DIAMONDS IN THE SHADE (Bobby Fuller Four Up)

“Let Her Dance”
The Bobby Fuller Four (1965)
#133 Billboard
Recommended source: Never To Be Forgotten – The Mustang Years


Dave Marsh has written that the Bobby Fuller Four had a claim on being the best rock and roll band in America in the mid-sixties. If you want to start such an argument, you can find enough evidence on the two small box sets that collect all the group’s work (especially the one recommended above) to get it going, though not enough to finish it. For that, Fuller would have needed to live a little longer and keep up the pace.


Whether he could have, we’ll never know. He was found dead in his car a few months after “I Fought the Law” became a breakout hit in 1966. Among the wilder rumors that floated around in the years after the L.A. coroner checked both “accident” and “suicide” on his death certificate was that Elvis had him killed for refusing to sell that same car. For a more plausible explanation of Bobby’s death–and much else–I highly recommend John Kaye’s great novel The Dead Circus, which I reviewed here.

For my own take on just how good the Bobby Fuller Four was at high tide, you can go here.

But if you just needed one record to get you thinking about what might have been, “Let Her Dance” might do the trick. The world moved faster back then. What I like to call Pop Time moved at lightning speed. Who knows where Fuller’s career might have been twelve months later if “Let Her Dance” had broken out as it should have in the summer of ’65. Probably nowhere significantly different than where it was. But maybe, just maybe, it would have moved his life a hair to two to the left or right on the Dial of Fate–and just maybe it would have been the hair’s difference that would have let him live to old age.

Keith Richards has spoken about late night parties in Swinging London where John Lennon would get in his cups and say things like “If only Buddy had lived!” the kind of drunken philosophy which means absolutely nothing literally and absolutely everything spiritually.

Bobby Fuller was the closest anyone came to taking Buddy Holly’s place, literally or spiritually. Unfortunately, the proximation was bit too literal. But if you wonder where the ceiling was, try sticking “Let Her Dance” between “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” and “London’s Burning”  on the Universe of Stomp’s supremo mix-disc some time.

Then crank it to the max.

You might be surprised who sounds like the genius then.


9 thoughts on “DIAMONDS IN THE SHADE (Bobby Fuller Four Up)

  1. I immediately fell in love with “Let Her Dance” when I first heard it on an old Rhino Nuggets compilation about two dozen years ago. I didn’t pick up any sort of Bobby Fuller comp until (again) I picked up an old Rhino comp a couple of years ago, and immediately fell in love with each track on there.

    What might have been, indeed!

    Footnote: I made my way through the movie Fantastic Mr. Fox a few years ago. I didn’t care for the movie at all, so it was a chore. However, hearing “Let Her Dance” at the end of the movie without expecting it almost made it worthwhile. I do recall having a big dumb grin on my face when I heard those first few notes.

    Thanks for sharing. Bobby Fuller’s story – especially the ending – is very intriguing.

    • Hah. I’ve been wondering if I should see that movie…You’re experience leaves me still wondering….I’d love to experience that moment even if I am expecting it. And I think a lot of folks have heard “Let Her Dance” and immediately wondered what I wondered–why wasn’t this a big hit?? I guess even the musical sixties weren’t perfect!

      Cannot recommend strongly enough reading John Kaye’s book The Dead Circus, which ties Bobby’s story to Buddy Holly, Nancy Sinatra (and her dad) and the Manson family without missing a beat.

  2. I spent a lot of time (and some money) in the sixties and early seventies woodshedding that garage band, hard rock, American rock ‘n roll sound.

    NU can probably relate to you how I had to practice, my first keyboard was an accordian, before I could go out and play baseball with the other kids.

    When I realized that I couldn’t get that dirty sound with my mother instrument, I spent my own cash for an Acetone keyboard and amp. The rest is still oblivion.

    I loved groups like the BFF, The Standells, The Troggs and on and on. The Little Rascals (before they grew up!) The Beach Boys. Tommy James. Can the Stones count in there?

    I never thought of keys as lead; always rounding and filling behind the guitar, stringed instruments came much later.

    I don’t remember Bobby Fuller’s mysterious death. It was the Sixties and by that time, I was in college trying to beg, borrow, or steal my way out of coal country. And then, The Beatles brought out Sgt. Pepper, and, for me, everything changed.

    I loved John Ford’s westerns then and still do. He got it. He delivered it. And, it shows in every good Western since.

    As always, Thank You!

  3. Thanks for sharing your experiences VJ….I missed the era I was supposed to be born in, so I appreciate the war stories!

    I suspect Bobby wasn’t a big enough star for his death to merit huge coverage in its day. It has certainly intrigued a lot of people since. John Kay’s book has the most plausible explanation I’ve come across and is hellaciously entertaining besides.

    One great aspect of the Bobby Fuller box sets (they’ve gone out of print so they tend to be a bit pricey, alas) is you can actually hear how much work went into being a great band, something I’m sure you can appreciate fully….it’s not all great, but a a lot of it is, and it’s all interesting….Listen straight through and you can literally hear records like “Let Her Dance” and “I Fought the Law,” which sound like somebody breathed them, being built piece by piece over several years.

    And if I’ve got another John Ford fan checking in regularly, I clearly need to get back to writing about his movies. So many projects so little time!

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