(Above: This time, she is *not* introducing the high hat.)
Thirty years ago this week “Buffalo Stance” by Neneh Cherry was on the doorstep of the Billboard Top 40. It entered Casey’s countdown on May 6, and climbed up all the way to #3 before falling back off the charts.
Neneh Cherry is the stepdaughter of jazz trumpeter Don Cherry. (No, not the Don Cherry who hit the charts in 1955 with “Band of Gold,” and not the Don Cherry known to Canadian hockey fans for his loud outfits.) She was born in Sweden but grew up in Brooklyn. This was her first single; the follow-up, “Kisses On the Wind,” was also a huge hit in late summer 1989, making it up to #8. (And, yeah, that’s the Jimmy Castor Bunch sampled in the intro.) Then, that was it, in terms of hits over here. I recall another song from 1994 that got a lot of airplay when I was in New Zealand called “7 Seconds,” a duet with Youssou N’Dour that didn’t move the needle in the U.S.
I decided that this one was a guilty pleasure when I first heard it. It’s catchy. It’s easy to sing along with, even if you’re a kid from the suburbs who doesn’t understand most of what the lyrics are saying. That also didn’t stop me from trying to see if I could write a parody of it. Though I was a few weeks removed from having a college radio show and was instead plowing through overnights on WJTW spinning hot platters like Enya and Basia, I still had this idea that I’d end up with a morning show in short order. And, of course morning radio shows had parody songs. I got bogged down in this one and never finished it. It was about Bob Smith and Howdy Doody. No, I’m serious – “we always hang out with Buffalo Bob” seemed like a good idea at the time. I suspect it’s the fact that I didn’t do it that allowed me to continue pursuing a career in radio.
(Maybe now that I’m on summer hiatus from teaching, I can give it a re-visit. “It’s Howdy Doody daaaay… they came and took my pants awaaaaay….” On second thought – I’ll pass.)
The video for “Buffalo Stance,” in all its 1989 Video Toastery-glory, can be found here. The 12″ single version, where she introduces the high-hat, can be found here. (And, lest you think it can’t be done live, here’s Neneh at age 51 performing it at the Pitchfork festival in 2014.)