Number Ones: #55


  • CAMEO Single Life (Club/Phonogram)
  • Week Ending 5th October 1985
  • 1 Week At #1


A year before Larry Blackmon donned his infamous red codpiece and addressed all the pretty ladies around the world, he and his Cameo chums were in the process of creating the sound that wound up as Word Up; a kind of “herky jerky” electronic funk, high on angular beats and robotic vocals, laced with sly humour and – in the case of Single Life and 1984’s sleeper club hit She’s Strange – great choruses.

For a time, this hybrid of funk, soul and electro was the coolest groove in town; Single Life dominated the Record Mirror Club charts during the late summer of 1985, and the consensus was that Blackmon, more than any of his peers at the time, had the nous and personality to go places.

The promise appeared to be delivered upon with the massive impact of Word Up some 12 months later; feted in Q magazine, Smash Hits and Record Mirror alike, regulars on Top Of The Pops during late 1986 and early 1987. Cameo had the market sewn up, surely?

What nobody had quite anticipated was the speed at which the previously underground House music scene would cross over and turn mainstream dance music on its head, rendering an entire genre of robotic, vocodered, jittery synth funk all but extinct before the 80s were out. Some, such as Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis’ Flyte Tyme productions, or the emerging New Jack Swing movement led by Teddy Riley and LA Reid, prospered in the new musical and cultural landscape vacated by all the old funk stalwarts, but the music was influenced by, and indebted to, the sounds of House and Techno.

As for Cameo, their fall was alarmingly swift, not helped by a frankly dreadful and ill-conceived album – Machismo – in late 1988 that killed their commercial status overnight.


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