This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Honourable mention Song #6: Place in the Country by Fanny.
Around this time last year, I wrote a post about the Go-Gos. *(You can read that post here). At the time, The Go-Gos had been nominated for induction into The Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame. Their claim to fame was that they had achieved a number of firsts for an all-girl rock/Pop group; including writing and performing their own songs and having a #1 hit with their own original work. That independence helped to differentiate them from Motown groups such as The Supremes, who had numerous #1s but never did any of their own writing nor arranging. Well, as it turned out, The Go-Gos were successful in accumulating enough votes to secure their induction into the RockHall. But, a funny thing happened on the way to their induction ceremony…..as the date of the induction drew closer, the girls from The Go-Gos gave many interviews about their career, the challenges they faced along the way, as well as, how they felt about being viewed as icons and role models for younger, all-girl bands that followed in their wake. Out of these interviews came this nugget of information: they felt it was wrong to claim that they were the first all-girl band of note because, in fact, they, themselves, had icons and role models who encouraged them to form their band in the first place and then, to stick with things during those early, challenging days. The band that acted as role models for The Go-Gos, as well as countless other female bands and solo artists, was a band that could have been huge but, weren’t. They should have been famous and well known but, aren’t. They are Fanny and this is their story.
The band, Fanny, were nominated by a lady named Andrea Storm. Andrea was, initially, a friend and colleague of my wife, Keri. But, as happens on occasion, the existing relationships from a partner’s life bleed over into our own life and, as time has gone on, Andrea and I have become friends, too. Our bond is primarily over music and writing. Andrea and I have attended concerts together and tend to know a lot about the same sorts of artists and bands. Consequently, any time I wrote a post and Andrea responds by saying that she leaned something new from my work, I consider that a real feather in my cap. So, when I put out my call for Honourable Mention songs, it did not come as surprise that Andrea would nominate a band who were important and influential and yet, almost completely unknown, outside of a few hardcore music fans. Fanny, as a choice, is a real music lover’s choice. Here is who they were and why it matters.
Fanny formed in 1969 by sisters, June and Jean Millington, who played lead and bass guitar, respectively. They were originally from the Philippines; moving to California just as their high school years were set to begin. They met up with drummer, Alice de Buhr and keyboardists/singer, Nickey Barclay and decided to form a band. Their big break came after being spotted by the secretary of a record producer while performing at an open mic-style bill at a local club in Los Angeles. The producer, Richard Perry, liked what he saw and heard and signed the girls to a contract. He named them Fanny which, according to Perry, had nothing to do with body parts but, instead, was indicative of their plucky spirit. In any case, the band recorded and released three albums and achieved several Top 40 hit songs. If you can imagine a band that sounded like Led Zeppelin but, instead of being fronted by Robert Plant, Zeppelin was fronted by Janis Joplin……that’s what Fanny sounded like. This band rocked hard and played loud. Singer Nickey Barclay toured with Joe Cocker as a back up singer on his “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” tour. The band also acted as session players all throughout the L.A. area and quickly gained a reputation as being excellent musicians. As Fanny, they opened across the world for big name acts such as Slane, Jethro Tull and Humble Pie and they appeared on famous television shows such as American Bandstand and Top of the Pops. And then, it all came to an end.
All throughout the formative stages of their career, the girls from Fanny had to battle to make their voices heard in a world dominated by male-oriented bands and solo artists. It was a man’s world and they weren’t male. In fact, they were often encouraged to soften their image by wearing sexier clothing and writing more provocative material but, Fanny refused. They insisted on being respected for the calibre of their musicianship above all else. When the music industry refused, again and again, to do so, rather than give in and become the male vision of what a girl band should be, Fanny walked away from their careers and stopped performing. Despite a few brief reunions in later years, Fanny has never released another song, let alone an album, since the 1970s.
But, what Fanny endured during their career wasn’t without some positive benefit. That benefit was that when the next all-girl band came along…..The Go-Gos……the music industry was not as shocked as they had been with Fanny. They were not, initially, receptive to The Go-GOs but, their resistance broke down quicker and doors opened more easily and, as a result, The Go-Gos were able to claw their way out of the tough Los Angeles club scene and make a name for themselves as headliners. That this happened was a direct result of the groundwork laid by Fanny a decade earlier. Their efforts were acknowledged as being crucial to the early success of The Go-Gos by, none other than, The Go-Gos, themselves, as they were getting ready to be inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. The trailblazing Go-Gos were, if truth were being told, following the path blazed already by Fanny who were, in fact, the first all-female group to write their own songs and sign a record contract and have a Top 40 hit of their own.
In a few moments, when you get to listen to Fanny (I assume for the first time ever), get ready to be impressed. What a great band they were! Fanny rocked really hard, with a bluesy, Joplinesque/Stevie Ray Vaughn rock sound. The song, “Place in the Country” should be a song that exists in the canon of great rock songs. It is really good. Thank you, Andrea, for nominating such an interesting and under-served but hugely influential group. They are terrific. Thanks, as well, for all of the comments and stories you have shared along the way throughout this musical countdown journey of ours. I have appreciated your presence.
So, without further delay, here is Fanny and their hit, “Place in the Country”. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “Place in the Country” by Fanny, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Fanny, can be found here.