One fine day in Washington, D.C.
in May of 1985
, little eleven-year-old Karenna Gore was jamming
innocently away to the new Prince album Purple Rain
on the family stereo. Karenna's mom, Tipper
, entered the room, no doubt intrigued by the funky groove that the Minnesota
n genius, composer, musician and lyricist had laid to wax. Lyrics that then stopped Tipper dead in her tracks,
"I knew a girl named Nikki, I guess you could say she was a sex fiend. I met her in a hotel lobby, masturbating with a magazine. She said 'how'd you like to waste some time', and I could not resist when I saw little nikki grind"
Tipper became frightened and she called up her buddy Susan Baker."The images frightened my children, they frightened me! I am frightened! Way frightened! The graphic sex and the violence were too much for us to handle," she said.
Susan, too, was having problems with 80’s pop music in her house. Her seven-year-old daughter had recently been caught listening to a Madonna album. With mounting alarm, Tipper and Susan called some of their other friends, including Sally Nevius and Pam Howar, and came to a chilling conclusion. Pop music, with their explicit references to sex, masturbation, drug and alcohol abuse, violence and occult themes, were "infecting the youth of the world with messages they cannot handle.”
What could a group of “Washington wives” do to protect the innocence of their children and protect the integrity of American family values? Well, as soon as Tipper’s and Susan’s husbands came home they gave their men an earful, that is what they did!
Now these husbands, U.S. Senator Al Gore and Treasury Secretary James Baker, were tired and beat from a long day's work of ensuring that the legislative and executive branches of the federal government were running as smoothly as could be. All they probably wanted was for their wives to bring them a stiff drink and a good home-cooked meal when they got home, not a bunch of nonsense about the prince of someplace jerking off or Jesus’ mom going the nasty. So they let their girls put together a little group and scheduled them a little hearing to air their troubles in the senate. Geesh!
The girls got together quick and named their group the Parent’s Music Resource Center. They decided that there should be a ratings system for music, that a record with explicit lyrics should have a sticker, and the sale of any record with such a rating should be restricted from minors. Then they made a little list of fifteen songs that they caught their kids listening to and mailed it off to the Recording Industry Association of America telling them what they thought they should do.
Of course, the gentlemen of the RIAA were deeply concerned about the concerns of these well-connected Washington wives. Well-connected peoples' concerns could end up hurting the bottom line. Naturally these defenders of the distribution of artistic expression took up the suggestion readily and began to slap “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics” stickers on the covers of albums. This was a big deal. A great number of artists and music enthusiasts cried, “Censorship!” The shrewdest of these artists also realized, as album sales of their restricted recordings suddenly increased, that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Underage enthusiasts of music-that-pisses-off-your-parents now had a branded guarantee and sought out these artists, such as 2 Live Crew, who exploited their explicit lyrical status to the tune of 2 million copies sold.
On September 19, 1985 the PMRC had their little hearing, which took a short-cut in front of some more-mundane topics of the day such as school lunch funds and VA hospital budgets. In support of their arguments, Tipper and Susan took to the witness chairs with nasty album covers by artists such as Wendy O. Williams and they played the Van Halen “Hot For Teacher” video. Then they invited up some of their friends like National PTA Vice President for Legislative Activity Millie Waterman, as well as a child psychologist and some tool from the University of Texas at San Antonio.
As witnesses for the opposition, the PMRC invited Dee Snyder from the band Twisted Sister to speak as well as notorious producer and weirdo Frank Zappa, and the devil-worshiper, children-sodomizer and experimental aviation enthusiast John Denver. To the astonishment of the senate, the freakishly haired Mr. Snyder was well spoken, had well prepared statements and slyly asked Al Gore if he indeed was himself a back door man. Naturally, Mr. Zappa, tore his accusers up one way and down the other and even accused the members of the hearing to be conspirators in a scheme to create a tax on blank recording tape. Mr. Denver, Lord-A’mighty, did not turn out to be very supportive of infringements against his bread-and-butter either.
The hearings turned out to be a big joke. Anyone who put out an album for the next ten years dissed the PMRC. With little fanfare, the PMRC disolved and the Washington wives returned to the quiet buisiness of raising Washington families. In 2000 Al Gore narrowly lost the presidential election to George W. Bush.
Good job, Tipper.