Jheri Curl June: Carl Carlton’s “Private Property”

Over the weekend, I attended a Record Riot in nearby Frederick, Maryland; and, this being the midpoint of June, you could say I had Jheri Curl Music on the mind. I ended up walking out with a solid armful of vintage Jheri Curl on vinyl, including Break Out by the Pointer Sisters, Word Up! and Alligator Woman by Cameo, and today’s pick, the 1985 album Private Property by Carl Carlton.

Long-time Jheri Curl Juners will recognize Carlton’s 1981 hit “She’s a Bad Mama Jama (She’s Built, She’s Stacked)” as the subject of our first-ever J.C.J. post way back in 2014. That song, written and produced by the ever-freaky Leon Haywood, was Carlton’s second-biggest hit after 1974’s “Everlasting Love.” The title track of Private Property, on the other hand, was not written by Haywood (it’s credited to Bar-Kays and Ebonee Webb manager/producer Allen A. Jones), but you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise because it’s basically the same damn song; if you told me Carlton created the track by singing new lyrics over a slight rearrangement of his earlier hit, I’d honestly believe you. The only real difference is that now he’s landed the bad mama jama of his dreams, and is warning everyone within earshot to keep their distance: “Can you read the sign that says / ‘No trespassing’ from her feet to her head / ‘Cause all her body parts are P.V.T. / ‘Cause everything she has belongs to C.C.” It’s a musical sequel equal parts heartwarming (Carl’s found love!) and offputting; one hopes there’s a third song in the trilogy where he finally realizes that bad mama jamas’ bodies belong to themselves.

Look, I’m not gonna lie, “Private Property” is a pale retread of “Mama Jama,” and the American record-buying public broadly agreed: the track only reached Number 28 on the R&B charts, while its predecessor went as high as Number 2. But I’ve long maintained that the key to the magic of Jheri Curl Music lies less in its milestones than its mediocrities, and this is exactly the kind of record I will always love to buy for five dollars sight unseen. Plus, of the tracks on the album, only “Private Property” and the even more minor hit “Slipped, Tripped (Fooled Around and Fell in Love)” (which also kinda sounds like “Bad Mama Jama,” if I’m being honest) are currently available on streaming services; I don’t know if the rest of it is worth listening to, but I’m excited to find out.

In the meantime, you can stream “Private Property”–and our other picks from Jheri Curl June 2023 to date–below:


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