PART ONE - ALI SPERRY
GOLDMINE: Congratulations on In Front of Us which includes a couple of songs where I am reminded of Linda Ronstadt’s Don’t Cry Now album. For both Linda Ronstadt and Fanny, there was a gap of time between an early 1970s Top 40 hit and the next one in the middle of the decade. In Linda Ronstadt’s case, her solo Top 40 debut was “Long, Long Time” and then years later she returned to The Top 40 with “You’re No Good.” Don’t Cry Now is an example of a great album during that gap. “Love Has No Pride” was released as its first single with the opening song “I Can Almost See It” as its flip side.
ALI SPERRY: I grew up listening to Linda Ronstadt. I was a child of the 1980s, so I became familiar with her songs from that decade first. When I got a little bit older, I delved into her 1970s work, which I also love. Both “Love Has No Pride” and “I Can Almost See It” are such solid songs and great examples of how she is a master interpreter of other people’s compositions with such ownership, even though she didn’t write them.
GM: In the U.S., “Love Has No Pride” received airplay for Linda Ronstadt but in Canada, which I lived near, I heard Susan Jacks’ version of the song on Canadian radio. Susan also had a beautiful voice. Sadly, she passed away in April.
AS: I also love Bonnie Raitt’s version of it.
Fabulous Flip Side: I Can Almost See It
A side: Love Has No Pride
Billboard Top 100 debut: December 1, 1973
Peak position: No. 51
More Linda Ronstadt Fabulous Flip Sides:
“Desperado,” flip side of “Colorado,” 1974, Asylum 11039
“It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,” flip side of “When Will I Be Loved,” 1975, Capitol 4050
“Love is a Rose,” flip side of “Heat Wave,” 1975, Asylum 45282
“Justine,” flip side of “Hurt So Bad,” 1980, Asylum 46624
“Look Out for My Love,” flip side of “I Can’t Let Go,” 1980, Asylum 46654
GM: On “I Can Almost See It” I hear the steel guitar from Sneaky Pete Kleinow, so that leads me to the steel guitar that I was immediately drawn to on your song “Hope” from your new album In Front of Us.
AS: Ah, yes. That is Rich Hinman who is a fantastic steel player.
GM: Your vocal vibrato is wonderful. I know your song was inspired by an Emily Dickinson poem. Was it “Hope Is the Thing with Feathers?”
AS: Yes, that is right. When I wrote the song, I had been thinking about that poem. In my mind, I had it wrong as “Hope Is the Thing with Wings,” which was running through my head. I latched on to that phrase and kept exploring it for the song. I brought some of the imagery from Emily Dickinson’s poem into the song too. I learned the poem in 7th or 8th grade, growing up in a small southeastern Iowa town about an hour away from Iowa City. We moved there because that is where the transcendental meditation capitol was, and my parents were very involved in that. I went to a school based on transcendental meditation. It was a unique place to live and grow up. It seemed normal to me at the time, because I had nothing to compare it to, but after I moved away, I realized that foundation was very different.
GM: The Beach Boys’ M.I.U. Album from 1978, which is so beautiful and was in my Top 10 albums for that year, had its basic tracks recorded at the Maharishi International University in Fairfield, Iowa, near where you grew up. In my review of the album, I called it a new classic, and it is still one of my favorites. On your album, my favorite song is
AS: That is so cool, and I really appreciate that. I like her songwriting and singing a lot.
GM: I love your lyrics, “If you find your head filled with doubt, look up and see the stars too vast to count.” You gently deliver a taste of your TM roots.
AS: Thank you. I started with the verse, and it felt like it needed a soaring lift for the chorus.
GM: In the 1990s, when we were living in Virginia for a second time, I wrote about regional artists. Because Aimee Mann was born in our prior Virginia city of Midlothian, I considered her a Virginia native and wrote about her soundtrack to the film Magnolia and her album Bachelor No. 2 from that same era. With your songs “Safe” and “Lucy” I am reminded of her voice and treatment. “Safe” is beautifully sung plus there is a warm viola sound.
AS: The viola takes center stage in the arrangement with a heartbreakingly sad sound.
GM: You also share a mother and child relationship in the lyrics of taking a child to school and to not be afraid.
