1960s, Sacramento. Two Filipina-American sisters decided to play music together. They formed a garage band that evolved into one of the most important — and little known — female rock group, Fanny. Most people have never heard of them, and writer-director Bobbi Jo Hart aims to change that with her delightful, insightful, and thorough documentary.
Featuring interviews with music legends (Joe Elliott, Bonnie Raitt, Todd Rundgren) and entertainment critics, those who knew Fanny speak about their immense talent and fierce stage presence. Hart weaves these conversations with archival footage, old photographs, and present-day chats with the band into a time capsule tapestry that explores the major influence Fanny’s melodic hard rock sounds had on the American music scene, and explores why they never reached the level of fame they deserved.
The documentary steps back to the earliest days of the band’s formation, including their reputation as “hands-on chicks” who loaded their own equipment for shows and didn’t care one bit about glamour and sex appeal. These ladies worked hard and rocked harder, all while battling the chauvinist recording industry (the film briefly explores Fanny’s influence on younger female musicians, and how girl rockers are still at odds with the still-sexist recording industry).
During Fanny’s heyday, the band lived at a legendary pad known as “Fanny Hill,” a lair that was a safe haven of nudity, freedom, and giddy sexual abandon. It was a place where famous musicians would hang out and jam. It was also the site of many wild nights filled with wild women in an “anything goes” environment.
Hart touches on the challenges these women faced, both as a result of their sexuality as well as their gender. Fanny was a band ahead of its time, especially lyrics-wise (their songs included topics like birth control, consent, and the trauma of the Vietnam War). They were criticized for not writing catchy pop songs like their more popular counterparts (the GoGos), and they never could get that one huge hit that every band needs to skyrocket to superstardom. The closest Fanny ever climbed the charts was in 1975, when their single “Butter Boy” topped out at #29. Ever heard of it? Yeah, me neither.
The film documents Fanny’s hopeful revival as they have reunited decades after their formation, despite one of the key members having suffered a debilitating stroke. These hard rockin’ ladies are making new music and have big dreams of embarking on a live tour in the future, too.
“Fanny: The Right to Rock” is an inspiring, interesting documentary that offers an insider look at a band from the late 60s (and their members who are now in their late 60s) who are recording a comeback album. It’s a little-known story that deserves to be heard, and it’s a blast for music lovers old and new.
By: Louisa Moore