Welcome to the pre-Labor Day weekend edition of Funky Friday. There’s a chance that the weekend may be a washout up here, thanks to the remnants of one Hurricane Hermine. Whatever it is, I hope everyone has a great holiday weekend!
I’m sure a lot of people remember the group Cameo. The group enjoyed its biggest success in 1986, with the song “Word Up.” If you remember anything from the 80s, you probably remember this song.
Who can forget Larry Blackmon and his red codpiece? Yeah, the song is pretty memorable too. However, this isn’t the song I’m thinking about for Funky Friday, great though it is. Why not? Well, Cameo in this song was a very different band than the one that first broke on the R&B scene almost a decade earlier.
By this time, Blackmon had reduced what had been a ten-member band down to three members. Cameo’s sound was very different than the Parliament-influenced band that was once known as the New York City Players in the space of a decade. By the time “Word Up” was released, horn-led funk bands had gone out of fashion, replaced by electro-funk sounds that were driven by synthesizers and drum machines. “Word Up” had its share of both-there’s a small part for the horns towards the end of the song, but it begins with synthesizers.
Back in 1980, Cameo was still nine members strong when they released their album Cameosis. Best known for “Shake Your Pants” and the ballads “We’re Going Out Tonight” and “Why Have I Lost You” (the second version), the album did fairly well in R&B circles. Today’s song is based on a phrase that was used in funk records from all kinds of groups. James Brown may have originated it, but by the time Cameo got to it, everybody was talking about being “On The One.” It has just what a funk doctor would order: great horn lines, a thumping bassline, party chants, and for Lady G, a spot for her favorite falsetto singer, Wayne Cooper. Sadly, this would be Cooper’s last album with Cameo. Either he was let go from the group or walked away on his own; I do not know which.
Enjoy either or both songs from Cameo, a versatile band that changed its sound to keep up with the trends. As always, thanks for listening and reading.