AS: I wrote that one with my friend Jill Andrews, who is a great Nashville singer-songwriter. She is a mother of two and we wrote it shortly after the concert shooting that happened in Las Vegas in 2017.
GM: I can imagine its impact on you as a concert performer. When my wife Donna and I watched that on the news, we looked at each other. We lived in Nevada before we moved to here to Florida and I had just been to a similar country music festival in Daytona Beach that year. I stated the obvious, “You know if we lived there, I would have been there.” Jason Aldeen was on stage in Las Vegas when that happened and Donna, our daughter Brianna and I had been given autographed Jason Aldeen items in Nashville from a DJ friend for a Nevada fundraiser about a decade prior when Jason was just starting out.
AS: Wow. It was just so scary. We knew some people who were there, and it felt so close to home that it was at a music event. When got together to write we felt that we could not ignore what just happened and had to write about it in some way.
GM: Going back to the strings on the song, let’s talk about your Grandma Gladys and let me offer my condolences on losing her this year.
AS: Oh, thank you. It is always so sad to lose someone, but I felt so lucky to have had her in my life for such a long time. Looking back, I am so happy that she lived such a long and full life and that I got to know her for all those years. She played cello in a symphony in Mexico and played in .
GM: Let’s also talk about Natalie Schlabs, who tells wonderful stories with her music.
AS: Natalie and I have written many songs together. We have a wonderful writing dynamic where I feel so comfortable writing with her. We wrote a couple of songs on her latest record and now we have our song “Lucy” on my album with Jen Gunderman playing piano on the song and a lot of the tracks. She’s phenomenal and plays with Sheryl Crow, so I am lucky to have borrowed her. Kristin Weber, who played strings on the album, and Ruth Moody delivered the harmonies on the song. Ruth has moved back from Nashville to Canada and is in a group called The Wailin’ Jennys.
GM: In 2019, we watched then Senator Kamala Harris debate and deliver a strong performance which I know inspired you.
AS: I was so impressed by her in that debate with her presence and her insistence on being listened to. It felt groundbreaking to me to watch a woman calmly own her space and basically say, “Be quiet. I’m talking now.” It was an incredible moment to watch. It was a great example to pave the way for the next generation, and that inspired me to write “Cool Under Pressure.” The songwriting grew to be about women having a cool confidence, to be able to do what women may be told not to do, that it isn’t our realm. This exemplified being a groundbreaker and being a leader to me. I was lucky that my parents and family were supportive of what I wanted to do, with Grandma Gladys and both of my parents being musicians. If I was born into a different family, they may have expected me to go in a more traditional route and find work that is more stable.
GM: Well, that takes us to our next performer for this article, June Millington from the band Fanny, and her new solo album Snapshots. The theme of “Girls Don’t Dream (The Big Lie)” certainly highlights what you just mentioned.
AS: Yes. Thank you for sharing her music with me.
GM: June and her long-time partner Ann Hackler co-founded the Institute for the Musical Arts in Goshen, Massachusetts, which helps so many young people.
AS: Yes, I have family in Goshen and had heard through them about the incredible work June and Ann are doing with IMA. My cousin spent multiple summers there. I go through Goshen periodically to visit and to play shows and I'll have to stop in the school sometime. On "Letter from the Heart,” it is so cool how June involved her students in this song and that it is from the perspective of a younger generation. As I was working on In Front of Us, I was reflecting a lot on what we are passing down to the next generation and what kind of a world we are leaving to them, with my songs "Peace By Moonlight", "Safe" and "I Know You're Scared" in particular, expressing the hopes and concerns about the state of the world we have created and what it might mean to our children who inherit this world was at the forefront of my mind. I very much related to the message of her "Letter from The Heart" and appreciate the idea that the next generation is not only calling out for change, but they are also making their own choices to create change. Hearing the kids' voices on this song is powerful and drives the message home.
GM: I also enjoy hearing her students on the finale “Wonder Woman” and her dedication to Ann with “Stars at Night” is beautiful. There is also “The Ballad of Fanny” that she included, a demo from 1971, when the group debuted in the Top 40, which I’ll be thinking of when I watch the new documentary Fanny: The Right to Rock. Thank you for not only sharing your music with our Goldmine readers but also your thoughts on the music of Linda Ronstadt and June Millington.
