On This Day in History: September 19
Twisted Sister and the PMRC
Won’t someone please think of the children? Twisted Sister is singing about how they aren’t gonna take it and the album cover has scary men in makeup and David Lee Roth wants to have sex with his teacher and we need to get back to the times when the camera panned up so it wouldn’t show Elvis’s gyrations because Ben Shapiro’s wife is right: Damp nethers are a medical condition!
--On This Day in History, Shit Went Down: September 19, 1985--
The four “Washington Wives,” called such because of their husbands’ political power, included not-yet Vice President Al Gore’s wife Tipper. In 1985 the women formed the Parents Music Resource Center because rock and roll is demon music that makes children sacrifice their parents to Satan while they sleep, and the only way to prevent that is by putting a sticker on the album cover.
The PMRC went after several songs it dubbed “The Filthy 15,” targeting not just metal bands, but songs by Cyndi Lauper, Prince, Madonna, and Sheena Easton. On September 19, 1985, the Senate held a hearing to discuss such “porn rock.” The group wanted not just detailed warning labels, but album covers they deemed offensive hidden under the counter, and TV stations to not broadcast songs with explicit lyrics or videos.
At the hearing, opposing witness Frank Zappa said the proposal was “an ill-conceived piece of nonsense which fails to deliver any real benefits to children.” John Denver spoke out against censorship, comparing it to Nazi book burnings. But it was Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider who stole the show.
In a later interview he said, “I ain’t getting dressed up for nobody. I’m a dirtbag and I’m proud.” He arrived at the hearing wearing tight and faded jeans, a sleeveless shirt, sunglasses, snakeskin boots, and his big hair. The PMRC proclaimed the Twisted Sister song “Under the Blade” was about sadomasochism, bondage, and rape, and Snider set them straight, explaining it was inspired by a band member’s surgery and how it’s about the fear one feels in the operating room. He said, “The only sadomasochism, bondage, and rape in this song is in the mind of Ms. Gore.” Burn!
In the aftermath, a generic parental advisory label referred to as the “Tipper sticker” was put on “offensive” albums. Some stores such as Walmart refused to carry albums sporting the sticker. Other stores limited their sale to adults. But the pull of forbidden fruit is strong, and many believe the stickers actually increased sales of the albums that had it.
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