Forgotten 45: “Charity Ball”

Once upon a time in the 60s, there were two sisters, singer/guitarist June Millington and bassist Jean Millington. Like many California kids, they formed a band. Members came and went, but two who stayed were keyboard player Nickey Barclay and drummer Alice de Buhr. The Millingtons called their band the Svelts at first and adopted the name Wild Honey later, and they were pretty good, because in 1969, they got a record deal. Although Reprise Records billed them as the first all-female rock group, they weren’t—they were, however, the first self-contained female group signed to a major label. The deal wasn’t all they got. They also got one of pop music’s most famous producers, Richard Perry—and he got them a new name, Fanny, at the suggestion of George Harrison.

In 1970, Fanny’s eponymous first album featured a cover of Cream’s “Badge” (which Harrison had co-written with Eric Clapton). In 1971, they released their second album. At the time of the album’s release, the photographer who took the band’s pictures for the cover—Candice Bergen—was more famous than the band itself, but the album ended up being a breakthrough, sort of. In its wake, Fanny toured the UK with Jethro Tull, Humble Pie, and other prominent bands. Two more albums (one produced by Todd Rundgren) and a couple of minor singles followed (including a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t That Peculiar”) before the band began to splinter. In 1975, the reconfigured edition of Fanny scored its biggest hit, “Butter Boy,” which made it to Number 29 in Billboard. And for Fanny, that was all.

Today, if anyone remembers Fanny, it’s probably not for “Butter Boy.” It’s for this: “Charity Ball,” the title track from the second album. It reached only Number 40 on Billboard, but it was a smash in a lot of places: top 20 in Cleveland, St. Louis, and Norfolk/Virginia Beach, top 5 in Chicago and Denver, and Number One in Marietta, Georgia. It’s got a great rock and roll swagger with a bangin’ piano, it features that 70s staple, the distorted guitar, and scores extra points for clocking in at 2:29. The version below is the 45 mix, tweaked for maximum sizzle on AM radio.

“Charity Ball” (45 version)/Fanny (The album is out of print; there’s an insanely comprehensive and expensive box set collecting demos, alternate versions, and radio spots, but I doubt you need that much Fanny. I’d try eBay.)

(Reprise 1033, chart peak: #40, November 6, 1971)

Advertisements

6 responses

  1. I’d forgotten all about this one, and it’s from a time when the radio was almost always on, too. Thanks for a fun memory and a great single!

  2. I actually have their album called Fanny Hill. I doubt any one remembered them. You already mentioned that this album opened with” Ain’t That Peculiar.” Side 2 opened with a great cover of the Beatles “Hey Bulldog.” I often played this LP on my college radio show. I didn’t know anything about them other than the album I still have and burned to CD. I appreciate this post.

  3. Great minds think alike. Vincent over at The Snack Bar had a different cut from the same Fanny album this week. It’s worth a listen, too. It’s at http://fufusnax.wordpress.com/2007/09/07/a-few-antidivas-extras/

  4. […] Filed under: Forgotten 45 — jb @ 7:05 pm So the other day when I was looking up Fanny in one of my reference books, right below them was Fancy. The names are close; they both recorded […]

  5. Hey there!

    Long live the innovators of femme rock! Even though Joan and Lita did it just a little better, I still give the nod to the sisters Millington and company for doing it first.

    Peace and blessings.

  6. I was thinking they had a minor hit with “I’ve Had It”, when they ended up on Casablanca Records in the mid-70’s. I saw on one site that it was released as a single just before “Butter Boy”, but apparently it didn’t chart. I could swear I heard it quite often on the radio back then; maybe it was an FM hit.

    They also sang BV’s on Keith Moon’s deranged solo LP Two Sides of the Moon

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: