Written and first recorded by James “Wee Willie” Wayne (1951).
Also recorded by Professor Longhair (1951), Louis Jordan (1952), Holy Modal Rounders (1964).
Popular versions by Richard Hayes (US #15 1952), Dr. John (1972), The Clash (1980).
From The Originals: “It’s almost a miracle we actually know this is a James Wayne song, for he was locked away in a madhouse for arson. All the while his royalties went in someone else’s pockets, not to mention the shrewd and obscure label boss Bob Shad, who signed for as many of Wayne’s compositions he could lay hands on. Here’s poor James in his mental institution claiming authorship to anyone he bumps in to.
Written by Sonny Curtis and first recorded by The Crickets (1959).
First covered by Paul Stefan & the Royal Lancers (1962), Bobby Fuller (1964).
Hit versions by The Bobby Fuller Four (US #9/UK #33/CAN #11 1965), The Clash (recorded 1979 |UK #29 1988).
From the wiki: “Sonny Curtis (‘More Than I Can Say‘, ‘Theme to The Mary Tyler Moore Show‘) joined The Crickets as lead vocalist and guitarist after Buddy Holly’s death in 1959. The Crickets recorded Curtis’ ‘I Fought the Law’ shortly thereafter, releasing it on the 1960 album In Style With The Crickets. (Had Holly had lived, there’s a good chance it would have been a huge hit for him with The Crickets.)
“A cover was recorded in 1962 by a Milwaukee, Wisconsin band, Paul Stefan & the Royal Lancers, and released on Citation Records. While the single was successful locally – it topped sales charts in Milwaukee in August and September 1962 – and was named a ‘Regional Breakout’ by Billboard (and was picked up for distribution in the UK by London Records), the Royal Lancers’ arrangement did not chart nationally.
“Bobby Fuller”s first attempt at recording ‘I Fought the Law’, in 1964 on Exeter Records, also became a regional success, this time in New Mexico and West Texas – his biggest local hit. In 1965, Fuller re-recorded by song (using the same group of musicians) for Del-Fi Records label and, with national promotional support, scored a Top 10 hit, peaking at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Written (by Eddy Grant) and first recorded by The Equals (1967).
Hit album version by The Clash (1980).
From the wiki: “‘Police on My Back’ was written by Eddy Grant when he was leader of the Equals, a racially-mixed British group who fused rock, reggae, and soul rhythms. The band’s sole international hit was the admirably eccentric groover ‘Baby Come Back’. First released as a promotional single in Germany in 1967 and in 1968 in the UK, the Netherlands and Austria (with no apparent chart success), ‘Police on My Back’ was included on the Equals Explosion album released in the UK in 1968, and in the US in 1968 on the compilation ‘greatest hits’ album Baby, Come Back.
“The Clash picked ‘Police on My Back’ to cover while recording their fourth album, the sprawling three-LP set Sandanista!. While the Equals’ original version has a clear if muted reggae undertow, the song became a hard-charging, high-velocity onslaught when recorded by The Clash.
“‘Police on My Back’ was a rare example of the Clash tackling a reggae tune and, rather than trying to fuse its Caribbean rhythms with the band’s muscular approach, instead stripped the tune to its bare bones and tackling it as straight rock & roll. The track was cited by some critics in reviews of Sandinista! as the most ‘Clash-sounding’ song on the album – with the irony being that ‘Police on My Back’ was a cover; not a Clash original.”
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