Ignored, Maligned, and Forgotten Music

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Jukebox Roots: I Fought the Law

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Legbamel Not-Pop

I Fought the Law is a song that really got around. I tend to remember it as a reggae song, probably because of I Shot the Sherriff. The two seem to go together. Sonny Curtis and the Crickets originally released I Fought the Law in 1959, however, not Bob Marley. The Bobby Fuller Four recorded the best-known version of the song in the mid-1960s. But that’s not what I wanted to write about.

The Clash revisited the song and punked it up for the Seventies sensibility. The harder, faster, rougher song seems a much better fit for the lyrics, and the tale of failed rebellion was perfectly suited to The Clash’s image. The original song was country, the Bobby Fuller version was fun, while the new version hovered between frustration and self-mockery, perfectly balanced on the pinnacle of punk rock.

Then the 1980s came, and the Stray Cats - otherwise fun and frantic - recorded I Fought the Law with a return to the original Sonny Curtis sound, slower and with more guitar twang. If there’s another version that you love, please let me know. If you’re like me, you want as many versions as you can get, if only for the purposes of comparison.

Buy the Ramones Version
Buy the Bobby Fuller Four Version
Buy the Sonny Curtis Version
Buy the Stray Cats Version
Buy the Hank Williams, Jr. version, if you just can't get enough.

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