I am Joe McGasko, WFMU's Listener Services Director. My job and pleasure is to service our fine listeners and handle their swag. I am also the host of "Surface Noise," a program that can be heard from 9 a.m. to noon on Thursday morning. For playlists or to hear a show, go to http://wfmu.org/playlists/SN.
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JoeMc on 08/30/2011 at 09:14AM
Believe it or not, in the good-old bad-old days, it was a big deal to be a girl in a rock band. This idea seems a little silly now, when at a concert you're just as likely to see a woman playing a guitar as a man, but it was pretty unusual back in the late 60s and early 70s. Even more unusual were bands made up solely of women. They were out there, but they were barely on the music business radar. Early all-female bands like the Daisy Chain, the Daughters of Eve, Goldie and the Gingerbreads, and the Ace of Cups all did their share to break down some of the entrenched attitude towards women playing rock music. None of these bands, however, was able to make the next step up from small clubs and independent-label singles to the male-dominated world of big tours and major-label records. Only one all-female rock band was able to take the big step that finally leveled the playing field: Fanny.
Helmed by sisters June and Jean Millington, Fanny started out in the mid-60s in Southern California and experienced a lot of the same hostility towards women playing rock that their fellow all-female bands did. But they persevered, and by 1970, their first record came out on Reprise Records. They attracted big-name producers, recorded in world-famous studios, and developed a reputation as a killer live act. Fanny would go on to release four more LPs and a host of singles, two of which were Top 40 hits, and tour the world before calling it a day in 1976. Along the way they made fans of most of the rock royalty of the day, including George Harrison, Harry Nilsson, Todd Rundgren, and David Bowie. They even backed Barbra Streisand during her short-lived rock period of the early 70s.
After Fanny broke up, mostly for the usual reasons that bands break up (different musical directions, changes in lifestyles, record label shuffles), the core of the group, the Millington sisters, occasionally came back together to make music. June Millington became very active in the women's music scene, working with Cris Williamson and making her own solo albums. Now and then, her sister Jean would join her on bass. These occasional reunions were natural enough given their familial ties, but only this year have they combined forces to release a duo album under their own names. It's called Play Like a Girl and it's on their own Fabulous Records label.
June and Jean stopped by the studios of WFMU to play some of the songs from their new album last week and proved that they still have the fire and solid musicianship that made Fanny such an attraction back in the day. With Lee Madeloni on drums, the Millingtons played the kind of confident and seemingly effortless rock and funk you might expect from the sure hands of lifelong musicians. The limos and road crews of the big Fanny tours may be a thing of the past, but the talent that elevated the Millingtons to that level is intact and in effect.
Joining the Millingtons on two songs, and making the idea of playing like a girl literal, is Ari Natoli, one of the young graduates of the Institute of the Musical Arts (IMA), an organization June Millington founded to help girls develop their interest in making music. Who better to teach young women about rock music than the original pioneers of female rock? Check out the IMA here. For more on Fanny, see here. To hear the entire archived show, go here.
JoeMc on 01/04/2011 at 01:00PM
It makes me happy to know that in a digital forum like the FMA, there is a cozy nook put aside for the excavations of crate diggers who don't shy away from the crackle of old shellac. A lot of great music has become forgotten or lost over the years because of changes in music technologies; fortunately, there is a small band of musical archeologists whose rediscoveries and recoveries remind us of what we've left behind. These people are making sure that past music of real worth isn't lost. In fact, they're ensuring that more people can hear it than ever before, through sites like this one.
One of these shellac saints is Baltimore's Ian Nagoski, who has for some time been transforming his love of music into musical archeology that is benefitting us all. I won't regurgitate the facts of Mr. Nagoski's career here; earlier this year a writer for The Washington Post did all of that much better than I could, anyway. You can read the article here. Suffice to say that a few gems have recently appeared on the FMA that we might have never heard without Mr. Nagoski's efforts.
Featured below is a track by Marika Papagika, a Greek immigrant who recorded over 200 records in the 1920s, and whose voice is beautiful and haunting in equal measure. Two other tracks are also available here. All of these tracks are included on a full LP of Marika Papagika's music newly issued on Mr. Nagoski's label Canary Records, in association with Mississippi Records, called The Further the Flame, The Worse It Burns Me. The LP comes with an amazing booklet with notes and photos explaining Marika's prominent role in Greek music in New York. It's really a must for any fan of music from this period. (For further study, check out the compilation of Greek music that appeared on Canary/Mississippi last year called Mortika: Recordings from a Greek Underworld. See here.)
Also featured below are a few other tracks from Mr. Nagoski's project from last year, String of Pearls: Jewels of the 78 r.p.m. era, 1918-1951, the first release on his label. La Niña de Los Peinos (Girl of the Combs) was the nickname for Pastora Pavón Cruz, possibly Spain's greatest flamenco singer; Amelita Galli-Curci, an Italian opera singer, sings Jules Massenet's "Crepuscule"; and Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, a Hindustani classic singer, has one of those pure voices you can't forget after hearing it (read more about him here).
If these tracks excite your curiosity, the FMA also hosts several tracks from Mr. Nagoski's curated compilation on the Dust-to-Digital label from 2007, Black Mirror: Reflections in Global Musics (1918-1955). Check them out here.
According to The Washington Post article cited above, soon to come from Mr. Nagoski is a compilation of music by Armenian and Syrian immigrants in New York provisionally titled Brass Pins and Match Heads. The article also mentions a compilation by "an Indian classical music singer"; perhaps Ustad Abdul Karim Khan? We can always hope! In any case, there should be much more music to come in the future through the efforts of Mr. Nagoski. Saints be praised!