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
But the Mustang sides moved beyond the expected. "Never To Be Forgotten" was a rumbling piece of power-ballad work with Tex-Mex underpinnings and a bold rhythm lifted from the theme song to TV's Bonanza. "Take My Word" was a brisk piece of Anglo-pop with rhythm guitars ripped from the Beatles songbook and an angular closing vocal chord right out of "She Loves You." The unreleased "Cheat and Lie" was a keyboard-based venom-spitter bearing much in common with the screaming garage-punk excrescences of Tacoma's Sonics. Another unreleased track, the splendid "Baby My Heart," morphed a nondescript Sonny Curtis tune into a fuzzed-out psychedelic bombshell. Even when forced to record a tune virtually at gunpoint, Fuller could show compelling commitment to an unfamiliar style: "The Magic Touch," a Motown-style composition pushed on Fuller by Keane, becomes a silky piece of blue-eyed soul in the group's hands.
The Fuller Four's genre-hopping approach is explicit on the unreleased live album Celebrity Night at PJ's, cut on December 3, 1965, at the titular nightclub at Santa Monica and Crescent Heights (and not, as the liner notes claim, "on the fabulous Sunset Strip"). It's easy to see why Keane left the album in the can: The sound is dim and dull, and there's a palpable lack of electricity as the band struggles to amuse an unresponsive crowd. But the group refuses to lie down and die, gamely performing a set comprising a handful of its own hits, plus beaucoup covers - Chuck Berry, Little Richard, the Rivieras, Chuck Willis, Sam the Sham, Bobby Freeman, Them, Larry Williams, Tommy Tucker, Barrett Strong, the Beatles and, of course, Buddy Holly. And there's nary a clinker in the bunch.
Yes, Bobby Fuller could play just about anything, brilliantly, but death brought his career to a startling close just as he was beginning his ascendancy. On July 18, 1966, his battered, gasoline-soaked body was found in a car outside his apartment near the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Incredibly, the L.A. coroner ruled the death a suicide. (Sure, most rising rock stars snuff themselves by chugging gas after beating themselves up . . .)
The world simply never got a chance to experience the full extent of Fuller's amazing abilities. Lou Whitney, bassist of Springfield, Missouri's esteemed roots-rock band the Skeletons, recently told me, "Bobby Fuller's one of the most underrated rockers of all time." Happily, the righteously definitive proof of that knowledgeable statement may now be heard on the invaluable Norton and Mustang reissues. Pick them up, and discover the star who might have been.