Metal Moment: #4 [PMRC Filthy Fifteen]
I am sure everyone remembers the PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center). If you are too young or were not even walking on this Earth yet, basically the PMRC was a music censorship interest group, known as the “Washington Wives.” That’s right, there was actually a time when highly influential peeps [with ties to Washington] tried to tell us what to listen to, or in this case what not to listen to! This bunch was formed in 1985 by Tipper Gore, Susan Baker, Pam Howar, Nancy Thurmond, and Sally Nevius.
Without any valid scientific basis [and kicking up much dust in the process] they ascribed multiple evils in society to be rooted in popular music—see The PMRC Filthy Fifteen below.
I’ve mentioned this before on this site: hats off to Dee Snider and Frank Zappa as they were surprisingly two of the only musicians/artists who weren’t afraid of this “musical lynch mob” and appeared in court regularly to take them head on with their lofty claims. Where was everyone else though? When the going got tough, most bands ran to the hills; whether they were on the “list” or not… (sic—ed). Honorable mention goes out to Jello Biafra for his many rants as well. Get this, his house was actually raided in response to complaints by the PMRC! Yes, they brought Biafra to trial in Los Angeles for distributing “harmful material to minors” in the Dead Kennedy’s album Frankenchrist.
In reality (lines are blurred here), the dispute was about neither the music nor the lyrics from the album, but rather the print of the H.R. Giger poster Landscape XX that was included with the album. Biafra believes the trial was politically motivated; it was often reported that the PMRC took him to court as a cost-effective way of sending a message out to other musicians with content considered offensive in their music.
As the late, great Zappa said in a 1985 Los Angeles Times interview: “The Recording Industry Association of America didn’t agree to this stickering of albums on moral grounds, but business ones. The industry has a huge financial interest in anti-home taping and piracy legislation. And guess who runs the committee that oversees this legislation? Sen. Strom Thurmond, whose wife is a member of the PMRC. I think the connection’s pretty clear.”
“The record industry is acting like of bunch of cowards. They’re scared to death of the fundamentalist right and want to throw them a bone in hopes that they’ll go away. But this stickering program will just start a precedent— they’ll always want more.” ~Frank Zappa
[quoted in Parents Warn: Take the Sex and Shock out of Rock, Los Angeles Times 1985]
OK, so what were the fifteen songs that were so bad that it was worthy of locking up our daughters and or burning said records? Hold onto your hats, you’re going to get a chuckle out of this one.
After all the dust settled, basically the Recording Industry Association of America [RIAA] eventually added a “Parental Advisory—Explicit Lyrics” sticker to certain products.
Looking back, it seems that sticker only helped the artists in question to sell more albums as the kids wanted to hear those even more with its elevated “bad or evil” status…go figure.
*It’s worth noting that nine out of the fifteen were deemed bad because of sexual references.
Of course they had to throw in some satanic references for good measure:
- Mercyful Fate [i.e. King Diamond]
L.A. rockers Mötley Crüe were also included (everyone knows they are “satanic” haha) since they had just released “Shout At the Devil” on vinyl and cassette. It’s worth noting though, despite the album title and [comically sarcastic] satanic leanings; they ended up with a “violence” label for the song “Bastard.” This list cracks me up, as it was so carefully planned to have a bit of each category of what they deemed offensive.
Lastly, the kings of Heavy Metal—Black Sabbath had to be on the list, but they were trashed [pun intended —ed] for drug and alcohol abuse for their classic from the Born Again LP “Trashed.”
Is it me, or is this list and whole PMRC thing a bit sarcastic? I mean are they really after those fifteen artists/bands? I don’t think so…perhaps it’s just another reaction against the holy grail of “dirty” rock music or the trinity of musical culture that many fear so much [or enjoy, depending on how you look at it]: