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The PMRC is one of those faint memories that music fans that grew up in the ’80s try to brush away. The Parents Music Resource Center was launched in 1985 by a group of Washington power wives—the most visible face being the wife of then-senator Al Gore, Tipper—who saw rock and rap as, in Ms. Gore’s words, “a poisonous source infecting the youth of the world with messages they cannot handle.”
While the PMRC’s power eventually only yielded one major change—the ubiquitous black-and-white “Parental Advisory” insignia that you can still find on physical copies of albums—at the time the metal, punk, and hip-hop artists that it would have affected most made some loud and vehement statements against what they saw as potential censorship of their work. With that in mind—not to mention Mother’s Day and the current pieces of proposed legislation that are threatening our access to information in the modern age—let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane to take a listen to some of the best of the anti-PMRC bunch.
7. Danzig, “Mother”
It took until 1993 for this dastardly little song to capture the attention of headbangers and Beavis & Butt-Head fans around the States. But when it was written back in 1987 (it originally appeared on the first Danzig album and was re-recorded after a live version went into heavy rotation on MTV), it was a response to the PMRC’s work, telling some nameless parents that that can’t keep their children “in the dark for life.” 20+ years later and I still shudder at the thought of what “bleeding” Glenn is promising once he finds hell with him.
6. Rage Against The Machine’s appearance at the Philadelphia stop of Lollapalooza ’93
Long after the PMRC had lost any semblance of political power they once wielded, the members of Rage Against The Machine—angry that their debut single “Killing In The Name” had been “banned on the radio because of bad language,” according to drummer Brad Wilk—took to the stage at JFK Stadium wearing nothing but electrical tape over their mouths. On their chests were written the letters for PMRC, and the only sound coming out was a squall of feedback. They stood there for 14 minutes and then vacated the stage. As you might imagine, Philadelphians were less than pleased with the display. Wilk: “The first 10 minutes, they were going nuts, but after 10 minutes, they were getting pissed.” The band returned to Philadelphia later that year to play a free show as penance.
5. Warrant, “Ode To Tipper Gore”
Never a group known for their subtlety, the late Jani Lane and company tacked a minute-long aural middle finger directed toward the song’s namesake onto the end of their double-platinum 1990 album Cherry Pie. Stitched together from recordings of the band playing live, the track is nothing more than Lane cursing his pretty little head off. Plenty of “fucks” and references to blowjobs abound, as well as more tame notions that Warrant fans “kick ass.” Great mix tape fodder for that little bit of cassette left on the end of a side.
4. Ice-T, “Freedom of Speech”
Ice-T had this to say in his 1994 book The Ice Opinion: “Tipper Gore is the only woman I ever directly called a bitch on any of my records, and I meant that in the most negative sense of the word.” He throws Ms. Gore under the bus repeatedly on the first verse of this track from his 1989 opus The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech…Just Watch What You Say, referencing her past struggles with alcohol and asking the universal question: “Yo Tip, what’s the matter? You ain’t getting’ no dick?” In spite of the salacious beginning Ice makes some pretty solid points (“Let ’em censor books/ let ’em censor art/ PMRC/ this is where the witch hunt starts”) and driving it all home with a closing sample of former Dead Kennedy Jello Biafra speaking out about censorship and leaving listeners with the chilling line: “If they can’t do it by law, they know there’s other ways to do it.”
3. NOFX, The PMRC Can Suck On This
One of the earliest releases by this long-running SoCal punk group was a provocative EP with a provocative title and cover art. The original 1987 release of this six-song 7″ featured a picture of a leather-clad woman with a strap-on getting ready to peg a willing gent resting on all fours. Pasted over the heads of the original picture, though, were the faces of two of the more power televangelists of the time, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. Reissues of the EP featured a denatured picture of the band’s guitarist Eric Melvin, but, you know, it just doesn’t have the same oomph.
2. Anthrax, “Startin’ Up A Posse”
One of the silliest releases to ever been nominated for a Best Metal Performance Grammy, Attack of the Killer B’s was where these legendary thrashers tucked away all the unreleased and throwaway tracks from the first part of their career. This track is a goofy and pointed ode to the “fucking whores” and “fascist scum” looking to label and censor records. It’s a little bit country and a whole lot of punk fury (including a small bite of the theme to Bonanza), and it’s sprinkled with samples from porn films, hip-hop records, and a call-and-response vocal that culminates in a joyous “cunty, cunty, cunty, cunt.”
1. Frank Zappa Meets The Mothers of Prevention
At the height of the hullaballoo stirred up by the PMRC, the U.S. Senate bowed to their pressure, agreeing to hold hearings about what they at the time were deeming “porn rock.” Three musicians came out in opposition to these hearings: Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider, folk/country icon John Denver, and avant rocker Frank Zappa. Although his testimony was vehement enough (“The PMRC proposal is an ill-conceived piece of nonsense which fails to deliver any real benefits to children, [and] infringes the civil liberties of people who are not children”), Zappa went one further in 1985, releasing an album that centered on a 12-minute long collage entitled “Porn Wars” that uses samples from his testimony and dialogue from the senators on the Commerce Committee (including some hilarious bits of them reading rock lyrics like “I’m going to drive my love inside of you”) over a burbling bit of electro-funk punctuated with pig noises.