Fanny: Fanny Hill - Album Of The Week Club review

"They were one of the finest rock bands of their time" - David Bowie liked them, but what about the Album Of The Week Club?

Fanny: Fanny Hill cover art
(Image: © Warner Music Group)

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Fanny: Fanny Hill

Fanny: Fanny Hill cover art

(Image credit: Warner Music Group)

Ain't That Peculiar
Knock on My Door
Blind Alley
You've Got a Home
Wonderful Feeling
Borrowed Time
Hey Bulldog
Think About the Children
Rock Bottom Blues
Sound and the Fury
The First Time

“One of the most important female bands in American rock has been buried without a trace, and that is Fanny," David Bowie told Rolling Stone in 1999, more than a quarter of a century after he'd sent the band a fan letter in the early 1970s. "They were one of the finest rock bands of their time. They were extraordinary. It just wasn’t their time. Revivify Fanny. And I will feel that my work is done.”

Signing to Reprise in 1969, Fanny – formed around a core of sisters June and Jean Millington – released four albums for the Reprise label: 1970’s self-titled debut, the following year’s Charity Ball, 1972’s Fanny Hill (recorded at Apple Studios in London with Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick) and their 1973’s Todd Rundgren-produced Mother’s Pride. A fifth album, 1974's Rock And Roll Survivors, arrived on Casablanca in 1974.

Most importantly, Fanny created a template later followed by The Runaways and many others. “They cracked that door and made it possible for us to believe that we could do it too,” said Cherie Curry.

In 2016, just a month after Bowie's death, they were revivified. The sisters reunited onstage at a tribute show in Massachusetts to June Millington, joined by former drummer Brie Darling, and in 2018 released an album as Fanny Walked The Earth, named partly in tribute to their trail-blazing and partly to their status as rock dinosaurs. 

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Other albums released in February 1972

  • Something/Anything? - Todd Rundgren
  • Harvest - Neil Young
  • Eat a Peach - The Allman Brothers Band
  • Manfred Mann's Earth Band - Manfred Mann's Earth Band
  • Pink Moon - Nick Drake
  • 3 - McKendree Spring
  • Burgers - Hot Tuna
  • Don Quixote - Gordon Lightfoot
  • Grave New World - Strawbs
  • Headkeeper - Dave Mason
  • Hellbound Train - Savoy Brown
  • Lonesome Crow - Scorpions
  • Oh How We Danced - Jim Capaldi
  • Rockin' - The Guess Who
  • Silver Pistol - Brinsley Schwarz
  • Three - Jackie Lomax


What they said...

"The album’s overall singer/songwriter direction is bolstered by the band’s instrumental ability to sound big or go soft, to tear the roof off the sucker or to strum and sing in a folkish vein. Featuring an unsung, talented singer in keyboardist Nickey Barclay and two underrated vocalists in the Millington sisters, Fanny also had the benefit of three gifted songwriters among its four skilled musicians, and a world-class guitarist in June Millington." (The Devil Music)

"Fanny Hill is the group's hardest-rocking set, full of June Millington's big, raunchy guitar figures facing off with Nickey Barclay's rollicking keyboards, the smart but muscular rhythm section of Alice de Buhr on drums and Jean Millington on bass, and the foursome's stellar harmonies." (AllMusic)

"Though half the new material is catchy enough, they give themselves away by opening sides with Marvin Gaye's Ain't That Peculiar and the Beatles' Hey Bulldog. 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." (Robert Christgau)


What you said...

Mike Canoe: The first time I checked out Fanny online (that's the band for those of you giggling in the back), I found them far too hippy dippy with far too much sincere singing with eyes closed. Fortunately Fanny Hill was a better experience.

When they rocked, which wasn't nearly often enough here, they were a treat. Blind Alley and Borrowed Time are both great. After that and the satisfactory but not revelatory covers, it feels like we are firmly in Carpenters/Carole King territory. Not that is bad, I just could have done with more rockers which seems to equate to a few more songs written and sung by Nickey Barclay, who handled the two aforementioned rockers. She also gives The First Time, (thankfully not about sex) a rousing gospel flair. As far as the other songs go, You've Got a Home is a beautiful and honest ballad, but the rest just drifts pleasantly by.

They were all talented musicians and a testimony to music helping you find your tribe - even if that didn't translate into long term success. Ultimately the very existence of Fanny in a male-controlled industry was more revolutionary than the music they played. And I think that's enough to make them a worthy album of the week.

Adam Ranger: Had heard of Fanny, but had never heard any of their music, so it's something new for me.

Ultimately it's all a bit forgettable, no stand-out songs, light 70's pop that has not really stood the test of time. It's all well played and sung, but does not leave me clamouring for a second listen. Blind Alley is perhaps my favourite track: it's a bit rockier and shows promise that the rest of the album does not capitalise on. The most interesting track for me is Knock On My Door, as this sounds a lot like ABBA. It's interesting in that ABBA did not make it big until two years after this album was released.

Wolfram Hohmann: Such a pity Fanny were not famous. I also have to admit that I didn't know them until the Beat Club session videos came out on YouTube a few years ago. Unbelievably great band.

John Davidson: I imagine the name of the band made them almost unplayable on UK radio, but otherwise this is very light radio-friendly rock. It rarely punches above the level of a David Essex record, and while it's well enough composed and presented it all sounds a bit dated now.

The vocal harmonies and occasional slide guitar are the most appealing aspects of the album for me, but it's still pretty forgettable.

David James: Just started to listen. Wow, what a pleasant surprise. Nothing like I expected.

Fred Varcoe: I saw Fanny support Jethro Tull at the Rainbow in London circa 1975 and they rocked, so this album is a bit of a letdown. I suspect some people wanted to make them radio-friendly, but they had some powerful talent in their lineups.

Robert Dunn: It's possibly not the album I would have chosen, but it's still a good choice. Other people have commented on the unfortunate choice of name as far as the UK is concerned, so I will stick to the music!

This was their third album and I think you can hear them trying to progress. I don't mind a mix of styles on an album, but there are a few tracks on here that I can take or leave.

Ain't That Peculiar: a great cover of the Marvin Gaye song, I really like this; a great groove and a lot of good things going on.

Knock On My Door: too poppy for me, but it does highlight what I like about this band, in that it is very much written from a woman's point of view. They're not trying to be just like the male bands, they are very much doing their own thing.

Blind Alley: I love the intro on this, and the song is a good up-tempo rocker with some great vocals and some very nice piano in the background.

You've Got a Home: this brought to mind some of Led Zeppelin's folkier moments, but listening to the lyrics this is such a lovely song.

Wonderful Feeling: sadly not what I had when listening to this pop effort.

Borrowed Time: love the use of horns on this. I am not bothered about the use of a horn section by a rock band, and I loved the songs on Slade in Flame that did this.

Hey Bulldog:  a decent stab at a beatles song but ultimately fairly unremarkable.

Think About The Children: to be honest, I got bored during this song and looked at Twitter, so I can't really comment on it.

Rock Bottom Blues: again, a lot of interesting things going on but ultimately a fairly standard blues rocker.

Sound And the Fury: a definite country/Eagles vibe on this one, nothing wrong with trying something a bit different.

The First Time: starts off very nicely but the big build up doesn't quite happen. Still, more horns is always a good thing.

What I like about Fanny is that they are unapologetically female - songs about being the other woman, songs about being a single parent, songs that aren't afraid to try something a little bit different. They were also able to swap around in terms of vocals, so for being an all-girl band taking on the boys but on their own terms, overall this is a big thumbs up from me. I will definitely listen to it again.


Final score: 5.79 (29 votes cast, total score 168)

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