Cameo released “Word Up!” on May 27, 1986. It peaked at #3 on the U.K. Singles Chart, charted at #6 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and topped the U.S Hot Dance Singles Chart. The song is based on urban slang for enthusiastic agreement.
The band based the concept of “Word Up!” on a character they named Vicious, whom they used as a voice for their frustration at rappers who recorded what they referred to as psychodrama, when they felt music lovers wanted to hear something that could dance to, instead.
“Word Up!” starts off with a sample of Ennio Morricone’s the main theme from spaghetti western The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. Lead singer Larry Blackmon’s distinctive “Ow!” in the song was sampled four years later in Italian dance band Black Box’s hit, “Everybody, Everybody.” Sly Stone, one of Blackmon’s heroes, inspired his guttural vocal style.
Word Up! [7″ Version/7″ Vocal Version/Edited Version] 4’15
Word Up! [12″ Version/Extended Version/Full Length Version] 5’54
Word Up! [Special Club Mix] ?’??
In the music video, Cameo is pursued by a detective, played by LeVar Burton, who pursues them through the city and into a club. Lead singer Larry Blackmon channels Freddie Mercury in his lycra pants, tank top, and bright red codpiece.
I had no idea “Word Up” was released so many months before it became a hit on the radio. When I started college that September, “Word Up!,” along with “Venus” by Bananarama, seemed to be everywhere. My best friend, Kent, and I loved imitating Blackmon’s signature “Ow!” Whenever I heard the song, it always brings back fun memories.
What are your memories of “Word Up!” by Cameo?