Words by Jesse Serwer—
Along with their cheer, the Holidays always seem to bring some bad news when it comes to our veteran recording artists. What music lover can forget James Brown’s passing on Christmas Eve six years ago? This week, Jamaican music lost a great and unsung talent in Lloyd Charmers, who suffered a heart attack yesterday in London at 74. Charmers’ contributions as a singer, producer and organist span the ska, rocksteady, reggae and even dancehall eras—exactly 50 years, to be precise. But he is perhaps best remembered as a pioneer of sexually explicit reggae lyrics. X-rated Charmers tunes such as “Bang Bang Lulu,” “Birth Control” (which was later updated by the Specials into “Too Much Too Young”) and “Yum Yum Pussy”—and those are just some of the more tame titles—were recorded nearly a decade before dancehall artists like Yellowman made so-called slackness lyrics a thing.
Charmers, who was born Lloyd Terrell and was also known as Lloydie (the name he used on his “adults-only” Censored albums, credited to Lloydie and the Lowbites) began his career in Jamaica’s Independence Year, 1962, with the vocal group, the Charmers. Soon after their formation the group appeared on the early Jamaican TV show, The Talent Hour. In the following years, he joined legendary trio the Uniques with Slim Smith and Jimmy Riley—appearing on their seminal “My Conversation”—and formed the session band, the Hippy Boys. Along with better-known efforts by fellow organist Jackie Mittoo, the Hippy Boys’ Psychedelic Reggae is one of the most significant early reggae instrumental albums. The band, members of which included Aston “Family Man” Barrett and his drummer brother Carlton Barrett, would eventually morph into Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Upsetters.
In the early ’70s, Charmers formed the record label, Splash, for which he produced massive tunes including Ken Boothe’s “Everything I Own.” As a solo artist, Charmers released albums such as Reggae is Tight (1969) and 1982’s Sweet Memories as well as the raunchy, comical Censored albums which established him as Jamaica’s answer to Blowfly and Rudy Ray Moore. “Yum Yum Pussy” is particularly notable for its description of cunnilingus. Considering the stigma still attached to this act and oral sex in general in Jamaica—a stigma still reinforced in dancehall lyrics, to this day—the tune must have been downright shocking at the time of its release in 1972.
Visit Page 2 for a rundown of 10 Charmers’ most notable tunes, from the G-rated to the Triple X: