Our Crack Tongue & Groove
Raw power on a groove
“I am your Pantherman, I am your Pantherman, I’ll show you my claws…” That’s Frank Klunhaar, aka Pantherman, belting out the chorus to his self-titled debut single back in the mid-1970s. The Dutch musician/songwriter was inspired by the glam-rock movement in the UK and, in particular, a gig he went to in Rotterdam in 1974. This saw a headline turn from Roxy Music, with Bryan Ferry in his pomp (and Leo Sayer in his Pierrot clown costume).
Coming after the heavy rock sounds of the early 1970s glam was a welcome corrective to the charts with guitar solos out and punchy three-minute pop classics in. Also out was scruffy double denim, usurped by feather boas and glitter. Even blokes in bands who looked like they’d just done a stint on the building site, were happy to whip out the Bacofoil and apply the eyeliner. Hopped up on Roxy Music – as well as Federico Fellini’s cult 1969 film ‘Fellini Satyricon’, which was a kind of science-fiction picture set in Nero’s Rome – Klunhaar conceived Pantherman.
On the face of it his aesthetic was tough, all leather masks and claws, but in reality he was a pussycat and never photographed without some kind of stuffed animal. Look complete, all he needed was some songs. Luckily, he already had his own, albeit rather limited, home studio.
Years later he said: “Being 23 years of age, somewhat naïve and having just a little bit experience in the music business, I felt no artistic boundaries or limitations whatsoever at that time. The general direction was meant to be really loud rock on strong rhythms in combination with surrealistic, cinematic and theatrical experiences with sex, humour and sophistication. In short: raw power on a groove.”
The first single was ‘Pantherman’, of which he comments: “The reactions were mixed. The Dutch media in-crowd considered the record weird and somewhat offensive.” (In truth, it’s only offensive if you’re turned off by glam-stompers that crib heavily from Roxy’s ‘Do The Strand’. Me? I lap ‘em up.) When his funky second single ‘Panther Walk’, also failed to chart, he decided to unmask himself and shorten his moniker to Panther for ‘One Man Band’. Alas, this also failed to pave his way to success.
A glorious failure then, but I’d rather have one Pantherman, cocking a snook at artistic limitations, than a million identikit pop stars who won’t release anything unless it has been box-ticked by a committee of Spotify tastemakers.