Thursday, January 27, 2011

Forgotten Music Thursday: Fanny - Fanny Hill (1972)

Before there were The Runaways, The Go-Gos, or The Bangles there was Fanny, the first all female rock band signed to a major label. They played hard rock 'n roll the way men do: with power and guts.

Fanny hailed from California but they were more popular in the U. K. where they were eventually banned from playing in the London Palladium for being too sexy. (By today's standards they dressed like nuns). The band consisted of June Millington on vocals and guitar with her sister Jean on bass. They were joined by Nickey Barclay on keyboards and Alice de Buhr on drums. Originally named Wild Honey, George Harrison suggested to producer Richard Perry that he change the group's name to Fanny, a word with much filthier connotations in Europe than it has in America. Unfortunately, the group didn't know this.

Fanny Hill, the ladies' third LP, was taken seriously by Warner Brothers. The sessions were produced by Perry who also worked with Harry Nilsson, Ringo Starr, Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Leo Sayer, and more. The album was recorded in Apple Studios in London, England with Geoff Emerick, The Beatles famous engineer, spinning the knobs. It was recorded after they played behind Streisand on her 1971 rock record, Stony End.

The eleven song album opens with a kick-butt version of Marvin Gaye's "Ain't That Peculiar" and they rocked hard on two originals, "Blind Alley" and "Rock Bottom Blues." They also showed their sensitive, feminine side with the story of a young child on the acoustic "You've Got a Home."  Side two opens with another cover, only this time they picked a more obscure song, The Beatles' "Hey Bulldog," that for my money ranks as one of the best covers of a Fab Four song ever put on vinyl.  To the band's dismay Perry added horns and strings to a few of the tracks, which softened up the arrangements and made them sound more mainstream and commercial. Long out of print, this gem was never released on CD.

After two more albums and a couple of personnel changes Fanny broke up and was forgotten by almost everyone even though they led the way for the better known girl rockers who came later.

Fanny Hill was one of my favorite records of 1972 and during my days as a college DJ I overplayed these tracks regularly.  First up is Hey Bulldog. Then listen to June Millington play some wicked slide guitar on Ain't That Peculiar. Finally, here is an old TV clip featuring this long forgotten band.

16 comments:

  1. Genya Ravan's all-female band Goldie and the Gingerbreads was signed by Decca in '63, and Atlantic in '64. Cradle, the Quatro sisters' band after the Pleasure Seekers (and before one of themwent on to Fanny), was signed to Mercury, which was pretty major in '68.

    But Fanny was the first band to actually get much support from its label...and I've had my copy of this one for a lotta years, now...and I have to suspect that they were aware of FANNY HILL the novel, not to mention the euphemism for arse...

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    1. That was snarky, Todd. I know all the women you mentioned, we all worked hard. Fanny was the first that recorded an entire album which went out there world-wide, and we toured non-stop for 3 years. The name? Not at all what you alluded - we weren't that stupid, or crass. Get "Land of a Thousand Bridges", my autobiography, when it comes out - which will be soon. June

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    2. Well, goodness...it wasn't snark at all, though sorry if it seemed that way...it just seemed as if the earlier bands were being slighted a bit...if Fanny was the first all-women rock band to record an LP for a major label, that is certainly a credit to be proud of. I am indeed looking forward to reading your autobio, which I suspect is now out, but I will double-check (I saw the mention of it on your site). I didn't think you named yourselves for the rump euphemism (I couldn't imagine why you would want to), but I also couldn't imagine you weren't aware of that and chose to go with the name for other reasons...which I guess I'll learn with reading the book. But, certainly, all kinds of sad puns were rung off the rump definition of "fanny" in the rock press, such as one headline that reads "Butt Seriously" in some of the documents shown in the visuals with at least one of your band's videos up on YouTube now. Trust me, I have nothing but respect for you and your work...which I kind of wish Charlie might've mentioned since you were checking in here, and, again, sorry if it seemed in any way otherwise.

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    3. Here's what I just wrote on Millington's Google+ page:
      Hello, Ms. Millington! I think you got the wrong impression back in February from a comment I left on Charlie Ricci's blog some years before, in response to his review of FANNY HILL. As I've just seen your February comment, I hope to apologize for any offense you took--none was meant--and to suggest I didn't mean any snark or denigration of you, your band and bandmates, or for that matter of Charlie, to whose review I was responding.

      The review and responses are at this address,
      http://bloggerhythms.blogspot.com/2011/01/forgotten-music-thursday-fanny-fanny.html
      ....and, again, I in no way meant to slight you, or Fanny at all...rather to suggest that you did know about the potential for rude puns and jokes about the band's name, and that in naming the album FANNY HILL you were certainly taking one potential source of those sorts of jokes straight on. I've actually been introducing your work, both in Fanny and with instruction and support of young artists since, to my own small audiences of readers...I'm definitely a fan, and am a bit mortified that you might ever thing otherwise.
      Todd Mason (I chose to post this on this dead link in case you wish to wipe this off your G+ page!).

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    4. Hi Todd. Sorry I didn't let you know about this. I don't know why I didn't. I usually am eager to send things like this around.

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    5. February was a rotten month for me this year...there is a chance you let me known and I missed it...but I suspect I would've snapped to under these circumstances...so, sorry if you did!

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    6. The cover photo of Fanny's self-titled debut shows the four women in the band standing together, but facing away from the camera. The women on the left have an arm around the shoulder or waist of each other, comrades in arms; the woman at center-right is grabbing the woman to her right on the, um, fanny.

      So, yeah. June can get indignant about such "stupid and crass" suggestions now, but the band itself made the same allusion as a joke on their own album cover back in 1970.

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  2. My love of this band is well documented! Just to say that Rhino issued a limited edition box-set some years back containing their 4 Reprise albums and a load of demos/outtakes and live cuts. Unfortunately the run is sold out but you can still download it from iTunes. Essential! Also, check out their website at www.fannyrocks.com

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    1. Thanks! Just saw this, my autobiography will be out soon ... "Land of a Thousand Bridges". :)) June

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    2. And I believe you can download the album from their website, as well. And Amazon. (Their site has a page where they were and might still be offering signed copies of the DVDs.)

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  3. Please correct the inaccurate info in the article about their monicker being suggested by George Harrison - NOT TRUE!

    'Fanny' was a name suggested by June Millington herself:
    http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/70591-jean-millington-an-interview-with-a-rock-and-roll-survivor

    I hope you can stop perpetuating this incorrect information.

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    1. Thanks anonymous - all cleared up in beginning of my autobiography, "Land of a Thousand Bridges", out soon.
      June Millington

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  4. Hi Anonymous. There is more than one place on the Internet that states that George Harrison suggested the name. You can find a couple of them HERE and HERE. It looks like we have contradictory information.

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  5. But, in any case, Charlie, glad to have finally seen this and sorry to see I left a bad impression with June Millington, but glad to know that and have an opportunity to try to apologize and explain. Clearly you're reaching a serious audience!

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  6. A friend and I were recently talking about seeing Fanny in Philadelphia, think it was 1972, small venue. We were all working in radio at the time. Fanny left us all with a great impression!

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