Neneh Cherry: Buffalo Stance

Format: 12″ (five mixes)

Label: Virgin

Country: US

Year: 1989

Price paid: $6

“Yeah, Timmy! Tell it like it is!”

My knowledge of rap is sufficiently inadequate to make any commentary on the subject naive at best, but there seemed to be a time in the 80s when rap was bright and shiny and new- it hadn’t yet fallen into the rigid stereotypes predominate in the genre today. Things were more playful, experimental, and dare I say ‘fun.’ If I may be so bold I’d like to shoehorn Neneh Cherry, and more specifically this song, under the ‘New Wave’ banner. I don’t think that’s too much of a stretch…

Born and raised in a hippie commune in Sweden, Neneh moved to England at an early age and then to New York City at 14. Dropping out of school, she returned to England and settled in London where she became roommates with Ari Up (of The Slits fame.)

She was an employee at ‘Better Badges’, a major producer of punk/New Wave pins. Odds are if you see a vintage 1″ band badge it was either made by this company or an imitator.

She was part of several early post-punk/dub/experimental groups including The Cherries, The New Age Steppers (with Ari), and Rip Rig + Panic. These will undoubtedly be discussed in more detail elsewhere…

‘Buffalo Stance’ was released in 1988, just prior to her first solo album ‘Raw Like Sushi’ (May 2, 1989.) It was a smash, reaching #3 in both the UK and US- going all the way to #1 in Sweden, Netherlands, and the Canadian Dance/Urban charts. Neneh would continue to have chart success in the 80s and 90s, but nothing approached the lofty heights of this single.

The single was released during Britpop’s ‘Summers of Love.’ See the entry on The Primitives ‘Really Stupid’ for more musings on the subject. Suffice it to say that the video is a eye-searing example of neo-psychedelia, with heavy use of period motifs such as flower imagery.

The song is about the entourage of people known as ‘Buffalo’ (of which Neneh was a part) that formed around Ray Petri, the influential photographer who worked with magazines such as The Face and i-D. And of course there’s a direct influence (and sampling) from Malcolm McLaren’s 1983 hit ‘Buffalo Girls.’

Please enjoy this extremely well done and loving tribute to both ‘Buffalo Stance’ and ‘Buffalo Girls’ by DVJ Luka Sao Paulo. A great mashup that bridges the gap between early and late 80’s New Wave:

 

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