AS: Oh, you are so welcome. It has been such a pleasure chatting with you. I really appreciate all your feedback on my album. It means so much to release new music and feel like someone really gets it, so thank you and Goldmine so much.
PART TWO - FANNY: THE RIGHT TO ROCK
A decade before Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees The Go-Go’s had their 1981 Top 40 debut, the first Top 40 debut by an all-female band happened in 1971 with Fanny and their composition “Charity Ball.” The quartet was comprised of sisters June Millington on guitar and Jean Millington on bass, Nickey Barclay on keyboards and Alice DeBuhr on drums. It would be four more years until Fanny would return to the Top 40 with their biggest hit “Butter Boy” after June Millington and Alice DeBuhr left the group, replaced by Patti Quatro on guitar, the sister of Suzi Quatro, and Brie Howard on drums, who had been in the pre-Fanny band The Svelts and its early transition to Fanny. Now there is a movement to induct Fanny in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as key influencers of women in rock and a new documentary making its theatrical debut on May 27 at New York’s Quad Cinema with additional major markets to follow, Fanny: The Right to Rock.
Bobbi Jo Hart’s 90-minute documentary on the California group is filled with music, interviews from most of the band members and other key musicians. Bonnie Raitt talks about living in the house where Fanny lived and rehearsed. June Millington’s ex-husband Earl Slick, known for his guitar work with David Bowie and bands including Silver Condor, said that Fanny opened doors for others. June and Jean Millington along with Brie Howard all talk about discrimination for being Filipina-Americans, something that subsided a bit when the Millingtons revealed their talent at their junior high’s variety show, which allowed them to be accepted with music.
The band was signed to Reprise and released the first of their five albums in 1970. The following year’s album Charity Ball included their Top 40 debut single of the same name. Television footage of them performing the song is highlighted with their appearances on The Dick Cavett Show, The Kenny Rogers Show and The Helen Reddy Show, where she called them the queens of rock and roll.
In 1972, Fanny received respect in England that they hadn’t seen in the U.S. and were thrilled to record their next album Fanny Hill at Apple Studios. Geoff Emerick, known for his work with The Beatles, was the sound engineer and gave June freedom to play her electric guitar with the volume turned up a few notches. Def Leppard’s vocalist Joe Elliott discusses how he first heard Fanny’s music when he bought the British magazine New Musical Express that year and it included a flexi-single with The Rolling Stones on side one and on its flip side was Curved Air and Fanny with their song “Blind Alley,” which he loved.
Todd Rundgren talks about producing the group’s fourth album Mother’s Pride, the final album with June Millington and drummer Alice De Buhr. Patti Quatro came in on guitar and Brie Howard returned on drums for the final Fanny album, 1974’s Rock and Roll Survivors which featured their highest charting single, “Butter Boy,” written by Jean and inspired by her relationship with David Bowie, who she dated for over a year and was a big supporter of the band.
After Fanny disbanded, Jean focused on motherhood with her daughter and son. Brie, also a mom, worked with many artists in the 1980s. June met Ann Hackler and they cofounded IMA in Massachusetts with rock and roll girls camps, with Bonnie Raitt on the board since they started.
In 2018, June, Jean and Brie reunited under the name Fanny Walked the Earth and an album on Blue Elan Records, produced by Brie’s husband Dave Darling. In the film the three of them are shown playing the new CD in a classic convertible. Alice De Buhr also joined on drums on the recording along with guest vocalists, shown recording the song “When We Need Her” including Patti Quatro, Cherie Currie of The Runaways and Sherry Rayn Barnett of Blue Elan’s Mustangs of the West all-female band. She is also shown photographing the group outside of The House of Blues in Hollywood for the film screening of the documentary.
One week before a scheduled live show to perform songs from the new album, Jean suffered a severe stroke, paralyzing the right side of her body. The film concludes with a scene from a fundraising concert for her, with Jean singing from her wheelchair with her son Lee playing bass.
Fanny: The Right to Rock is an informative and entertaining journey from the 1960s to now filled with exciting music, historic photos and key interviews to share a unique story of rock and roll sisterhood.
Goldmine Fabulous Flip Sides now in its seventh year