The Pantherman Story (Pantherman's real name: Frank Klunhaar)
The Pantherman idea and concept originated in 1974 after visiting a Roxy Music concert at the Doelen in Rotterdam with Leo Sayer in his clownesque outfit as supporting act.
Although most of the crowd wasn't really interested, I was rather touched by Leo's music and atmosphere and also enjoyed the extravaganza of the main act later that evening.
In my technically somewhat limited home studio, equipped with a Uher 2 track recorder and various instruments including a drum kit, I started to make demos (sound on sound) in this musical direction, also inspired by Todd Rundgren, who played almost all the instruments on his recordings and the brilliant music on the underrated first album of American glam phenomenon Jobriath. Being 24 years of age, somewhat naïve and having just a little experience in the music business, I felt no artistic boundaries or limitations whatsoever at that time and recorded 10 songs, including the titles Pantherman and You are my friend.
The general direction was meant to be really loud rock on strong rhythms in combination with surrealistic, cinematic and sexy experiences with a lot of tongue-in-cheek humour and sophistication. In short, raw power on a groove.
When I played these songs to former Jimmy Bellmartin manager Pieter de Wit, who just joined a new management company in Rotterdam, he introduced me there and a little later to upcoming producer Shell Schellekens.
That was the start of a unique project that lasted only two years and that now -after more than 30 years- seems to get the recognition it deserves.
Pantherman by Pantherman 1974
The recording of the first Pantherman single took place at the well known GTB studio in the Hague. I was assisted by Frans Meijer on drums, a former colleague from the Jimmy Bellmartin Band and Polle Eduard on bass, a well known rock musician and colleague of producer Shell Schellekens in several bands. The rest of the instruments I did myself, as well as all the vocals.
When the record was released on Polydor in Holland, the first reactions were rather mixed: one part of the "serious" Dutch media incrowd found the record weird and somewhat offensive -the lyrics and vocals were too controversial for them-, another smaller part was excited and thrilled.
Three days after the release I was invited to do a -what was to become- unique TV performance on the progressive show 'Nederpopzien' and because my management insisted on a specially developed solo choreography by a professional ballet dancer instead of performing with a rock band, I appeared alone on a small stage in the studio and did my thing just accompanied by some palm trees that were later that year completely demolished by Iggy Pop in a legendary TV appearance.
As a result of all this, the single was also released in Belgium on Polydor and in Germany on Metronome Records and entered the bubbling under charts. France followed later.
Unfortunately the management company suddenly stopped their activities just after the release and I was on my own again.
Panther Walk by Pantherman 1974
Glamrock consisted -in the perception of most pro's in the Dutch and continental European music business and the general public- of the single successes by the mainstream glam acts in the top 40 and based on that Polydor persuaded me to become more commercial instead of developing the concept into a more album oriented direction. With my current knowledge of the music industry I consider this as a lack of A&R vision that unfortunately -in retrospective- severely damaged the potential of the original idea.
Because I had no magagement and also had the ambition to produce my own records, I started to make somewhat more commercial demos at the Relight Studio in Hilvarenbeek, an 8-track studio with a very specific sound that was at that time not yet into rock music.
In co-operation with owner/engineer Dick van Velden I recorded the follow up single Panther Walk, for which I tried -with a twist- to integrate the funky grooves of the JB's into the basic rock & roll and jungle drums feel of Bo Diddley and during these recording sessions I did play all the instruments. Relight would a little later become a world famous recording studio where Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Boomtown Rats, Robert Fripp, Black Sabbath and many others came to record their albums and I became staff producer there in 1976.
In this period of the 70's you saw a glam artist like David Bowie recording in the Philly studios of Gamble and Huff for his album Young Americans and blue eyed soul artists Hall & Oates and Edgar Winter wear makeup on their record sleeves and looking very "Glam". Where by the way did P-funkateer George Clinton get his ideas for the mothership connection looks and wardrobe? The combination of glam and funk was not very common in those days and dance oriented music in general was often bashed by the more 'serious' pop and rock artists and the rock press.
The b-side "20th Century Man" reflects the kind of surrealistic fantasy that I described above within a cinematic scenery in a cartoon-like setting.
Despite of the hilariously written 'dance course' by Drs.P -a well known Dutch cabaret artist and lyricist- that was published in several magazines and newpapers, the single was more or less ignored by radio and TV.