Here's the Clash's version--which I thought was the original.
It's good--it has a certain anger that's missing from Green Day's version. Perhaps it's just part of their schtick but they don't flirt with the audience. Joe Strummer and Mick Jones just throw this song out there as hard as they can. It's part of why I like them (and punk in general--but that's another blog post).
On the other hand I like about this later, American rendition. While I like Joe Strummer's version this has more showmanship. As mentioned above I think there's more anger (and with it more honesty) in the Clash's version. The Green Day version has a certain.. goofiness to it that I see as an element of American punk that is missing from the Clash or the Sex Pistols. The Ramones had it too--it's bratty instead of angry. (Not that I'm dismissing this--I love the Ramones.) Billy Joe is playing with his mouth open and rolling his head as if he doesn't really care but the moment he stops playing and claps--once--the audience picks up and starts clapping.
One of the things I like about early punk is how it sounds like 50's and 60's rock and roll--but faster and without the bubble gum and marzipan--not that there's anything wrong with that.
Which brings me to Bobby Fuller. I was screwing around with YouTube last December--probably avoiding a paper--when I came across Bobby Fuller's version of I Fought The Law--from 1965.I was mesmerized. I'm still not sure why. It was the day after the shootings in Connecticut--I posted the video to Facebook and then remembered that people might not think the guns were so cute that day.
I mentioned this to a friend of mine over breakfast that day "You thought the Clash wrote 'I Fought the Law?'" said my buddy. "No that's an old time folk meme." It might be--I couldn't find any info about that in the Wikipedia article. The original sounds like it was written by Buddy Holly--which makes sense as it was written by another Cricket--Sonny Curtis (who replaced Buddy Holly after he died.)
I found another video version without the guns in the background. As I mentioned above I'm still not quite sure what about this song sends me to my happy place. Some of it could be because I love rock and roll from 1965--I like Help and Rubber Soul more than I like the White Album. Some of it could be just the novelty of guys in suits and ties singing a song that I usually associate with sweaty guys in eye makeup and studded belts. I think some of my fascination is because I look at this video--at all of the teenage boys in suits and teenage girls in dresses with flip hair dos--and think "Your world is about to change."
But Bobby Fuller never made the change. Six months after the I Fought the Law made the Billboard top 100 list he was found dead in a car under mysterious circumstances.