By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Mostly recorded in the den of the Fuller home (with a window cut into an adjacent garage to effect a "control room"), Fuller's originals and covers reflected tastes running from Holly and Roy Orbison to the Beatles, and a behind-the-board obsessiveness found in the records of another of the young Texan's idols, singer-songwriter-guitarist-producer Eddie Cochran. This "studio" work sports its own crude charm, but Norton's CDs - especially the second volume, which contains 12 live tracks - also afford a revealing picture of the Fuller band in a club setting. The first Norton volume contains the most serious jolt of Fuller firepower, a punch-out version of Long John Hunter's showpiece "El Paso Rock," but Volume 2 offers the more complete measure of the group's onstage instrumental talents.
What's most astonishing about these sides is the Fuller group's prowess as a surf band. In 1963, Fuller and his group took a gig at the Biltmore Hotel in Hermosa Beach, and witnessed the frenzy stirred by surf supremo Dick Dale at the nearby Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa. (On his return to El Paso, Fuller went so far as to name his own weekend teen club the Rendezvous.) The band absorbed their lessons well: Fuller and Reese are heard trading fiery surf licks on covers of Dale's "Misirlou" (melded with another Dale barnburner, "Hava Nagila"), the Ventures' "2,000 Lb. Bee," the Beach Boys' "The Lonely Sea" (the latter mated with Nelson Riddle's "yeah-yeah" theme for Lolita) and the Pyramids' "Penetration" (inexcusably misidentified by Norton as the Chantays' "Pipeline").
Other rock & roll strains are bared in Fuller's choices of covers. The group smokes through the Jimmy Forrest funk classic "Night Train"; "Shanghaied," an instro by the Tacoma, Washington, combo the Wailers; and Jerry Lee Lewis' "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On." Fuller's deepest roots are revealed in a seamless medley of Holly's "Peggy Sue" and the original "Pamela." And, as if to prove they were right on top of the current thing, the band tries on the Beatles' "Things We Said Today." Amazingly, all of this diverse material is essayed with panache, and with a toughness that strikes one as entirely Bobby Fuller's own.
At home, Fuller cut a cover that proved prophetic: Ritchie Valens' "Donna." During his '63 sojourn in Southern California, the musician brought his homemade tapes to Bob Keane, who had made Valens a star on Del-Fi before the Latino singer died in the same 1959 plane crash that claimed Buddy Holly. Keane told Fuller to come back when he had some hits. The second time around, in late 1964, Keane welcomed aboard Fuller and his group, which now included drummer DeWayne Quirico. Known variously as the Fanatics and the Shindigs, and finally as the Bobby Fuller Four, the quartet cut 10 singles, plus two in Randy Fuller's name, and two albums for Keane. The first 45 appeared on Del-Fi's Donna subsidiary, and then Keane coined the Mustang imprint for Fuller, creating a handle well suited to the musician's untamed brand of Wild West rock & roll.
Fuller endlessly recycled his Texas recordings for Keane. The B-side of his first single, the crisp surf instrumental "Our Favorite Martian," was actually cut in Texas, as a remake of an earlier, less focused instro called "The Chase." Fuller's Lone Star roots were also showing on his fourth single, "Let Her Dance": Also a remake, of the lumpy "Keep On Dancing," it sported a fresh, rolling Tex-Mex rhythm and a defiant fuck-you-girl plotline.
The L.A. success of that 45 set the stage for yet a another remake, of Sonny Curtis' slice of criminal life, "I Fought the Law," which had blown up into a national smash by early 1966. The blueprint for the Mustang version of the 1961 Crickets tune is wholly apparent in Fuller's 1964 Exeter version, but Keane tautened the original arrangement in his bright stereo recording of the song. One line also underwent a slight but significant change: "A-robbin' people with a zip gun," Curtis' street-punk original, became "A-robbin' people with a six-gun" in the more picturesque Mustang version. (In an alternate made in Texas, the well-armed protagonist hefts a shotgun.)
Six months after "I Fought the Law" made the Top 10, Fuller was dead, and few buyers latched on to the like-titled follow-up album, which spent only two weeks in the lower reaches of the LP charts. But, though few knew it, Fuller cut a broad spectrum of exciting material for Mustang, and Never To Be Forgotten contains all the goods.
Fuller brought his fetishes with him to Mustang. He recorded Holly's "Love's Made a Fool of You" and "Think It Over," as well as such Holly-inspired numbers as "Only When I Dream," "A New Shade of Blue" and "Fool of Love." His "Saturday Night" was a virtual ringer for Cochran's "C'mon Everybody." He recut Bob Taylor's hit El Paso instrumental "Thunder" surf-style as "Thunder Reef." He proved equally capable with complementary drag-strip-themed material: His first album, a KRLA tie-in that featured the L.A. radio station's dragster on its cover, featured such topnotch instros as "Wolfman" (another Texas remake), "The Lonely Dragster" and, of course, "KRLA Top Eliminator" (a high-speed cover of "El Paso Rock" with drag-strip FX added).