While he’s not in the first-name-only front row of musicians who didn’t make it out of their 20s (that would be Hank, Buddy, Jim, Jimi, Gram, Bix, Janis, and Kurt), you can probably find Bobby Fuller in the second row just down from Eddie Cochran, Ian Curtis, and Nick Drake. The official cause of death was listed as asphyxiation caused by inhalation of gasoline when the body of the 23-year-old Fuller was found in his car, but a whiff of mystery remains some 35 years later because of the rather mysterious circumstances.
The musical attack of the Bobby Fuller Four, however, didn’t leave much room for doubt. It was the sound of pure energy presented raw, with handclap percussion and just a touch of Fuller’s West Texas roots poking through. This tribute, released on Japanese label #9 Records, showcases fifteen songs written or co-written by Fuller plus six other tunes that he put his stamp on, that latter group led by Buddy Holly’s “Love’s Made A Fool Of You” and, of course, Sonny Curtis’ “I Fought The Law”. (Trivia fans rejoice: Curtis also wrote “Love Is All Around”, better known as the theme song to “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”.)
At the top of the heap are “Fool Of Love” and “Only When I Dream”, covered by Charlie Chesterman & the Legendary Motorbikes and Walter Clevenger & the Dairy Kings, respectively, two outfits whose originals frequently echo the spirited bounce of Fuller and Holly. Marshall Crenshaw, who covered Fuller’s “Let Her Dance” on his 1989 release Good Evening, excels as a one-man band on “My True Love”; kindred spirit Bill Lloyd deftly handles “Let Her Dance” this time out. And then there’s the three-girl salute offered by Michael Shelley (the Chip Taylor-penned “Julie”), Richard Barone (“Nancy Jean”), and Fortune & Maltese and the Phabulous Pallbearers (“Pamela”). What’s not to love about that?