Fanny is a sometimes forgotten band whose influence and legacy extended far beyond their commercial success and popularity.
Prior to 1970, female participation in the American music scene had been primarily limited to vocal groups and singer-songwriters. This was especially true in the folk scene where the likes of Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, and Judy Collins were stars. There were a few pioneers that fronted rock bands such as Grace Slick and Janis Joplin but rock was essentially a male domain.
Fanny was one of the first all-female rock bands that played their own instruments and wrote their own material. Bassist Jean Millington, guitarist June Millington, keyboardist Nickey Barclay, and drummer Alice de Buhr were an in your face, kick butt rock band. They released five albums between 1970 and 1974. While they had some success, it was their hardcore, cult-like following and constant touring that allowed them to remain a viable commercial entity.
One of the two cover songs on their recently reiussed self-titled debut album is the Eric Clapton/George Harrison song, “Badge,” originally recorded by Cream. It was territory that very few female artists traveled in 1970. Fanny uses a thunderous bass foundation on which the guitar sound is built. It was a statement that women could rock just as hard as men.
They are at their best when in full rock mode. The self-penned “I Just Realized,” “Changing Horses,” and “Seven Roads” may be raw by today’s standards, but the energy and musicianship remain intact as they rock their way through the material.
Ballads such as “Bitter Wine” and “Conversation with a Cop” are more of a stretch for the band, but in general they acquit themselves well. The music has a live feel as it was recorded without many (if any) overdubs. It allows the listener to appreciate the band for what they were at the time.
Fanny has been back in the studio recently, but they will always be associated with their era. It’s nice to have the debut album by these female rock pioneers back in circulation.