British singer Jan Panter issued just four singles in the UK. She is best known for her work with German producer Mark Wirtz, notably on the 1966 fuzz guitar fest Scratch my back. Inexplicably, however, her take on Mary Wells’s My two arms - you = tears has remained overlooked by Brit girl aficionados.
Jan Panter is a bit of a mystery, though the singer is known to have hailed from north London.
In late 1964, aged 16, she recorded the charming Yours sincerely for Colino Productions. The song had been written by German producer Mark Wirtz (who is best known for 1967’s Excerpt from ‘A teenage opera’, and who went on to work with other Brit girls Samantha Jones and Ross Hannaman), but it failed to gain a release.
The following year, she was spotted by Oriole record label A&R man Ted Taylor and signed to the label. The result was the single My two arms – you = tears, a speeded-up cover of a Mary Wells Motown album track, which was released in 1965. It featured The Breakaways on backing vocals. The song was a lyrical masterwork, managing to fuse two unnatural allies, love and maths. “Subtract the one I love, you’ll multiply my tears,” Jan wails.
When it flopped, she switched to the CBS label for Let it be now, issued later the same year. (The B-side was the Lori Burton/Pam Sawyer composition Stand by and cry.)
She switched again in 1966, this time to Pye, for what is generally regarded as her finest moment. She was teamed with Wirtz again for her first single for the label, Scratch my back, a song she’d written herself. The record is highly prized among Brit girl aficionados and you can now expect a mint copy to set you back around £500.
Given Jan’s previous lack of success, she was nearly relaunched as Charlotte Green for the release. She rejected the move but agreed to use the name for the song’s writing credits.
Returning to the Motown songbook for the B-side, she cut an interesting version of Put yourself in my place, originally recorded by The Elgins.
It was another three years before she issued her next single, Si si señor, this time on the President label. The song had been written by Eddy Grant of The Equals. It’s fair to say that it wasn’t one of his finest works and it failed to set the British charts alight.
However, with its Spanish theme, it was considered suitable for release in Spain.
Also, its Schlager feel made it ideal for issue as a 45 in Germany. Jan re-recorded the lyrics in German and the song was duly issued by EMI’s Columbia label. She was billed Janet Panter for the German market to avoid confusion, as Jan is a man’s name in Germany. (The B-side, Stella in lights, was also re-recorded, as Wenn die Liebe kommt for the flip, but with different backing.)
Sadly, the song fared no better than the English original and marked the end of her recording career.
With thanks to Jens Keller for an additional sound file.
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