Bobby Fuller has long been known for two things: recording the immortal “I Fought the Law,” and being found dead in his car under mysterious circumstances. Finally, thanks to Cherry Red’s Now Sounds imprint, Fuller can be appreciated for his musical gifts. Now Sounds has recently compiled Magic Touch: The Complete Mustang Singles Collection (WCRNOW57), a comprehensive and beautiful celebration of Fuller’s too-short life and musical career with The Bobby Fuller Four (featuring Jim Reese on guitar, Bobby’s brother Randy Fuller on bass, and DeWayne Quirico on drums).
Magic Touch traces Texas native Fuller’s immense development over a tragically short period of time. He hooked up with Del-Fi Records’ Bob Keane (previously Keene) in 1964, launching a musical partnership that resulted in the youthful, exciting sides heard here. In Hollywood, Keane and Fuller re-recorded or remixed songs multiple times, making The Bobby Fuller Four’s small catalogue somewhat difficult to navigate. Happily, Magic Touch features only original mono single versions, collected together for the first time in definitive fashion.
The opening single from Bobby Fuller and The Fanatics, “Those Memories of You” b/w “Our Favorite Martian,” pairs a nostalgic ode to “oldies but goodies” with a decent surf track titled as a cash-in to the popular Bill Bixby/Ray Walston sitcom My Favorite Martian. Bob Keane never met a trend he didn’t like, so when Ford introduced its Mustang, he responded by starting the Mustang label. The second Fanatics single comprised two surf sides including “Wolfman” (paying homage to – and likely angling for airplay from – eccentric DJ Wolfman Jack, complete with howls and “Thunder Reef,” a revival of Bobby Taylor and The Counts’ 1958 song “Thunder.” The 45 was issued under the name of The Shindigs, so named for another popular TV show (of course).
The catchy “Take My Word” launched The Bobby Fuller Four proper with its prominent guitars, distinctive harmonies, and driving percussion. It’s of a different world altogether than “Those Memories of You,” and has more than a little of the pop flavor of the best of Gary Lewis and the Playboys. “She’s My Girl,” arguably even catchier with its prominent handclaps, was first recorded in 1964 on the Exeter label but re-cut by Fuller and Keane in this crisp version.
The Four upped the ante with the clanging, raucous invitation to “Let Her Dance” – a shot of pure adrenaline with its own thunderous, Wall of Sound-style production. Its flip, “Another Sad and Lonely Night,” showcases Fuller’s emotive voice on a catchy pop delight. A sense of urgency informs Fuller’s next A-side, the rocking “Never to Be Forgotten” but the B-side, the purely amiable “You Kiss Me,” must have seemed like a step backward.
“I Fought the Law,” introduced by the post-Buddy Holly Crickets in 1960, was reinvented by Fuller and Keane in a tight explosion of sound that was nonetheless cleaner and more direct than “Let Her Dance” or even “Never to Be Forgotten.” Its two-and-a-quarter minutes of pow! led to a top ten placement on Billboard, Cashbox and Record World, and should have augured for greater successes to come. Its B-side, “Little Annie Lou,” is one of the wildest dance rave-ups you’re likely to hear with a positively uninhibited vocal from Fuller.
Fuller’s love of Buddy Holly manifested itself in his follow-up to “I Fought the Law.” He brought all of the in-your-face “Law” ingredients to Holly’s “Love’s Made a Fool of You,” and while it didn’t match its predecessor’s commercial performance, it remains one of Fuller’s strongest performances. A stripped-down folk-rock feel permeates its flip, “Don’t Ever Let Me Know.”
Bobby’s final release was one of his most adventurous. “The Magic Touch,” the tune which lends its name to this collection, is in an uptempo soul-pop mode, convincingly sold by Fuller and his band; Melba Moore’s concurrent recording remains a Northern Soul favorite in England to this day. Ted Darryl’s storming composition was backed with the moody ballad “My True Love” composed by Bobby with Mary Stone.
Fuller’s tragic and mysterious death – he was found dead in a car on July 18, 1966 at 23 years of age – would typically be the end point of an anthology, but producers Steve Stanley and Andrew Sandoval have gone the extra mile by presenting five more rare singles including both sides of a 45 produced by Bobby for Jay Horton (and featuring Bobby and Randy on background vocals on the brassy B-side, “I Wanna Dance”); and three sides from Randy, credited both as a solo artist and with The Randy Fuller Four. The RFF single is previously unissued, featuring the boisterous, bluesy “The Things You Do” and wistful, orchestrated “Now She’s Gone.”
Andrew Sandoval has provided the expert track-by-track liner notes. He makes the case for these polished but powerful Hollywood recordings, some of which have been compared unfavorably to Fuller’s early, embryonic Texas recordings by certain music historians. The superior mastering here is by Alan Brownstein from master tapes where available and the best sources possible for the remaining tracks. Steve Stanley has designed the colorful, copiously illustrated 16-page booklet and period-perfect art. Magic Touch: The Complete Mustang Singles Collection is a loving tribute to a pop talent gone far too soon. The spell it casts is a potent one.
- These Memories of You
- Our Favorite Martian
- Thunder Reef
- Take My Word
- She’s My Girl
- Let Her Dance
- Another Sad and Lonely Night
- Never to Be Forgotten
- You Kiss Me
- I Fought the Law
- Little Annie Lou
- Love’s Made a Fool of You
- Don’t Ever Let Me Know
- The Magic Touch
- My True Love
- I Trip on You Girl – Jay Horton
- I Wanna Dance – Jay Horton
- It’s Love, Come What May – Randy Fuller
- The Things You Do – The Randy Fuller Four
- Now She’s Gone – The Randy Fuller Four
Tracks 1-2 from Donna single 1403, 1964
Tracks 3-4 from Mustang single 3003, 1964
Tracks 5-6 from Mustang single 3004, 1965
Tracks 7-8 from Mustang single 3006/Liberty single 55812, 1965
Tracks 9-10 from Mustang single 3011, 1965
Tracks 11-12 from Mustang single 3014, 1965
Tracks 13-14 from Mustang single 3016, 1966
Tracks 15-16 from Mustang single 3018, 1966
Tracks 17-18 from Mustang single 3010, 1965
Track 19 from Mustang single 3020, 1966
Tracks 20-21 previously unreleased, rec. 1966