To mark LGBT History Month, 2013, Polari asked its contributors to recall a song that had an impact on their own stories.
‘Manchild’ – Neneh Cherry
by Dom Aguis
Occasionally, just occasionally, great records and moments sync like constellations to align and mean more. More than just three and a half minutes of music, a hooky chorus and a hot new haircut. If you’re lucky.
It felt like Neneh and I had already clocked up a few miles somehow. From her first steps with Ray Petri and the Morgan Mcvey boys at the FACE, via her prelim ‘Buffalo Stance’ twirl with Bomb The Bass’ Tim and his glittering Rhythm King family, I got it: there was Cherry flavoured goodness afoot but ‘Manchild’ was something else and implicitly understood. Not a sun through the clouds moment, more a thunderclapping, gauntlet flung seduction.
“O.K. You’re on your own. It’s late. The girlfriend is on another date with the hero in your dream. Turn around, ask yourself ‘So think you’re gonna win this time Manchild?’.” And then those sumptuous 50 piece Abbey Road strings sweep in and you were away, an amused, bemused and only slightly confused 19 year old homosexualist making his first knee trembling suburban journeys into London, off hand-in-hand down an alley with the big sister you never had. Neneh was a gorgeous, sassy, Alaia wearing, ass shaking sister who knew all your flaws. And secrets. And latent hankerings; and still she didn’t give you the slip. A sister with kids and a man and gay friends too.
Written with her future husband, baby daddy Cameron, with scratching and beats by Massive Attack’s 3D and lyrics about broken cars, drinking, Sunday sinking feelings and souls sold for tacky songs on radios, ‘Manchild’ wasn’t so much a song but, like Lexicon era ABC or Pet Shop Boys’ ‘West End Girls’, a screenplay for the world’s weariest and most heartbroken film never seen. No one called it Noir Hop but it was. Battered, resilient, determined. No real need even to discuss Jean Baptiste’s perfect video or the bullet time rap that ate the second half of the track, sorting the men from the buffalo boys and spitting you out the other end. At a time when so much of coming out seemed dark, political and angry, Neneh felt like family or what family should and could be. Inclusive, funky, chic and wise. Manchild.