It is one of the curses of the modern era, the way a band can score one monster hit with an utterly out of character song and then spend the rest of their careers living in its shadow, unable to shake off its memory, but so unwilling to recast their own ambitions in its own image that they would rather break up the group than be condemned to churn out a string of soundalikes for the remainder of their careers. Certainly that was the predicament Fancy found themselves in, after their deeply lascivious version of the Troggs' garage hit "Wild Thing," restyled as a proto-Donna Summer festival of orgasm, became a major U.S. hit during the summer of 1974. No matter that Fancy was formed by three of Britain's most adept session musicians, nor that the band turned out two solidly excellent albums which had little more than the band's name in common with their debut single, from the moment that undulating synthesizer line kicked into gear and former Penthouse Pet Helen Court uttered her first breathy groan, Fancy's figurative goose was cooked.
Fancy was the brainchild of producer Mike Hurst, whose original dream was simply to cut a new version of "Wild Thing," rocked- and sexed-up for the liberated early '70s. His first recruit was guitarist Ray Fenwick, a former member of the Spencer Davis Group; Fenwick, in turn, introduced bassist Mo Foster (ex-Linda Hoyle's Affinity); the group was completed with the addition of Henry Spinetti (drums), Alan Hawkshaw (keyboards), and, of course, Court.
The ensuing version of "Wild Thing" exceeded everybody's expectations. Not only was it, in Hurst's own words, "a dirty, low-down track, with all the heavy breathing and suggestive orgasmic guitar and bass work," it was also sufficiently risqué that he could not find a single British label willing to release the record. He turned, then, to the U.S., where Big Tree snatched it up and, in June, 1974, "Wild Thing" began its ascent of the American chart. It ultimately came to rest at number 14, earning a gold disc in the process. (A belated U.K. release, on the other hand, barely even got played on the radio.)
"Wild Thing" had only ever been intended as a one-off release, with only Fenwick and Foster interested in taking the Fancy concept any further. With thoughts now turning towards a follow-up, a new band needed to be assembled: drummer Les Binks, ex-Headstone, was lured away from Alvin Stardust's band, Court was replaced by British-born but Australia-based Annie Cavanagh, a former star of the Antipodean cast of Hair who also appeared in Jesus Christ Superstar. Thus reconstituted, Fancy returned to action in fall, 1974, with new single "Touch Me" and a debut U.S. tour which opened at a theological college in Grand Rapids, MI, on November 8. The single reached the Top 20 and live reviews were unanimously positive. However, the band's debut album, Wild Thing, was almost completely overlooked and, following tours of the Far East and Europe, Fancy broke with Big Tree and joined RCA (Arista in the U.K.).
Relaunching themselves with the pulsating 45 "She's Riding the Rock Machine" Fancy released their sophomore album, Fancy Turns You On (Something to Remember in the U.K.), in March, 1975. Unfortunately, neither a three-week British tour with 10cc, nor the release of two further singles from the album, Stevie Wonder's "I Was Made to Love Him" and Fenwick/Hurst's "Music Maker," persuaded U.K. audiences that Fancy were at all fanciable, while America was proving seriously resistant to the band's post-Penthouse sound as well. Despite ranking among the most exquisitely crafted white funk rock albums of the year, a genuinely deserving candidate for the throne which the Average White Band had so recently unearthed, Fancy Turns You On disappeared without trace and, by late summer, Fancy had followed it into oblivion.
Kavanagh remained in Britain for a short time, sessioning with Neil Innes and Ray Russell before returning to Australia. Fenwick and Foster, too, moved back into session work, Binks later resurfaced in Judas Priest. ~ Dave Thompson