LOST IMMORTALS: What are some less well-known sixties and seventies classic rock albums?

OPINIONS / MUSIC

Alex Johnston, BA Hons in music theory, technology of music and musicology.

Fanny - Fanny (1970)

I’m not making this up: it was the debut album by an all-female rock band, consisting of sisters June and Jean Millington (guitar and bass), Nickey Barclay (keyboards) and Alice de Buhr (drums). Fanny were a great band, the first ever all-female band to release an album on a major label. They were consistently badly produced over the years, with only live tracks giving an idea of their real power (their male producers were constantly telling them to turn the amps down in the studio) but there is a four-CD boxed set, First Time In a Long Time, which collects their first four albums (they only made five) and adds numerous live and bonus tracks.

If you’d like an endorsement from someone other than me, here’s David Bowie talking to Rolling Stone in 1999:

One of the most important female bands in American rock has been buried without a trace. And that is Fanny. They were one of the finest... rock bands of their time, in about 1973. They were extraordinary... they're as important as anybody else who's ever been, ever; it just wasn't their time. Revivify Fanny. And I will feel that my work is done.

Here they are in their glory:

Henry Cow / Slapp Happy - In Praise of Learning (1975)

Britain’s Henry Cow were I think the world’s only Marxist prog-rock band. Their albums are all great but this one, made in collaboration with Anglo-US-German avant-pop trio Slapp Happy, is the best introduction to their work. Weird, sometimes discordant songs about war and calamity, sung by the great Dagmar Krause, one of the most extraordinary voices in music. Henry Cow also played like hell. Their guitarist Fred Frith is one of my all-time favourite musicians.

The United States of America - The United States of America (1968)

This is the closest I can think of to an American Sgt Pepper. The band was unusual for not having a guitarist, although it had a bassist. They only made one album, I don’t think they ever played live. It’s an insane but beautiful mixture of hard rock (without guitars), satirical songs about American life, medieval polyphony, sad songs and general experimentalism. The leader and main keyboards guy, Joseph Byrd, is a Quoran and I’ve found him to be a nice guy, but I don’t think he particularly wants to revisit this part of his life.

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