Neneh Cherry’s breakthrough single melded hip-hop and cut-and-paste sampling into a perfect pop record.
At the tail end of 1988, Neneh Cherry’s ‘Buffalo Stance’ was everywhere. A punchy, upbeat track of early hip-hop sass with a propulsive groove, filled with great hooks and modernist twists, the record was overseen by Bomb The Bass’s Tim Simenon and co-producer Mark Saunders and made a star of the cheeky and provocative and — on her famous Top Of The Pops appearance — visibly pregnant Cherry, reaching number three on both sides of the Atlantic.
‘Buffalo Stance’ was a track that went on a journey over two years before being very quickly finished in an intensive two-and-a-half days. “I mean, the whole thing was the most painless track I’ve ever worked on,” remembers Mark Saunders. “It was my first hit really and nothing’s ever been that easy. It’s crazy how easy.”
From its scratched-out “g-g-gigolo” intro through its rapping verses and sung choruses, ‘Buffalo Stance’ was a tour de force of pop sample collage, matched with Cherry’s tongue-in-cheek ad-libs (“What is he loike?”), that moved through various sections in a highly inventive arrangement.
“It’s such a bizarre arrangement,” says Saunders. “I think that was the beauty of Tim and I not really knowing what we were doing. I was so busy programming, I don’t think I was aware of how many different bits there were. Tim kept coming up with these samples and it would lead you into a different section. If we’d have been thinking properly about how to make a hit record, I don’t think we would’ve had anywhere near as a many different parts to it.”
“Nothing was held back,” Tim Simenon remembers today of the making of ‘Buffalo Stance’. “It was just tried and if it didn’t work, we just sacked it, deleted it or whatever, and moved on.”
The roots of ‘Buffalo Stance’ can be traced back to 1986 and a London fashion movement, Buffalo, spearheaded by the late, Dundee-born stylist Ray Petri. Cameron McVey, originator and co-writer of ‘Buffalo Stance’ and Neneh Cherry’s future husband, was a key player in the scene.
“Ray Petri was a cultural phenomenon really,” he says. “He was really into music and fashion and lifestyle and...
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