Underrated Band of the Month: Fanny

“One of the most important female bands in American rock has been buried without a trace. And that is Fanny. They were one of the finest fucking rock bands of their time, in about 1973. They were extraordinary: They wrote everything, they played like motherfuckers, they were just colossal and wonderful, and nobody’s ever mentioned them. They’re as important as anybody else who’s ever been, ever; it just wasn’t their time. Revivify Fanny. And I will feel that my work is done.”

—David Bowie in a December 1999 issue of Rolling Stone

Fanny rocks. What’s that? You’ve never heard of Fanny? Oh man, you’ve been missing out.

Fanny was the first all-female band to get a record deal, and with good reason. With Jean Millington’s funky, perpetually audible bass lines and pure rock ‘n’ roll voice; her sister June’s amazing skills on the guitar, comping in the background during songs’ verses and then exploding into the spotlight with amazing solos; Nickey Barclay’s skills on the keyboard, rocking harder than any other keyboardist I’ve seen; Alice de Buhr’s powerful drumming, belying her shy face half-hidden behind her long hair; and the vocal harmonies all the band members contributed to, these women rocked cohesively as a group. Every single one of them was absolutely essential to the group’s sound; no one of them could be easily replaced, which is something not all bands can say. No drummers hiding behind their kits or bassists thudding away in the corner for Fanny. All of the members shared the spotlight.

The band toured all over the United States after releasing their first album in 1970. Despite the fact that they never truly broken into the mainstream—even though they were the first all-female band to have a top 40 hit, with “Charity Ball” at number 40 and “Butter Boy” at number 2—the impact they had on their audiences was unquestionable. Lynne Shapiro wrote in a 1974 Ms. article on the band, “If Fanny had been around when I was 16, I might be a feminist rock ‘n’ roll musician today” (Gaar 125).

Reading about the struggles the band went through can be appalling. Guitarist June Millington recalls, “The pressure not to play rock music was unbelievable. And of course in those days without any role models, we couldn’t say, ‘Well, look at so-and-so, they made it!’” (Gaar 122).

She continues on, “All I can say is, it really fed our spirits. We really wanted to have an all-girl band. It was like we were obsessed. I can’t tell you why. I think we always knew that we were supposed to do something. We didn’t know what it was, but there was something beckoning us. I really believe it was our destiny. We were meant to do it” (Gaar 123).

Only twenty-seven Fanny songs are available on YouTube. (I scoured the site for their albums.) I can’t believe this amazing band has been relegated to obscurity; even if you ignore the fact that they were trailblazers of the most determined sort, their music alone makes them deserve recognition among the best. They should be played on the radio along with the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, placed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the highest of honors. I would like to correct Mr. David Bowie, who I quoted at the beginning of this article: Fanny is not one of the most important female bands of all time; they are one of the most important bands of all time, period. Their achievements are not only important to women, and their hard work is not only impressive for female musicians. It is impressive for any musician, period. “Making it” in the music business—finding band members who are both friendly and solid musicians, creating good music, rehearsing said music, playing gigs, promoting yourself, trying to get signed to a record label—is hard enough without adding “dealing with horrible, ridiculous sexism on a daily basis.”

Here is a list of Fanny’s albums, with the songs on them that are available on YouTube and the places on the Internet where they can be purchased. Happy listening!

Fanny (1970)

not available on Amazon

Here is a playlist with all of the Fanny songs that are available on YouTube.

Charity Ball (1971)

available in vinyl on Amazon

A playlist with all of the Charity Ball songs that are available on YouTube.

Fanny Hill (1972)

available in vinyl and CD on Amazon

A playlist with all of the Fanny Hill songs that are available on YouTube.

Mother’s Pride (1973)

available in vinyl on Amazon

A playlist with all of the Mother’s Pride songs that are available on YouTube.

Rock & Roll Survivors (1974)

available in vinyl and CD on Amazon

A playlist with all of the Rock & Roll Survivors songs that are available on YouTube.

First Time in a Long Time: The Reprise Recordings (2002)

This anthology contains songs from all of Fanny’s albums, plus a number of unreleased tracks. It has 90 songs and is available on Amazon and iTunes.

Go to FannyRocks.com to learn more about the band’s history and discography.

Sources used:

Gaar, Gillian. She’s a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll. 2nd ed. New York: Seal Press, 2002. Print.

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Posted on August 17, 2011, in Musicians of the Month and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I love them too. My latest blog is about them. I had the pleasure of interviewing all the original members.

  2. That’s really amazing. I’d love to see that interview; is it on your blog?

    EDIT: Of course it’s on your blog. That was dumb of me. Quite a stellar interview; I really enjoyed reading it.

  1. Pingback: Recent Integration Efforts from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame « queensofnoisezine

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