Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Don't you get fresh with me

Next month, it'll be 23 years since Neneh Cherry stretched a black lycra skirt over her baby bump and did this to Top Of The Pops.

Neneh Cherry - Buffalo Stance (TOTP, December 1988)

Amazingly, the sight of an eight-month pregnant woman on primetime television became a big talking point in the papers. Cherry was nonchalant: "It [the baby] wasn't planned," she told The Guardian. "It's a crazy time for it to happen, but now it has to be part of the process. I'm not going to put on a big black robe and vanish for six months."

Buffalo Stance went on to become a hit on both sides of the Atlantic and Cherry's debut album, Raw Like Sushi (produced by Massive Attack, Bomb The Bass and Cherry's future husband Cameron McVey) is one of the best female-perspective rap records ever released. Refreshingly, it avoids the man-bashing, hyper-sexualised conventions of female MC-ing and talks about sex education, growing pains and, years before Kanye had the same idea, gold-diggers. "You're just one kiss alimony," from Heart, is one of my all-time favourite lyrics.

I was 15 when Raw Like Sushi came out and I was obsessed with it. In fact, Bufflao Stance would be my karaoke song of choice if anyone ever bothered to make a karaoke version of it... So imagine my surprise when I discovered last night that the song was originally a b-side produced by Stock Aitken & Waterman?!??!

The song in question was called Look Good Diving With The Wild Bunch. It was a remix of Looking Good Diving, by a duo called Morgan-McVey (that's Cherry's future husband again). Essentially a Rick Astley reject with a cod-reggae piano, it is one of the worst things I have ever heard (the video, which has Neneh Cherry playing guitar, is on YouTube if you want to see for yourself).

The b-side however was a complete rewrite, with a guest rap from Cherry that features about 90% of the lyrics that went on to become Buffalo Stance. The song's hook and a sample from Janet Jackson's Nasty also make an appearance. Yet this came out in 1986 - two years before Cherry signed her recording contract with Virgin and celebrated by getting a baby up her (oh, the irony).

Cameron McVey - Looking Good Diving With The Wild Bunch (ft Neneh Cherry)

By the way, this sort of thing - discovering an entirely new aspect to a song I've known for over two decades - is what I love about music. It's why I habitually go and check the racks in HMV for artists whose complete discography I own on both vinyl and CD. Maybe, my brain tells me, they'll have an album or a remix you have inexplicably not heard of until today. It's never actually happened, but I am certain that one day it will.

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