David Bruce: Music Anecdotes

© 2015, David Bruce, All Rights Reserved

In the early 1970s, all-girl bands were largely regarded as novelty acts, making it difficult for the real thing — all-woman rock band Fanny — to find acceptance. After considering a number of women’s names for the name of the band and deciding on “Fanny,” band members then discovered that their record company’s publicity department was coming up with slogans such as the double-meaning “Get behind Fanny.” Occasionally, people thought that Fanny was an all-female vocal group who sang topless while the real band, composed of men, played the musical instruments. While touring in Joliet, Illinois, band members discovered that the promoters were expecting a topless band. Some of the costumes the record company had the band wear were skimpy and risqué, getting them banned from London’s Palladium at one point. Bass guitarist Jean Millington remembers, “I wore a tank top made from coins. I had to wear pasties or the coins would pinch my nipples. June’s outfit was turquoise, Jean wore crystals, and Nickey’s shirt had sequins. It was all very Las Vegas showgirl.” Nickey Barclay played keyboards, June Millington (Jean’s older sister) played lead guitar, and Alice de Buhr played drums. When they recorded their first album — self-titled — few people took them seriously. Alice remembers, “We got asked all the time about the male studio musicians who must’ve played on the album. Those questions stopped after the third or fourth album.” Despite the BS, Fanny released six albums and had two top-40 hits: “Charity Ball” (1971, #40) and “Butter Boy” (1975, #29). In the liner notes to Fanny’s 2002 4-CD compilation “First Time in a Long Time,” Bonnie Raitt calls Fanny a “real rock band full of smart, tough, and talented women — who could really play.”

In Finland, teachers call authority-defying students valituskuoro, or chorus of complaints. Oddly enough, this became a new performance art form when two Finns, husband-and-wife team Oliver and Tellervo Kochta-Kalleinen took “chorus of complaints” literally. In 2005, choruses of complaints began in Birmingham, England; Helsinki, Finland; and St Petersburg, Russia. The chorus of complaints is exactly what it sounds like: a chorus of people singing about their complaints. London “Times” journalist Neil Fisher writes, “They chant about tatty bus stops and harmonise on the insufficient length of their vacuum-cleaner cord. In fact, every tedious aspect of modern life has probably passed the lips of a complaints choir, a new kind of performance art that is noisily taking root across the world.”

Tom Mathers, the founder of the Mathers Fund, learned the hard way the truth of these words: “If you find a great growth company, don’t sell it just because it gets a little pricey — you may never get back in again.” Back in the 1960s, he and his wife wanted to buy a piano. He owned shares of stock in Disney, and since he thought that the Disney stock was pricey, he decided to sell his Disney stock and use the money to buy the piano. Over the years, of course, the price of Disney stock rose higher and higher and higher, and because he had sold his Disney stock, he lost out on all that growth in the price of Disney stock. As you would expect, he sometimes looks at the piano in his living room and complains, “That’s the most expensive d*mn piano on the face of the planet!”

When the Swedish punk/new wave group the Hives recorded “Try It Again,” they felt that the chorus of the song was like a cheer. They had seen a football game played by Ole Miss, were impressed by the cheerleaders, and arranged for five or six Ole Miss cheerleaders to sing the chorus. Hives bass player Dr. Matt Destruction was very happy that the cheerleaders came to the studio to record the song. They wore their cheerleading outfits and were enthusiastic and happy, and best of all, they smelled good. Dr. Matt Destruction remembers, “The studio was smelling like beer and farts […] and then they came in and it smelled like strawberries and flowers for an entire day. It was really, really fun. They’re cheerleaders, so we were happy, everybody, the whole day.”

All too often, people want to hear old hits, not the new music that a band has created. The Fixx creatively solved this problem when their album “Elemental” was new. Band members went on tour and played most or all of their new album before playing their old hits. Fixx lead singer Cy Curnin thinks that is fair. The band members get to play their new music, and the fans get to hear the old hits. And, with luck, the new album will have a few songs that eventually become old hits because of their exposure in live concerts. Mr. Curnin says, “You’ve just got to be ballsy these days; otherwise, you don’t get anywhere.”

Rolling Stones Keith Richard and Ron Wood attended a party hosted by Dudley Moore and Peter Cook at the Cobden Working Men’s Club in London. The party was upstairs, over a bar, and so when Mr. Richard and Mr. Wood felt like getting a pint, they went downstairs. Mr. Richard talked with some of the people in the bar, and one of them asked, “What do you do?” Mr. Richard replied, “I’m in a band.” Which one?” “The Rolling Stones.” “Oh, yeah. I think I’ve heard of them.”

In 2008, Ringo Starr released a new album titled “Liverpool 8.” Mr. Starr feels strongly about his music, and he was supposed to play the title song on the TV show “Live With Regis and Kelly.” However, when the producers wanted to reduce the performance time of the title song to 2 minutes and 30 seconds down from 4 minutes and 15 seconds, Mr. Starr said, “God bless and goodbye,” and then left.

One of Frank Cottrell Boyce’s friends visited a pub where he heard a band playing an expert version of Eddie and the Hot Rods’ “Anything You Wanna Do.” When the band took a break, he bought them all drinks and advised them to form an Eddie and the Hot Rods tribute band. The band’s singer replied, “Nice idea. The only problem with it is that I am Eddie. And these are my Hot Rods.”  

Download free eBooks, including books for teachers, by David Bruce here:


Romance Books by Brenda Kennedy (Some Free)


Free PDF book: William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure: A Retelling in Prose by David Bruce


Free PDF book: Honey Badger Goes to Hell — and Heaven by David Bruce


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