FANNY: THE RIGHT TO ROCK – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

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“One of the most important bands in American rock has been buried without a trace.” – David Bowie’s take on the all-female band Fanny and he is just one of their celebrity admirers.

There was a time when girl groups like the Ronettes, the Crystals and the Supremes would simply sing, prance and dance while providing eye candy on stage. But everything changed in 1969, when two sisters of Filipina descent, ended up living in Los Angeles and forming a backyard rock band. Lead guitarist June Millington and her bass-playing sibling, Jean, decided to upset the norm, as they strapped on their axes and beat male rock bands at their own game. Top-notch producer Richard Perry would sign them up to his Reprise Records label.

I barely recall Fanny as a band, but I do remember at least one of their early catchy songs — Charity Ball, which reached the top 40 on the Billboard’s hot 100 in 1970. But thanks to documentary filmmaker Bobbi Jo Hart’s Fanny: The Right to Rock, I got flashbacks of what this influential and ground-breaking ensemble – whose other members included such admired musicians as drummer and vocalist Alice de Buhr, keyboardist Nickey Barclay, guitarist Patti Quatro (sister of Suzi Quarto) drummer Brie Brandt and drummer Cam Davis that led the way for other all-female bands, such as The Runways, the Go-Go’s and the Bangles. Male acts would eagerly recruited Fanny’s members as session players, that’s how good they were.

We witness the usual tour high jinx – sex, drugs, and, of course, rock and roll. But these women were just as good if not better than any male band at the time. Other artists singing their praises include Bonnie Raitt, who for a time shared the band’s digs. There are also testimonials from the likes of Joe Elliot, the lead singer from Def Leppard, Cherie Currie from The Runaways, John Sebastian from the Lovin’ Spoonful, Kate Pierson from the B-52s and guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter from Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers.

As for Bowie, consider him a kind of super fan. He and June were an item for a time and she wrote a song inspired by him, Butter Ball, which became Fanny’s best-selling single. As for Jean, she was briefly married to Bowie’s guitar player Earl Slick, who also shares his two cents about how revolutionary Fanny was.

Now in their early 70s, June and Jean are making music again despite the fact that Jean suffered a stroke just when they released their new album, Fanny Walked the Earth. While their signature long dark hair is now coated with gray, these women are ensuring that their legacy will follow them as they create new music for the 21st century.

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Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a contributor for the online awards site Gold Derby and is an Oscar expert for RogerEbert.com. Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to RogerEbert.com, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.