Album of the Day — September 30

Fanny — Fanny Hill

Keith R. Higgons
Sep 30, 2020 · 5 min read
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Fanny — Fanny Hill (Reprise Brothers)

30.September.2020
Fanny

1972

I can only imagine that being a woman in …well, just about any industry has to be complicated.

Being an all-female band in the music industry has to be a special kind of complicated (hell) — especially one that’s as openly misogynistic as that.

Now imagine being an all-female band in the early 1970s.

And yet, there was Fanny:

  • June Millington — guitar, clavinet, vocals
  • Jean Millington — bass guitar, vocals
  • Nickey Barclay — keyboards, vocals
  • Alice de Buhr — drums, vocals

The LA-based band was signed to Reprise Records as Wild Honey. As an all-female band, they got the contract under the auspices of a “novelty act” by producer Richard Perry who was looking for a female band to “mentor” (exploit).

Wild Honey was quickly re-named, Fanny.

I’m going to go ahead and guess the name change from Wild Honey to Fanny was not the women’s idea.

In the 2015 book, it’s noted that the name change was not meant to have a “sexual connotation” but to denote a female spirit.

I have to call bullshit on that.

One of the most famous pornographic novels in English literature is John Cleland’s , published in 1748 and 1749. Colloquially known as just the book is the first-person narrative of a young woman’s adventures as a prostitute after losing her virginity to a man who claimed to be in love with her.

Through a modern lens, female sex workers like prostitutes indeed have a female empowerment element. But in 1970, when Fanny was signed to Reprise?

Please forgive my suspicion that the real intention behind re-naming the band Fanny was to emphasize female empowerment.

ANYWAY, is the band’s third album. Like their self-titled debut in 1970 and in 1971, was produced by Richard Perry. The group de-bunked from their home base in LA and moved to London. They holed up at Apple Studios and even got former Beatle engineer Geoff Emerick to engineer it.

The album itself captures the sound of the era as well as highlighting the band’s talent. Opening with a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t That Peculiar” that manages to keep the original’s soul while injecting some serious Duane Allman style slide guitar. That may read as “it sounds rather odd,” but it works rather well.

Fanny also had the fortitude to cover The Beatles “Hey Bulldog”…and change up the lyrics (with John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s approval). Today we may not think too much of futzing with songs, but in 1972, covering The Beatles was a rarity, but changing the lyrics would’ve been considered blasphemous.

The rest of the album contains songs either written collectively or individually by the band. What’s interesting in listening to it now is that you can hear on songs like “Knock on My Door” Fanny’s influence on bands like The Go-Go’s.

The bluesy “Borrowed Time” is a nod to Janis Joplin and just as ballsy as anything by The Rolling Stones from that era.

With a sound and riff that’s reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California,” the sensitivity and independence of “You’ve Got A Home” is one of the more empowering songs on the album.

was released in 1972, one year before the landmark decision, which makes a lyric like “all the more powerful.

Placed in historical context, a song about a single mother, raising her child without the presence of a father is a bold and powerful statement.

You’ve Got A Home

CRITICS:

  • Robert Christgau wrote an actually non-cryptic review: “Several lyrics do groundwork in important women’s themes (autonomy, motherhood, like that), but not one — not even “Wonderful Feeling,” a disarmingly happy-sounding breakup song — offers the kind of concentrated perception that makes a song work or the kind of “Charity Ball” hook that makes you stop wondering whether a song is working.
  • Mike Saunders in said: “June Millington’s guitar work is superb, uniformly functional from both the standpoint of lead and rhythm–and as good as it is, it’s merely typical of Fanny’s ensemble playing throughout the album, which is full of melodic hooks exactly when they’re most needed. . .The number of groups that can inspire affection the way Fanny have with this album, simply from the pure exuberance of their music, are far and few between.”

Fanny should’ve been a bigger band than they were. But some band’s importance lies in the path the clear for what follows. And Fanny helped clear and pave the way for bands like The Go-Go’s, The Bangles, The Runaways, The Donnas, The Slits, etc.

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