Fancy are another one of those long lost gems of the seventies. A virtually unheard of British band that was almost created by accident yet enjoyed the success of two top twenty singles in America
The story for what its worth goes something like this. Producer Mike Hurst decided in 1973 that the world was ready for a re-make of the Troggs hit ‘Wild Thing’ …. but with a difference. Calling in his favourite guitarist of the time Ray Fenwick, formerly of the Spencer Davis Group and The Tee-Set, he soon sold him on the idea of using a raunchy female vocal. This vocal arrived in the form of Helen Caunt a former Penthouse Pet who rather than actually singing the lyric virtually breathed it provocatively. This, added to Fenwick and former Affinity man Mo Foster’s suggestive and almost orgasmic guitar and bass, gave the desired effect. On presenting the finished record to Atlantic records, under the moniker Fancy, they were informed that its ‘overt suggestiveness’ would almost certainly lead to a radio ban and any chance of success would be lost. However they did release it without any promotion at all and somehow a copy made its way to the US. It was eventually released in America on Atlantic subsidiary label Big Tree and ten months after its recording started a four month run in the top 100 peaking at 17. This left Hurst and Fenwick with something of a problem as they now had a US hit credited to Fancy but there was of course no such band. Re-recruiting Foster and adding future Judas Priest man Les Binks on the drum stool they set about finding a female singer as Caunt was not suitable for a ‘proper’ band. After trying out numerous options including Carol Grimes and Sonja Kristina from Curved Air they settled on former Steely Dan backing vocalist Annie Kavanagh. They quickly recorded another single ‘Touch Me’ this time obviously with Kavanagh on vocals which possibly due to the success of the first single also raced up the charts to an impessive number 19. Subsequently on the strength of these two hits they toured the US and recorded more tracks to make up an album.
The resulting album was a powerful funky bluesy rock album with Annie Kavanagh giving a vocal performance of the highest quality, particularly on ‘Love for Sale’ and ‘US Surprise’. The initial single ‘Wild Thing’ was kept in its original form with the Caunt vocal but all the other tracks were recorded with Kavanagh on vocals except for the Fenwick sung tracks ‘Move On’ and ‘Between The Devil And Me’. The original ‘b-side’ a track called ‘Fancy’ was not included. Most of the tracks were Hurst/Fenwick penned compositions but along with ‘Wild Thing’ there are covers of the Elvis hit ‘One Night’ and Lieber and Stoller’s ‘I’m a Woman’. The second hit single ‘Touch Me’ was also included. Ray Fenwick as ever plays superb guitar and shows why he was such a sought after session perfomer. In fact it was during the existence of Fancy that he played guitar on Roger Glover’s ‘Butterfly Ball’. He also played on Jon Lord’s ‘Windows’ and eventually became the guitarist in the Ian Gillan Band ensuring his place in the Deep Purple family.
Unsurprisingly as the rest of the album was so different to the hit singles it did not fare so well in the charts and quickly headed to the bargain bins despite good reviews at the time. Now over thirty years later it is available again thanks to Angel Air wh have re-released it. If you are a fan of seventies bluesy funky rock get yourself a copy sharpish !
The second and final Fancy album ‘Turns You On’ was actually released as ‘Something To Remember’ in the UK in time to tie in with a major tour supporting 10CC.
Whilst the first album had the two hit singles on it this follow up was a far more straightforward out and out funky blues rock record with no real pretentions to the singles market. Even so, the opening track ‘She’s Riding The Rock Machine’ was given a release on a 45. Predictably it flopped, as the almost novelty value of the single ‘Wild Thing’ from the previous album was now but a distant memory. Fancy had in fact suffered from the fact that they were just far too good a band for what was expected of them. In the UK 10CC fans were apparently overwhelmed by their professionalism whereas in the US the album was so far removed from the hit singles that it was met with little more than mild disinterest. Which is unfair because it is another mighty fine album.
The album itself was far bluesier than its predecessor and featured songs that were fewer in number but greater in length. This of course gave more time to highlight the talents of guitarist Ray Fenwick but also gave vocalist Annie Kavanagh the chance to indulge herself in a couple of lengthy magnificent performances.
Opener, ‘She’s Riding The Rock Machine’ is a classic piece of mid seventies funk rock that would grace anyone’s collection. This is followed by a superb rendition of ‘I Was Made To Love Him’ on which Kavanagh gives a performance of a lifetime. Proving that she was more than a match for any of her contemporaries. The track ‘Something To Remember’ suffers from rather dodgy lyrics which would certainly be frowned upon today but album closer ‘Stop’ and the lengthy Mose Allison track ‘Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy’ along with ‘You’ve Been In Love Too Long’ keep the quality high. This just leaves the autobiograpical ‘The Tour Song’ which is another classic mid seventies funk rocker that tells the tale of their unlikely existence.
So that was Fancy. Two mighty fine funky blues rock albums and a couple of novelty US hit singles. They surely deserved a better fate. Ray Fenwick went on to be a founding member of the Ian Gillan Band and Forcefield as well as continuing as a much sought after session player. He was also responsible for the theme tune to UK seventies childrens programme ‘Magpie’ which was considered the cooler version of ‘Blue Peter’ (doubtless non UK based readers are now wondering what the hell I’m on about). Mo Foster returned to the world of sessions working with Phil Collins, Meatloaf, Gary Moore and Cliff Richard among others. Les Binks joined Judas Priest. Annie Kavanagh got married and went to Australia. Sadly though she seems to have disappeared from the music scene altogether. Although of course having got married she may well now be performing under a different name.
© Martin Leedham. Originally published on RYM January 2008