On January 29, two singles entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #75—but they were 28 years apart.
So which one do I write about? The 1994 song “Loser” by Beck, or the 1966 song “I Fought the Law” by the Bobby Fuller Four? Both songs were kind of revolutionary in their attitude and approach to rock and roll and lyrics.
“Loser” is the alt-rock song rooted heavily in the blues and hip-hop. In the late ’80s, Beck Hansen was trying to make it in NYC as a musician, but by 1991 he was forced to return home to Los Angeles. He took on jobs to pay the bills while playing his music at LA clubs and coffee houses. He would break into non sequitur lyrics similar to “Loser” during his sets when audiences would start talking over his performance—to see if he could regain their attention with outrageous lyrics and a change-up in instrumentation.
When given the opportunity to record “Loser,” Beck wanted to rap his vocals. In listening to the playbacks, Beck said he thought his rapping was the worst ever—which led to the development of the song’s chorus. “Loser” was Beck’s second single, released on indie label Bong Load Custom Records in March of ’93 on 12-inch vinyl, and then receiving a wider release on DGC Records (a subsidiary of Geffen Records) and benefiting from its publicity machine — launching Beck into public consciousness.
The Bobby Fuller Four was a band from El Paso, Texas, that was formed in 1962 by guitarist Bobby Fuller and his brother Randy Fuller on bass. It was Randy who suggested the group record a cover of The Crickets song “I Fought the Law,” which was written by Sonny Curtis. Curtis joined The Crickets on guitar after Buddy Holly’s death, and the band recorded his song in 1959. Since ’59, there have been numerous recordings of “I Fought the Law” by different bands, including a 1979 version by The Clash, but the Bobby Fuller Four’s version remains the definitive rendition.
Beck’s “Loser” would peak at #10 in April of ’94, whereas the Bobby Fuller Four’s “I Fought the Law” would end up going to #9.