I fought the law, and the law won (unless it didn't)
November 11, 2015 9:03 PM Subscribe
Outlaw songs are at least as old as popular music itself. The image of a gallant loner battling a rigid and unyielding legal establishment has proved irresistible for generations of songwriters. In 1959, Texan Sonny Curtis wrote one of the best, "I Fought The Law." Intended as a vehicle for himself and the post-Buddy Holly Crickets, their single went precisely nowhere.That is, until it was covered -- the first hit cover was by The Bobby Fuller Four in 1965, then another major version came out 14 years later, from The Clash who revived the "oldie" into what is now a "punk anthem." From there, the covers start piling up....
1064 - Bobby Fuller's demo version, with some background information from Dangerous Minds.
1975- Sam Neely's version of the song went to No. 54 on the Billboard pop charts and no. 61 on the country charts.
1979- Hank Williams, Jr.'s cover was released the same year as The Clash's version, ranking as a #15 country hit that year.
1987- Dead Kennedys finally released their own version, written shortly after San Francisco politician Dan White murdered city Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone in 1978 with lyrics rewritten in criticism of Dan White's sentencing and early release.
Even more versions:
- Roy Orbison - kinda swinging, released in 1972
- Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - live in 1978, with a little preamble about talking to the police and making noise, with some video tape distortion
- The Crickets and Waylon Jennings - at a Buddy Holly tribute concert in Lubbock, Texas in September 1980
- Bruce Springsteen - live audio from 1984
- Mano Negra - official live recording, 1991
- Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - peaked at 66 on Billboard country charts in 1992
- Grateful Dead - live in 1993
- Mary's Danish - a so very 90s alt. rock take
- Mike Ness (of Social Distortion) - released on his second solo album, Under the Influences, which peaked at No. 174 on the Billboard 200 in 1999
- Green Day - 2004 digital single
- Johnny Marr - live at T in the Park, Kinross, Scotland in 2013
- Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros - live televised performance
- Stray Cats - a bit of modern rockabilly
- Nanci Griffith with Sonny Curtis & The Crickets - according to a comment, she's "the queen of folkabilly"
- Brian Jonestown Massacre - appropriately BJM-type cover
- Beatsteaks - German punk band's cover
- Masked Intruder - pop-punk with altered lyrics ("and the law beat the shit out of me")
- Thug Murder - Japanese punk/ska take on the track
- Ska-P - Spanish punk/ska, decent live audience video
- Cepeni Cunci - Serbian (?) punks reclaim the song ("...and I won")
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