The Revivify Tour: Fanny’s 50th Anniversary Show at the Whisky a Go Go!

“If I can just make it to the show on time,” I told myself as I got ready this past Wednesday evening in Los Angeles, “if I can just make it to the show on time!”

I charged my batteries and packed my no-frills camera, mildly scared that I’d be told at the door, “no filming allowed” and have my camera confiscated. I was even more anxious as the hour grew later, that the sold-out show at the Whisky would be too packed for me to get to the front of the stage.

So much chaos before I could even leave the house! Soon I was telling myself, if I can just get to the show at all. For even just one song. Because one song is better than no song for fans of Fanny, one of the first all-female rock bands ever. I don’t even have to tape it, I just have to be there.

Sisters June and Jean Millington had played music since they were kids in the Philippines. After they moved to America in the early 1960s, they formed a band in high school which by the late 1960s became Fanny.

They played on Cher’s show, they hung out with David Bowie and Cherry Vanilla, they lived in a house they called Fanny Hill near the Chateau Marmont as they made music. They played Carnegie Hall and the Fillmore, they recorded at Apple Studios, they toured internationally. Linda Wolf lived with them then, realizing her talent for photography as she took intimate and interesting photographs of the band while they were all making their rock ‘n roll fantasies come true.

My fantasy came true, too: I got to the show on time. And to my great relief, to the front of the stage. The lines on the street to get in were long, the room was packed, but this crowd was friendly and having fun, and I could move easily through.

The show ROCKED.

Original members played the show! I got the whole concert on tape! And thanks to June Millington, I have the set list! Thank you, Wayne Pemberton for asking her. Thank you, June, who untaped it from the floor and handed it to him.

Their songs!  “Butter Boy” was velvety (and made the charts in 1975); “When We Need Her” was riveting; “Charity Ball” such a great and danceable sing-along (that made the charts in 1971). A song in homage to Jimi Hendrix, and songs with a polyphonic beat that sounded like my idea of wilderness, with sounds that seemed to come from someplace mysterious and compelling. Sometimes the music sounded like it was coming from everywhere, not only from the stage, and sometimes it sounded gentle and bare. My ears felt good. My favorite was the ballad, “Thinking of You.” Romance and hard rock combined in a concert that sounded like the past predicting the future. A sound for now.

With Alice de Buhr in a red plaid skirt sharing drums with Brie Howard Darling in sparkling blue eye shadow, Patti Quatro in scarves on guitar and Jean with her long flowing hair and heartfelt vocals, June with her all white hair and her guitar like a power amulet on her hips, the band played for 90 minutes as though they hadn’t skipped a beat since their break-up in 1975. (Some bandmates broke up earlier than that.) Lee John – Jean’s son – on bass was so calm, playing cool and hot. And Mia Higgs, an Institute for Musical Arts alum (both performance and recording camps), played bass, too, funky and deep. IMA is the school June and longtime partner, Ann Hackler, co-founded around 1986, a harbinger of rock camps to come.

Patti and June! They both had the “stage face” of true guitar heroes (sheroes!). Play like a girl, says the insulting patriarchy. Ok, says Fanny, we will. Their “Girls on the Road” is a testament that females can – and do – rock as well as any male.

These women show us all what true rock ‘n roll is really about: it’s sexy. It’s determined. It’s fun. It makes you feel good!

You keep playing even if it’s not what you meant yet!  June mentioned they made a few mistakes, but I sure couldn’t tell. They stopped a few times to start over and that was so exciting to me! Raw and real. A glimpse into process! Their onstage talk in between songs and the way they moved, the way they held their instruments, handling them, and the facial expressions they made as they played was all so…sexy. So…rock ‘n roll. My arm and knee hurt halfway through the set, but I felt an unexpected and wonderful thing watching older women rock out: it’s ok to age. We’re doing it together!

Cherie Currie (The Runaways!), Kathy Valentine (The Go Gos!) and the Linda Lindas (!) each spoke about the groundbreaking influence of Fanny, when Fanny rocked the earth as the first all-female band to sign with a major label, and they all joined the band onstage to play for a joyous end to the concert.

Bobbi Jo Hart’s necessary documentary, about the band, “Fanny: The Right to Rock” (2021) screened the night before at the GRAMMY museum in downtown Los Angeles, and the Q&A after with the band and filmmaker was exciting and fascinating.

“A sorority with amps,” said the guitarist and songwriter, June, about being in the band! The bandmates were “different together,” said bassist, Jean. Drummer, Alice, said she played the drums so a listener would feel it in her crotch! Guitarist, Patti, said they had “gropies!” Not exactly groupies and not exactly roadies. I must know more!

The band is as ahead of its time now as they were then, which means they are exactly on time, showing us where we need to be: inclusive, expansive, and having fun as we figure out how to really do what we truly love and work together with respect.

With some bandmembers lesbian and Filipina then (and now!), all over 70 and some with physical challenges now, the band has reunited, released new music (drummer, Brie, uses maxi pads on the drums for sound quality!), and created this galvanizing documentary, proving that music really does belong to us all – at any age, any gender, any color, any size, any sexual orientation, any ability.

One sultry night in 1989, when I was 23 and newly moved to Los Angeles, I stood across the street from the legendary Whisky a Go Go. I was standing at the gas station on the corner, looking at the club on the famed Sunset Strip. I don’t know what band was playing that night. I was too intimidated to cross the street and go to the show. I wasn’t thin enough, pretty enough, well dressed enough, or cool enough. But the night of the Fanny show – 34 years later – I crossed the street. I made it to the show.

The soul of rock resounds when Fanny plays. The right to rock! Which is exactly what Fanny’s show at the Whisky proved.

Fanny at the Whisky a Go Go for their 50th anniversary concert and Revivify Tour, 5.17.23. From l to r: Brie, Alice, and June. Photo by Wayne Pemberton, Jr.

Lucretia Tye Jasmine

About Lucretia Tye Jasmine

Wild interests and an inclination to rage against the machine with a flair that could equal the groupies and rock stars who fascinate her, writer and artist from Kentucky, Lucretia Tye Jasmine, earned an MFA from CalArts (2006), and a BFA from Tisch (University Honors Scholar, 1988). Alien She, the Museum of Broken Relationships Hollywood, the Fales Special Collections Library at NYU, the Getty Center, Joanie 4 Jackie, MoPOP, the New York Times, and The Punk Museum Los Angeles have featured her work. Recent publications include essays in "Women Who Rock: From Bessie to Beyoncé, Girl Groups to Riot Grrrl," edited by Evelyn McDonnell (2018), and "Let It Bleed: How To Write A Rockin' Memoir," edited by Pamela Des Barres (2017), with online writing for Please Kill Me, Medium, and PRISM international. Current projects are the oral history mixtape zines: "riot grrrl Los Angeles 1992-1995," and "The Groupie Gospels."
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