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Fanny: The Right to Rock

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Last Updated: 10/14/2021 12:30 pm
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Left to Right: The (pre-Fanny) self-founded Svelts garage band in a home they shared and rehearsed in, in Los Altos Hills, California, in the 1960s: Jean Millington, Brie Darling, Wendy Haas Mull, June - Millington. - STEVE GRIFFITH
  • Steve Griffith
  • Left to Right: The (pre-Fanny) self-founded Svelts garage band in a home they shared and rehearsed in, in Los Altos Hills, California, in the 1960s: Jean Millington, Brie Darling, Wendy Haas Mull, JuneMillington.

When I was 16, I listened to records with three friends: Joel, Glenn, David—all connoisseurs of avant-garde Rock. We spun records by Gong, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, the Bonzo Dog Band. One record we sampled was by Fanny, the first successful “all-girl” rock band on a major label. Their music was generic, I thought. They were a kind of gimmick.

Recently, my YouTube algorithm suggested Fanny—videos they made on TV shows in 1970. Now I rather like them. Two of the women were Filipino-American, I suddenly noticed. The band had energy, and a subtle kind of courage.

Three days ago, at the Woodstock Film Festival, I saw Fanny: The Right to Rock, the first documentary about the group. At one point the musicians lived in a house together in LA called Fanny Hill. In the documentary, Bonnie Raitt remembers: “It was very frustrating for the guys in my band. All these gorgeous women were running around naked—and they were all lesbians!”

Fanny put out four albums, but never had a pop hit; they were a “hard rock” band. In 1975, they broke up. But recently, the group has reunited, and recorded Fanny Walked the Earth, their best record yet.

Fanny lead guitarist June Millington. - LINDA WOLF
  • Linda Wolf
  • Fanny lead guitarist June Millington.

And after the movie, two of the original members played a show, in the Bearsville Theater bar. These grandmotherly women smashed out rock music with glee: Brie Brandt on drums, June Millington playing sharp, almost dissonant guitar lines—accompanied by the legendary Gail Ann Dorsey on bass. Local rock star John Sebastian came up on stage to lead them in “Do You Believe in Magic” (with Kate Pearson of the B-52s on backup vocals):

Believe in the magic
of a young girl’s soul,
believe in the magic
of rock ‘n’ roll,
believe in the magic
that can set you free!

You could almost see the soul of Little Richard hovering above them.

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