Songs Of The Day 6/21/2015: Fanny – “Blind Alley” + “Conversation With a Cop”

Pride Week: Fanny was not the first all-female rock band. There were a couple of really good ones in the ’60s, Goldie & the Gingerbreads and the Pleasure Seekers (Suzi Quatro alert!). Fanny was, however, the first to emerge after the advent of heavy metal and blues-rock, so they’re often credited as being the first all-female “hard rock” band, when certain artisans started placing importance on “chops,” which Fanny had a lot of. (As John Sebastian innocently marveled on an A&E television show, the name of which escapes me probably for the better, “They not only played [their instruments] – they played them pretty well!”)

The Millington sisters June and Jean migrated from their native Phillippines to Sacramento. Hey, Sacramento! They went for broke and moved to Los Angeles, where they signed with Warner Brothers after a successful show at the Troubadour. Pop overlord Richard Perry produced their first three albums, the third at Abbey Road Studios. “That sweater from Help! [the one with all four heads in it] was used to muffle my bass drum,” said drummer Alice de Buhr. Fanny had a bit of an underground following and got a couple of singles (“Charity Ball” and “Butter Boy”) on the ground floor of the Billboard Top 40, but surprise surprise, nobody at the time could figure out how to market an all-female band that wasn’t an animated series or weren’t willing to sex it up for the dude demographic. “We got asked all the time about the male studio musicians who must’ve played on the album,” de Buhr said. There were none, of course.

Curiously, they were subsequently labeled as a “lesbian band.” I don’t mean “curiously” because they weren’t lesbians (two were, one came out as bi after the band broke up). But given the paucity of information about their personal lives at the time, I’m therefore wondering what was the distinguishing characteristic that turned them from a “hard rock band” to a “lesbian band." Not being a lesbian or necessarily hard rock (anymore, but I’ll still bring it if you push me), perhaps you can fill me in. Was there some kind of guitar effects pedal you could buy? Fuzz, wah-wah, distortion, lesbian? I’d be interested. I’d buy a whole new guitar for that.

David Bowie in particular championed Fanny, although it was in 1999, when they probably could have used his testimonial a bit sooner. “They were one of the finest fucking rock bands of their time,” he told Rolling Stone. “They were extraordinary. They wrote everything, they played like motherfuckers… They are as important as anyone else who’s ever been, ever.” As for me, I couldn’t decide between two of their songs I really like, so here’s both of them. “Blind Alley” is a killer rocker with a piano in it, and “Conversation With a Cop” is about the sort of thing that used to hassle all of us at the time: not being able to walk our dogs in the middle of the night. Fanny’s third album Fanny Hill, the one that was done at the Beatles’ studio, is being rereleased any minute now. You may pre-order now and receive a package of value shortly.

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