Thursday, July 16, 2015

BOOK REVIEW! I FOUGHT THE LAW, THE LIFE AND STRANGE DEATH OF BOBBY FULLER by Miriam Linna and Randell Fuller (Kicks Books, 2014)

Man, like this is the ultimate biography of not only Texas rock 'n roll hero/martyr for the cause Bobby Fuller but of mid-Amerigan sixties rock 'n roll/kiddoid ranch house jollies! You know, that life you used to live in back when you were either a turdler, a grade school Beaver wannabe or maybe even the teenage tramp you most certainly were, but no doubt about it we're talking about a totally fun era that began in the late-fifties and petered out around the time teenage fun 'n jamz were fading fast into hippydippy relativist moosh. If your favorite memories of the mid-sixties are (like mine) being a stocking-foot kid on Saturday night watching OZZIE AND HARRIET as well as all of those local teenage dance shows and UPBEAT and stuff like that (while your babysitter was in the kitchen smoking cigarettes and playing STRATEGO with that kid up the street) thinking that you were in the thick of ONE OF THE GREATEST FOOD AND FUN KULTURAL MOVEMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF KINDERGARTEN LIVING then boy, will you like this book!

's funny, but back when I was first "getting into" that whole sixties teenage punk rock underground movement that seemed so refreshing in the face of Journey, I didn't even know who the heck Bobby Fuller was! I do remember asking some more astute fan of the era about the guy who seemed rather astonished that I had no inkling about the guy, and here I was with NUGGETS in hand trying to convert the entire tri-county area into the Roky Erickson Fan Club! It wasn't like any of Fuller's songs were being played on what passed for "oldies" radio at the time, and if it weren't for GHOST IN THE INVISIBLE BIKINI airings on  mid-seventies Saturday afternoon UHF tee-vee would ANYBODY in that brain-dead post-excitement world even know who the guy was?

Well, I eventually I got to hear Fuller thanks to some guy with the albums, a turntable and a tape recorder and like man, I thought this talent was too mid-sixties high energy to have been left off of that double disc throwback to the pre-protest dayze. At least Nigel Strange rectified the matter somewhat by including Fuller's boss version of "Wine Wine Wine" on PEBBLES exposing his talents to a new generation of punk rockers, and that was satisfying enough for me let me tell ya! (Notice how I didn't even mention the Clash's cover version of Fuller's hit hunh? Like I want to keep this review as pure as possible!)

Yeah, I know---I talk about myself too much and usually at the expense of the matters at hand. And I don't apologize for it one bit. But man, is I FOUGHT THE LAW the end all in Bobby Fullerism, the ultimate biography of a guy who I think many in the biz would have preferred to leave dead and buried. Co-written by the no questions about it ultimate fan herself Miriam Linna in cahoots with none other than Bobby's brother and bandmate Randell, this book is the one that says about all there is to say on the entire subject, answering some questions while inevitably creating many others in the process that'll never having you rest comfortably until the matter is settled and done with!

It's a read that takes you back to those great days when being a kid was a whole lot fun what with music like this on the radio, bands like the Bobby Fuller Four on the tee-vee, and the new teen culture was an easy out from the kind of world that you knew you were being forced into by the usual people who said they knew better but were nothing but shills for a darker, more evil force than any of us really could have imagined.

And man, do Linna and Fuller cover it all, from Bobby the talented musician and keeper of the Buddy Holly flame to the wild kid sneaking across the border to catch wildman bloozer Long John Hunter in Juarez before heading out to California to make the really big time and meeting his fate under circumstances that I doubt will ever be solved (though Randy Fuller, in a beautiful stream-of-consciousness monologue, brings up a few interesting, if at time unlikely, ideas as to who might have been the culprit*). And it really gets into the hardcore basis of it all too, with Linna probably having interviewed a whole lot more people than even Albert Goldman would've, digging beneath the surface to find out just who this Bobby Fuller guy really was. And by the end of it all you probably will know just about as much about him what with all of the tales that have been spun and slapped into this tome for the times.

Let's just say that Linna did more than just read a few old issues of CREEM and THE ROCK MARKETPLACE thinking that's it no more finito!

The book really gets into some of the rather disturbing nitty gritty too...such as the plain fact that Bobby could have been a real heel at times. Take the part where he gets some gal in the fambly way and tries to force a quickie Mexican "el pumpo grande" on her which she downright refuses (it is suggested that Bobby might have persuaded a few other femmes to take the suction way out so you could say he was a pro at this sort of crisis control). Well, maybe I'll get over this the way I eventually got over that saga where Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Richard's galpal Angel did a rather disgusto three-way backstage right when Holly was scheduled to hit the stage and hit it good!

Linna holds the book together with her insight and natural fan-level wonderment (though in no way does this come off like a giddy teenage gal pajama party fan club meeting), but it's Randy Fuller's reminiscences that give this 'un the meat and potatoes. Yeah I could hear some of you thinking that his stories come across like the same kinda ramblings that Aunt Margaret still prattles off about visiting the relatives in 1957, but at least Fuller ain't a full blown bore when he talks about whooping ass on a jagoff second looie in military school or the time he and his cousin escaped from the Mexican policia while half-brother Jack slugged it out with a whole batch of 'em. Betcha stuff like that never happened to Aunt Margaret!

A mix of toughass growing up sagas and funny reminiscences (filled with rare fambly snaps that coulda been bigger/clearer) as well as the usual downright sad tales that might mirror those that happened in your own li'l sphere, you ain't gonna be able to put this book down it's that overwhelming. And when you get to the part where Bobby's dead and it seems like nobody with the power to do anything constructive about finding the real culprits cares, you too will be mad enough to wanna go out there and do the private eye game yourself. Of course if you wanna end up in somebody's trunk that's your business, but if you ain't steaming mad because of the INJUSTICE of it all you really must have pawned your soul for a rare issue of BACK DOOR MAN!

Too much more to really dive into here. Just get the book, read it and experience all of the thrills and chills firsthand. It really oozes and seethes the whole Southwest lifestyle of the time along with all of the fun and agony that went along with it, and what better way to honor the memory of a real rocker who might not have been as hosanna'd as all of those Rock Hall of Fame bozos that aging hippies still prop up as some sorta godz on earth, but sure said more to you 'n me than alla those singer/songwriter lovelies ever could!

* 'n if you ask me, I'd say the culprit was a certain Big Name inna industry with roots stretching all the way to Sicily if you get my drift, but that's just about all I'm GONNA say!


Bill S. said...

Oh no, don't tell me Sonny Bono was responsible!

Anonymous said...

Come on, over three decades (!) later we can surely acknowledge that that Clash cover version was GREAT!

Christopher Stigliano said...

Tell that to Miriam Linna!