Swedish pop singer Neneh Cherry was all of 23 when her very first single, “Buffalo Stance,” stampeded onto the charts, reaching No. 1 in her native country and the Netherlands, and No. 3 in the US and UK.
Today, as the Stockholm native celebrates her 55th birthday, we’re taking a look back at the infections hit single, with a title that everyone pretty much belted without knowing quite what it meant.
The track was released in 1988 from her debut album, “Raw Like Sushi.” An early version of the song appeared as the B-side on the 1986 single “Looking Good Diving with the Wild Bunch,” which was produced by Jamie Morgan and Cherry’s future husband Cameron McVey of the production group Stock, Aitken, and Waterman.
The version of “Buffalo Stance” that became the hit single was recorded in London and released on Nov. 28, 1988. As far as the song title and its meaning, Cherry had several answers when asked to explain.
She told the New York Times that the title refers to “an attitude you have to have in order to get by. It’s not about fashion but about survival in inner cities and elsewhere.” She has also said that the term “Buffalo” referred a collective of photographers, models, musicians, hair and makeup artists formed by fashion stylist Ray Petri, of which Cherry, Morgan, and McVey were all members. Cherry also said the title is a nod to Malcolm McLaren’s 1983 song “Buffalo Gals,” which “Buffalo Stance” actually samples.
Bomb the Bass, a.k.a. Tim Simenon, was also brought in to help remix the earlier version of the “Buffalo Stance.” Cherry gives him a shout-out in the song’s breaks with, “Yeah, Timmy! Tell it like it is!” and “Bomb the Bass, rock this place!”
While promoting the song, Cherry performed it on “The Arsenio Hall Show” and famously while seven months pregnant on “Top of the Pops.”
Neneh Cherry performs “Buffalo Stance” on “The Arsenio Hall Show” in 1988
Neneh Cherry performs “Buffalo Stance” on “Top of the Pops” in 1988
The Daily Telegraph ranked “Buffalo Stance” at No. 37 in their Top 50 Dance Songs list in 2015, while Time Out listed it at No. 13 in their The 50 best ’80s songs list in 2018.
Here’s Neneh Cherry today. The interview about today’s politics appeared a year ago on France’s public broadcasting service, France 24.