covers featured

Under the Covers …… I Fought the Law

Over the years, countless cover versions have been recorded, discarded at gigs, given awards and received pelters from fans and critics, not to mention from the writer’s themselves. In this new, ongoing feature we are going to explore some the best and of some of the worst cover versions and re-recordings in history.

In my younger days (and no, it wasn’t that long ago!!!) as I continued to work my way through the endless musical landscape and dip my dancing Adidas Gazelle’s into late 70’s punk rock, with The Sex Pistols, The Stooges, The Ramones and The Damned already spinning endlessley in my head, there was one band who I had yet to encounter and my god how I wish I had been turned onto them sooner …… I mean, if I was to give any advice to that teenager who is just finding their way through music, for me, this band would be in my top 5 list of recommendations, this band needs no other introduction – They are of course ……The Clash.

So as I worked my way through The Clash back catalogue with such belters as Guns of Brixton, The Magnificent Seven and Bankrobber, I stumbled upon a song that just seem to have it all – It had that punk edge, the rolling 60’s drum and a Joe Strummer riff that just sang all on it’s own even without the great vocals of the man himself ……..

Cut to a few year’s later when I find out that the reason for this rolling 60’s, actually 50’s drum is because it’s been rolling since the 60’s …….. It’s a fucking cover version! For some reason, this really pissed me off, not because The Clash had ripped off another song, I mean half of the songs I love have been half inched from somewhere, or at least parts of them, certainly influenced by.  Anyway, the track I’m talking about is “I fought the law”

Now, I don’t know about you but generally when I hear a song for the first time and then hear the cover version, the original is “usually” the best one, equally if I hear the cover version first, that’s the one that sticks with me and the original will always pale into insignificance.  I do have a few exceptions to this which will explore throughout these posts but if you think I am going to waste my time rambling on about Adele’s version of “Make you feel my love” being even in the same fucking stratosphere as Dylan’s original version, you should probably stop reading this and carry on reading the red tops “showbiz” section about how some Z-list celebrity has just named their 5th kid fucking kid Kiwi or something.

Anyway, back to “I fought the law”.  I will always stand by The Clash’s version being better than the original, this is probably through first hearing bias and the fact that I love the band but fuck it, I’m having it.  Despite what Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Topper Headon did, this great track wasn’t written by them – that accolade goes to a man by the name of Sonny Curtis.  Sonny was a childhood friend and bandmate of Buddy Holly and joined Buddy’s group the Crickets after Holly’s death in 1959, taking over on lead vocals and guitar.  Sonny wrote “I Fought the law” in 1958 and it was released on the LP “In Style with the Crickets” in 1960 AND the following year as a b-side to the single “A Sweet Love”.

Despite the B-side and LP release of “I Fought the law”, the song never received any airplay until 1964 when Sammy Masters recorded a version of the song,  but it wasn’t Sammy who got the airplay. initially, only locally in Texas it was Bobby Fuller in the same year who made the song his own.  The following year when Bobby Fuller and his band signed to a new record label as the Bobby Fuller Four and began to knock out the hits, the released “I Fought the law” and it went into the Top 10.  Bobby Fuller’s recording popularised the song and they are often credited as the songwriters.

In a sad twist, just a few months after the song made the billboard Top 100, Bobby Fuller was found dead in a car in a car park near his mother’s apartment in LA in an apparent suicide, although others will still argue it was murder.  Fuller was just 23 years old.

If you play all of the versions of “I Fought the law”one after another, the great riff is there throughout, the rolling drums cascade in the wings and as the decades passed between them, vocals got meaner, equipment got leaner and the dancing got weirder but for me, despite the production equipment available, The Clash seemed to strip it all back to it’s raw form with Strummer’s vocals a far cry from the twee 60’s popcorn version but then you wonder if Sonny Curtis, Bobby Fuller or Sammy Masters had attempted a punk version back then, would they have been laughed of stage OR even committed to the asylum for taking too many drugs or would they simply have been revolutionaries or pioneers of early punk – Of course, none of this we will ever know but one things for sure – Although The Clash didn’t write “I Fought the law”, they made it theirs and then some – Like two souls recognising each other ……. It’s a fucking magical punk 60’s cover at it’s finest.

Big Love …… As per x

I Fought The Law – By Sonny Curtis
Breakin’ rocks in the hot sun
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
I needed money ’cause I had none
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
I left my baby and it feels so bad
Guess my race is run
She’s the best girl that I ever had
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the
Robbin’ people with a six-gun
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
I lost my girl and I lost my fun
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
I left my baby and it feels so bad
Guess my race is run
She’s the best girl that I ever had
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the

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