Lost Notes: Fanny, the all-girl rock band David Bowie loved

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June and Jean of Fanny Photo: R Neal Izumi

On the latest episode of Lost Notes, writer/designer Dylan Tupper Rupert introduces us to Fanny, a group possibly so far ahead of the curve that they were lost to history. In their time, the all-girl rock (and I mean ROCK) band fronted by two Filipino sisters counted David Bowie as a big fan. But their famous pals didn't stop there. They got faced with Mick Jagger, and even recorded in The Beatles' legendary Apple studio. The story is beautiful and wild and hard to believe. And it's even harder to believe that somehow this story has been eluding us until now. You have to listen to it. I asked Dylan a couple of questions about the episode and our tried and true question of the season...

KCRW: This episode is brilliant in that you unearth Fanny, a group that is SO ahead of its time but has been wildly, criminally overlooked even in the Information Age. It reminded me a bit of learning about Rodriguez or Death… How and why do you think that Fanny has remained such a mystery until recently? Is it just time or do you think that there are more overtly sexist/racist reasons for keeping their history secret?

Dylan Tupper Rupert: Totally, and of course the stories of Rodriguez and Death were good stories, on top of the music being phenomenal. I was lucky to find that sort of story in Fanny as well, whose music I've been into for several years. Sure...they fizzled out, basically, and I don't think fizzling does much favors for legacy. People remember big bang break ups. But obviously, Fanny weren't taken as seriously as they should have in their time, and it was historians, archivists, and other women in rock who carried their story through. I observe that there's this phenomena of how ground breakers and cultural pioneers like Fanny kind of pave over that rocky road first so that the next wave can come after them and have a smoother ride to glory. But obviously, the generally accepted idea of what a rock stars is was white men for a very long time. The memory of Fanny obviously did not benefit from that precedent.

Fanny Live photo by Bob Riegler

KCRW: It's so wild to try to wrap one's head around it but the sisters talk a little about partying with Bowie and Jagger and running around LA and London (and this is all proto-Glam), but there's a real innocence to their sense of it all. They talk about being in their "Orb." Did you get the sense that their "Orb" was like a defense mechanism or was it just youthful bliss?

DTR: This was a motif I got really attached to when writing the piece, and I loved the way June named it kind of off the cuff—the Orb. It gave me a shorthand to describe the mystical, but so material, quality of sort of self-protection, the incubation of dreams and creativity, that is ever so crucial for women and minorities in white/cis/male dominated fields. How to protect your core. A survival strategy for doubt. But like you say, it has that inherent double meaning that is indicative of the time: the "innocence" of the era, aka youthful bliss, and also the innocence of the sisters as actually pretty sheltered gals, all circumstances considered. I think they look back now and notice how their "orb" did protect them in certain ways, that maybe they didn't notice at the time. They were just going with the flow, etc.

KCRW: What's your most favoritest Fanny jam?

DTR: Their cover of Cream's “Badge” rips the original right open and that's one of the first songs that sucked me into their catalog. Honestly, Nickey Barclay's songs in the band really stand out to me; they tend to be the harder ones, as is my taste, I guess. My fave-fave though is probably “Borrowed Time.” Immediate hand-jolt reaction to the volume knob to crank it up whenever I hear the intro. The horns are sick. Now I know that they recorded it at Apple and I can just hear the dynamism that came from the production in this one. It's loud and lavish.

KCRW: What's an album that saved your life?

DTR: The truest answer would be Neil Young's Live at Massey Hall, which blew my mind in the 8th grade as I was kind of recovering from a tough year, some prepubescent depression, parent's divorce, lots of tumult both teenage and out-of-my-hands circumstantial shit. Fun stuff. I just listened to it every single day… it introduced me to Neil's songbook and it "saved" me in a way because I wrote myself into his metaphors and placed myself in his landscapes and felt like I had a companion in my inner world. And it was, like, a weirdo Canadian man in 1971, but there we were.