Years before the Runaways or the Go-Go’s, there was pioneering “chick rock” band, Fanny. Fanny was formed in 1969 by teenaged guitarist-singer June Millington, with her sister Jean and drummer Alice de Buhr, as “Wild Honey.” When Nickey Barclay, a keyboard player who toured with Joe Cocker’s infamous “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” group joined them, the band was renamed “Fanny.” In the UK, where the word means “vagina” and not “butt” like it does in the USA, Fanny were thought to be quite outrageous by radio programmers. More outrageous than I think they intended.
Along with Suzi Quatro’s early band, The Pleasure Seekers and before them, Genya Ravan’s girl group Goldie & the Gingerbreads, Fanny was among the very first real female rock groups signed to a major label (Reprise Records, the artists first label started by Frank Sinatra, who was the “Chairman of the Board”). They worked with famed producer Richard Perry (Carly Simon, Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson, etc) and later Todd Rundgren. They recorded at the Beatles’ Apple Studios and backed Barbra Streisand on her Barbra Joan Streisand album. They toured opening up for huge 70s acts like Slade, Jethro Tull and Humble Pie, but sadly, they are little more than a gender pioneer footnote today.
Fanny were nothing short of incredible, as you will hear, but they never made it as big as they should have. It’s unfair.
David Bowie, in a 1999 Rolling Stone interview, said of the group:
“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… rock bands of their time, in about 1973. They were extraordinary: They wrote everything, they played like motherfuckers, they were just colossal and wonderful. 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”
Their biggest hits were “Charity Ball” and “Butter Boy.” Fanny broke up in 1975. Fanny bassist Jean Millington later recorded and performed live with David Bowie. She is married to Bowie’s longtime guitarist, Earl Slick. In 2002, Rhino Handmade released the excellent First Time in a Long Time: The Reprise Recordings box set. June Millington wrote her autobiography, Land of a Thousand Bridges including much about her years in Fanny.
It’s depressing to note that some of these videos have had less than 200 views…
“Blind Alley” on German TV ‘Beat-Club’ show in 1971
An astonishing clip of Fanny tackling Cream’s “Badge” and “Young and Dumb” live in France, 1972
Performing “Charity Ball” in 1971
“You’re The One” from ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’ TV show in 1971:
“Summer Song” on ‘Beat-Club’ show in 1972
“Borrowed Time” on ‘Beat-Club,’ 1972
A fantastic British cinema tea commercial featuring Fanny. Tea has never seemed so sexy…