaked at #9 {for 2 weeks} on March 6th...
    * The Bobby Fuller Four sang 'Robbin' people with a six-gun'; while with the Crickets' original version it was 'A-robbin' people with the zip gun'.
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaLoved the opening drum roll and Bobby's guitar.
  • Phil from YeppoonI've long thought it was the perfect single too. When the time comes, I'll get it played at my funeral.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn March 6th 1966, "I Fought The Law" by the Bobby Fuller Four peaked at #9 (for 2 weeks) on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; it had entered the chart on January 23rd at position #75 and spent 11 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #11 on the Canadian RPM Top Singles chart...
    In 1975 Sam Neely covered the song; his version peaked at #54 on the Top 100...
    On Billboard's Hot Country Singles in charted three times; the above Sam Neely reached #61, Hank Williams Jr's version peaked at #15 in 1978, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band took their covered version to #66 in 1992...
    The Bobby Fuller Four's only other Top 100 hit was another covered song, Buddy Holly's "Love's Made A Fool of You", it reached #26 in 1966 (Cochise also covered the song in 1971 and it stayed on the Top 100 for 4 weeks, peaking at #96)...
    R.I.P. Mr. Fuller (1942 - 1966).
  • Bengt from Kristinehamn, SwedenCould some one present proof that Sex Pistols made a cover of this? Recorded or live?
  • Coy from Palestine, TxThis may be the perfect 45 rpm single. From the "lightning" opening drum rips to the guitar bridge, there is not a wasted second on this record. Fuller was far ahead of his time and the Bobby Fuller Four would have been huge stars had he lived. He certainly was murdered. He had a new car and was partying the night he died. Found beaten and with gasoline all in the car and all over Fuller. The LAPD didn't even fingerprint the gas can and covered up this crime!
    "I Fought the Law" was a favorite of the Beatles, including John Lennon.
  • Kayla from El Paso, Txi dont care who remade it the origial is that best no one can do a better job
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyBruce Springsteen has sang this song in 30 different concerts; the latest was on July 30rd, 2009 at a concert in Spain!!!
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyIn the original Cricket's version there's a line 'robbing people with a zip gun'; Bobby Fuller changed it to 'robbing people with a six gun'...
    In the 1950s a zip gun was a home-made weapon made from a block of wood,copper tubing, a rubber band, and a nail. It was used mainly by urban teen-age gangs...
  • Juan from Bilbao, SpainThis was also remade by basque punk-rock band Hertzainak. The title remained the same, but the lyrics were rewritten in Basque. Also remade by Spanish rock star Loquillo, who translated the title into Spanish: "Luché contra la ley"
  • Tarren from San Antonio, TxThis song was also covered by the grateful dead... its no clash, but its pretty good
  • Max from Laconia, NhThe Clash version of this is sooo beastly! That is all I have to say.
  • Matthew from Milford, MaI agree with Darell... somewhat. Crime does pay... if you consider pain to be a payment!!!!
  • Darrell from Eugene3 words: Crime doesn't pay.
  • Paul from Redditch, EnglandI thought The Clash version was the best, untill I heard Green Day's!! Top Tune!
  • Alan from Grande Prairie, Alberta, CanadaThis is a song written for Holly. I know he was gone when it came out but you can tell by the lead break its almost a "Peggy Sue" riff. Bobby Fuller's major influence was Holly he also covered "Love's Made a Fool of You".
  • Jeff from Sothington, Ctsex pistols did this too? my god this is such a punk song lol
  • Tony from Devon, EnglandSonny Curtis did a great version of this himself; a lot slower than The Crickets' version, or Bobby Fuller's, even though he didn't sing on the original Crickets' B-side. He included a nice harmony line in it. Also, I think the Crickets sing 'zip gun' whereas Fuller sang 'six gun'.
  • Alexander from Kiensiflodikov, IcelandMy clash cds (and i have all of them) dont have any of those changes you said so i dont know what you are talking about. The Clash version is absolutely the best even better than the original!
  • Fyodor from Denver, CoThe archetypal criminal-as-martyr American rock song. Notice the six beats on the drum after the lyric about robbing people with a six-gun?
  • Bob from Rio Vista, CaThis song was remade by Green Day, Sex Pistols and The Dead Kennedys.
  • James from Gainford, EnglandI think it's just one of those songs that every punk-orinetated or new wave band has to cover. A bit like Tainted Love in that sense.
  • Leya Qwest from Anchorage, AkI, too, have heard from a very reliable source that it was indeed the incomparable Mr. White who played skins in the background of IFTL. Take a moment and imagine his smooth, urban voice doing a rhythm and blues cover of this song. It might've been a riot in the hands of someone else, but Barry probably woulda scored some kinda groove love thang with it. Quien sabe?
  • Evan from Freehold, NjBoth the clash and the dead Kenedys did it
  • Jake from Berkeley Heights, Njdead kennedys sang "i fought the law and i won"
  • Matt from Millbrae, CaHmm let's see, found dead in his car, he was beaten up, had gasoline in his system, was having an affair with someone with mafia ties...and they rule it a suicide. What a great country!
  • Jack from Glasgow, ScotlandWho sang the version of the song with I fought the law and I won?
  • Ross from Independence, MoThis song is #175 in Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs.
  • Karine from QuÃ?bec, CanadaI have the Sex Pistols cover...it's good but not great...
  • Jens Ottar from Oslo, NorwayI went on DC++ and found more than 30 cover versions of this song. Artists included were Tom Petty, Kris Kristoffersen and Rita Coolidge, Swedish suckers "Gyllene Tider", Hank Williams jr., Status Quo, Bryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen, Grateful Dead and Die Toten Hosen... Not all are that good, though.
  • Rob from Wantagh, NyThe Clash changed it when they sang it live. You can hear this on "The Essential The Clash" DVD.
  • Beth from Culpeper, VaCan you tell me who published Greenday's cover of this song?
  • George from Hell, PaAlso covered by Green Day, and I think the Sex Pistols did a rare cover of it as well.
  • Johnny from Oakland, CaMy version by The Clash does not have the lyrics changed as suggested.
  • Larry from Lancaster, PaHmmm-m. Not sure about Barry White playing drums on "I Fought The Law." He did production work for Fuller's label "Mustang" records, and did in fact play drums on Fuller's "Magic Touch." See this link: http://www.inkblotmagazine.com/rev-archive/Fuller_Four_Never.htm

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