Max Romeo


Born Maxwell Smith in the Jamaican parish of St Ann on November 22, 1944, he recorded his first single in 1968 called ‘Put In Your Finger’. The next year, he met the ubiquitous Bunny Lee and, together, they came up with a tune that was so rude they could find no-one to sing it. Slim Smith turned it down, as did Roy Shirley and, eventually, Max had to sing it himself. The song was called ‘Wet Dream’ and, from its release on the Pama label in the UK, it was banned by the BBC and and went UK top 10! Max argued that the song was about a leaky roof (“lie down girl, let me push it up, push it up”…???) but the ban remained. On a roll, Max now did ‘Wine Her Goosie’ and ‘Pussy Watch Man’ but the moment had passed and they had limited success.

Max was a Rastafarian by the time he began working with producers Lee Perry and Winston ’Niney’ Holness in 1972, and, from this point onwards, his music had the conscious lyrics of Rasta, even though Max’s sense of humour was still apparent. ‘Revelation Time’ (produced by Clive Hunt, engineered by Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry) was considered one of the best reggae albums of 1975.

It was with Perry that Max recorded his greatest album: ‘War Ina Babylon’ (1976). Max sang and wrote (or co-wrote) all the songs yet most of the album’s credit has gone to Scratch and many consider this one of his finest albums ever. In 1999, Max recorded an album for Satta Records in Italy called ‘In This Time’. Accompanied by the acoustic ensemble Tribu Acustica, the album is a beautiful folk/world music version of Max’s roots lyric, a million miles from the rude boy beginnings of his music.

In the last 15 years, his reputation as a stage performer has earned him a steady stream of live work in Europe, though it is only in the last few years that the UK has come to recognize him as the talent he is. It was sampling that brought his name back to the fore and, principally, the use by Prodigy of his lyric from the song ‘Chase The Devil’ (‘gonna send him to outta space, to find a better race’).