B!KE
Statement House
Theatre Trent 2022
Arthur News School of Fish
Movie poster for 'Fanny: The Right to Rock.'

ReFrame Review: Fanny: The Right to Rock

Written by
Katie Pedlar
and
and
January 24, 2022
ReFrame Review: Fanny: The Right to Rock
Movie poster for 'Fanny: The Right to Rock.'

The 1960s brought a new frontier to western culture: drugs, sex and rock and roll! The forefathers of the movement were the righteous rock stars (insert guitar lick), many of whom still enjoy their reverberating notoriety. These rowdy men flaunted their fame and became self-proclaimed messiahs of rock and roll. 

Despite the genre’s subversive roots, the music industry operated in lockstep with mid-century misogyny and as result women rock stars were underrepresented and overlooked. Regardless of the structural obstacles, Fanny, an all woman rock band, was determined to roll and rock around the clock! 

Fanny had it all: ambitious vocals, musical chemistry and raw talent, so why did the world forget about this musical matriarch? Fanny: The Right to Rock, a 90 minute documentary about the rise of Fanny in the 1960s and their 2020 musical resurrection has the story. 

Sisters June and Jean Millington, the forewomen of Fanny, were born in the Philippines and immigrated to Sacramento as teenagers. As children, they taught themselves the ukulele by picking out tunes from the radio. Their early attraction to music was literally amplified when June discovered the electric guitar. At the age of seventeen the Millington sisters met a fellow Filipino teenager named Brie Brandt who played the drums and the first configuration of Fanny was established. 

Fanny was clocked by prominent record producer Richard Perry and the young women were set to create their first album. Up until that point, women in music were merely darlings, expected to sing love songs and maybe strum an acoustic guitar. Fanny totally upended this trope. Their vocals were raspy and rough in the right kind of way. The bass lines and drumming were funky and moody. And the guitar was, no holds barred, rock and roll. The entire music scene was shocked to see women on instruments at all, never mind the fact that they were technically proficient and brought a raw and surly sound that wasn’t associated with femininity. 

Fanny had two tracks hit the Billboard Top 40 but they never achieved the same level of celebrity as their male counterparts. Frontwoman June thinks that this is because they didn’t write formulaic pop songs. Male rock stars are afforded an infinite amount of creative exploration. For example, music enthusiasts will debate the artistry of Revolution Number 9 by The Beatles or any given track off of Ummagumma by Pink Floyd, but the fact stands that when men tread into these bizarre places of creativity, it’s often considered visionary. Unfortunately, there wasn’t the same appetite for artistic ingenuity from women. 

Fanny constantly grinded up against sexism and racism. In the early 70s, their producer insisted that they ham up the sex appeal by wearing skimpy costumes on stage which led to June leaving the band. The women and management had conflicting visions for the band. They were forced to hide their lesbian identities in order to maintain marketability. Fanny was rebellious and their songs had edgy lyrics about birth control pills and sex; again and again they were thwarted by the exact force they sought to resist. 

Our collective amnesia has allowed this revolutionary band to fall between the cracks of rock and roll history. To this day, female rock groups are outnumbered ten to one in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But Fanny hasn’t stopped fighting for their right to rock! Now in their late sixties and early seventies, the members of Fanny are reuniting to produce another bad ass rock album: Fanny Walked the Earth. Yet again Fanny has rattled the expectations of rock and roll. Fifty years later they are still able to breath Filipino pride, queerness and feminism into a space that is painfully pale and male. This isn’t some sentimental reunion tour; the band members are peeking as musicians and they are playing tighter than ever. 

Unfortunately, just before they left on tour, bassist Jean Millington suffered a stroke, leaving her right side paralyzed. The band paused the tour as Jean recovered. But, determined to give Fanny the musical justice it deserves, Jean’s son played her bass and she continued to perform supporting vocals. The chaotic spirit of rock and roll is truly realized by these renegade women who insisted on their right to rock. Fanny: The Right to Rock is a compelling come up story of strong willed women, determined to claim their space in rock and roll history!

Fanny: The Right to Rock will be screened at ReFrame Film Festival between January 27th and February 4th, 2022.

B!KE
Statement House
Theatre Trent 2022
Arthur News School of Fish
Written By
Sponsored
B!KE
Statement House
Theatre Trent 2022
Arthur News School of Fish

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