[From the Rolling Stones [sic], Sept. 12, 1985]
|Artist and song||Rating|
|Judas Priest, "Eat Me Alive"||X|
|Motley Crue, "Bastard"||V|
|Prince, "Darling Nikki"||X|
|Sheena Easton, "Sugar Walls"||X|
|W.A.S.P., "(Animal) Fuck Like a Beast"||X|
|Mercyful Fate, "Into the Coven"||O|
|Vanity, "Strap On Robby Baby"||X|
|Def Leppard, "High 'n' Dry"||D/A|
|Twisted Sister, "We're Not Gonna Take It"||V|
|Madonna, "Dress You Up"||X|
|Cyndi Lauper, "She Bop"||X|
|AC/DC, "Let Me Put My Love Into You||X|
|Black Sabbath, "Trashed"||D/A|
|Mary Jane Girls, "My House"||X|
A small group of well-connected Washington women is spearheading the most serious protest against rock lyrics since Spiro Agnew's 1971 crusade to rid popular music of drug references. This time the primary targets are the heavy-breathing hits of Prince and Madonna and the "sadomasochistic" messages of heavy-metal groups like Mötley Crüe and Judas Priest. The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), which includes the wives of Treasury Secretary James Baker and Democratic Senator Albert Gore of Tennessee, wields sufficient political clout to have already persuaded the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee to tentatively schedule hearings on the subject for September 19th.
The PMRC wants the music industry to voluntarily institute standardized ratings, similar to movie ratings, for records, tapes and videos. Songs with sexually explicit or profane lyrics would receive an X; those that advocate the use of drugs or alcohol would receive a D/A; those that refer to the occult would receive an O; and those that glorify violence would receive a V. Also on the group's agenda is a demand that printed lyrics be available so that parents can look at them prior to purchasing a accord. In addition, record labels, distributors and broadcasters are being pressured to "exhibit voluntary restraint" in promoting what the groups calls "pornographic" and violent material.
"We're not censors," says Tipper Gore, 37, a cofounder of the five-member PMRC and the mother of four young children. "We want a tool from the industry that is peddling this stuff to children, a consumer tool with which parents can make an informed decision on what to buy. What we're talking about is a sick new strain of rock music glorifying everything from forced sex to bondage to rape." Cited as particularly offensive examples are Prince's "Darling Nikki" ("I met her in a hotel lobby/Masturbating with a magazine") and Judas Priest's "Eat Me Alive," a song Gore says is about "oral sex at gunpoint."
In an attempt to forestall legislative action, recording industry has been meeting privately to discuss preventive strategies. When contacted, chief executives at the major labels have refused to comment. But Stanley Gortikov, president of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), has met with executives of nineteen labels, and in an August 5th letter to PMRC president Pam Howar, he presented the record industry's position. The PMRC's requests, Gortikov wrote, "involve complications that would make compliance impossible." Publishers, he explained, not record companies, own the rights to print lyrics. In addition, a label never has full control over the packaging or display of recordings or over the way its artists present themselves in performance or on video. A rating system that requires four or five categories, Gortikov wrote, would be "totally impractical."
Instead, the RIAA members would agree to "individually apply a printed inscription on packaging of future recording releases to identify blatant, explicit lyric content in order to inform those concerned parents and children. An industry-wide text will be developed and used." The labels, through the RIAA will work with the PMRC to finalize the sticker's language, but Gortikov's letter offers one suggestion: "Parental guidance: Explicit lyrics." Use of the sticker would be detrimented [sic] on a company-by-company basis.