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The All-Female Band Fanny Made History. A Latest Doc Illuminates It.


JUNE MILLINGTON EXITED Fanny in late 1973 partially due to a near “nervous breakdown,” she said in a video interview. “I’m glad I left, because I knew that my life was on the road on some major level.” She was sitting in front of a crackling fire at her home on the campus of the Institute for the Musical Arts, a nonprofit recording and retreat facility she co-founded along with her longtime partner, Ann Hackler, in Goshen, Mass. On the mantel were various Buddhist objects — Millington is a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism — and a framed photo of Jimi Hendrix.

“The straw that broke the camel’s back,” Millington said, was the record company’s insistence that Fanny, whose members favored ’70s California chic, dress up in glammy, more revealing outfits onstage. (“My top was $45 price of American coins, looped together, that just pinched my nipples,” de Buhr said.) Millington saw it as an indication that Reprise had lost faith within the band. “I took it as an insult,” she said.

A new edition of Fanny — featuring Adamian, Barclay, Darling and Quatro — signed with Casablanca Records and released a final album, “Rock and Roll Survivors,” in 1974. That record featured the one “Butter Boy,” which Adamian said was inspired by — but not about, as has been widely reported — her then-boyfriend, Bowie, and his gender-bending ways.

“‘He was hard as a rock, but I used to be able to roll, what a shock to search out out I used to be accountable for the situation,’” Adamian said, reciting the song’s opening lines. “I mean, those sorts of lyrics were very tongue-in-cheek and intended to be provocative.” “Butter Boy” became Fanny’s biggest hit, reaching No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 1975. But by that point, the band had split up for reasons each artistic and private.

Fanny has technically never reunited. But in 2016, Millington, Adamian and Darling played together at a concert in Northampton, Mass., a collaboration that led to the self-titled album “Fanny Walked the Earth.” That LP includes appearances by de Buhr and Quatro, plus Valentine of the Go-Go’s and members of fellow all-female groups the Runaways and the Bangles.

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