"And you should hear the way she sings those lyrics, using this very sexy, erotic
voice," Baker said, putting extra emphasis on the word erotic. "Well, you don't have
to be much older than 10 to know what she means."
To attract the record industry's attention, the center has waged a high-profile media campaign, which has seen its members widely quoted in the national press as well as making appearances on such influential programs as "Today" and "Donahue."
The center has another important weapon at its disposal. The group, widely known in the press as the "Washington wives," is headed by the spouses of several prominent senators and Reagan Administration officials. Baker, for example, is married to Treasury Secretary James Baker. The group's other vice president is Tipper Gore, wife of Sen. Albert Gore Jr. (D-Tenn.). Led by President Pam Howar (wife of a Washington construction firm executive), the centre's membership also includes Nancy Thurmond, the wife of Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), as well as the spouses of several other congressional leaders.
The center wields considerable political clout. Last year, the PTA's national leadership requested that the music industry label records for profanity or sexual content, a plea that was widely ignored. But barely four months after the center was formed, it has won significant concessions from Stan Gortikov, president of the Recording Industry Assn. of America (RIAA), who pledged that record companies will put labels on albums to warn parents and children about potentially offensive and sexually explicit lyrics.
A key question, which most record industry leaders refuse to
The proposed legislation could eventually come to a vote before the Senate Judiciary Committee, now chaired by Sen. Thurmond. The nine-member Senate Communications Subcommittee, of which Sen. Gore is a member, has already announced that it will hold a hearing on the controversy over rock lyrics next month.
RIAA officials stopped short of accusing the PMRC of throwing around its collective political weight. "They haven't made any direct threats, at least to my knowledge," said RIAA spokeswoman Patricia Heimers. However, she quickly added, "Let's put it this
"You bet it's helped," Baker said. "There's no doubt that it's played a part in helping us get some attention. However, there's no quid pro quo here. But let me tell you
The few record executives willing to discuss this political connection tried to downplay its significance. "I don't see this affecting any of our legislative efforts," said MCA Records President Irving Azoff. "I can't imagine any
However, outspoken pop star Frank Zappa isn't so sure.
"The RIAA didn't agree to this stickering of albums on moral grounds, but business ones," he said. "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 companies are willing to chop up artists' civil rights so that they won't have to lose any potential profits from their anti-home-taping and piracy campaign."
Pop lyrics have always been subject to censorship, for
But today's songs are clearly more explicit, some too explicit to be printed in a family newspaper. Berlin lead singer Terri Nunn has sung, "You can buy me a daiquiri, you can take me home and tear my clothes off." Heavy-metal veterans Kiss bellow, "Burn bitch, burn."
Even Marvin Gaye, who once sang mellow ballads like "Your Precious Love," made a posthumous appearance on the charts this year with a song called "Sanctified Lady," which referred to women as "nasty little slaves" and contained graphic sexual images.