In the mid-1970s, Dutch musician/songwriter Frank Klunhaar took on the persona of costumed glam rocker, Pantherman. Klunhaar was inspired by the rock-n-roll spectacle he witnessed during a 1974 Roxy Music gig in Rotterdam, as well as the surrealistic character of the 1969 film, Fellini Satyricon. He was also influenced by multi-instrumentalist Todd Rundgren, and was a big fan of Jobriath.
In his modest home studio, Klunhaar went about recording the Pantherman demos, doing so without any outside assistance. He describes the experience and his process on his website.
Being 23 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 ten songs, including “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 theatrical experiences with sex, humour and sophistication.
Soon, a manager friend of Klunhaar’s helped get him signed to Polydor Records. Released in a handful of European countries, Pantherman’s first 45 hit stores in May of 1974. To promote the record, Klunhaar appeared on the Dutch TV program, Nederpopzien (sadly, the footage is probably lost). Wearing a mask and custom-made black leather suit, Klunhaar mimed for the cameras, and Pantherman was truly born.
Pantherman—both the character and the song—personifies the glam rock era. Gender-bending was a big part of the glam aesthetic, and Pantherman often appears feminine in photographs. His costume is strange and tough-looking, but he’s always pictured holding a stuffed animal, keeping it all very tongue-in-cheek. “Pantherman” is heavy yet still melodic, and conjures up imagery of an otherworldly, almost nightmarish figure, but does so with a playful menace. Listen closely and you’ll realize this is actually one sensitive cat! Just a killer track.
“Pantherman” caused a bit of a stir in the Netherlands. Here’s Klunhaar explaining the response:
The reactions were rather mixed: One part of the “serious” Dutch media in-crowd considered the record weird and somewhat offensive—the lyrics and vocals were too controversial for them—another much smaller part was excited and thrilled.
After receiving some backing on his debut, Klunhaar played everything on the second Pantherman single, the funky “Panther Walk.”
For his next 45, Klunhaar decided that, since the Pantherman project hadn’t proven to be commercially successful, he’d unmask and shorten his moniker to Panther. He once again plays all of the instruments on the singalong, “One Man Band.” It’s a number that would be rendered ironic upon release, as the new musicians Klunhaar had just hooked up with appear on the sleeve.
There would be no further Panther records. Klunhaar subsequently set his sights on producing for other artists; he’s still at it.
The CD EP, Definitive!, includes the A and B sides of the Pantherman singles; “One Man Band”; a demo of the otherwise unreleased track, “Give it to Me”; and a rough mix of “Pantherman.”
Here’s a YouTube playlist of the six songs on Definitive!:
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Alastair Riddell & Space Waltz: New Zealand’s answer to David Bowie were a teen sensation in 1974
Glam rockers Supernaut & their epic 70s jams about lollipops, ‘Space Angels’ & bisexuality
‘Jobriath A.D.’: Fantastic documentary on glam rock’s greatest casualty comes to DVD