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The filth and the fury… has pop music gone too far?

Pop music, eh? Coo-er, its come in for quite a lot of “stick” over the years, and no mistake. Elvis Presley and his wriggling “legs”, The Rolling Stones and their disgraceful long hair, The Sex Pistols and their “oh-look-weve-been-sick-on-the-carpet” antics, Boy George and his totally girlie frocks, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and “Relax”—all these and many more have caused fair old brouhahas in the past. Parents have got hopping mad, crying “Must we throw this filth at our pop kids?!”, and the popular papers have been ever eager to fuel the “furore”. Storms in teacups, we all think. Dont we? But doesnt pop star behaviour ever give genuine cause for concern? Theres a group of American mums who certainly think it does: they call themselves the Parents Music Resource Center and have been nicknamed the “Washington Wives” because they all seem to be married to US Senators, congressmen or swanky businessmen, which makes them v. powerful indeed…

So what, exactly, has got the goats of these well-heeled women? Well: “what were talking about,” says Tipper Gore (wife of Senator Albert Gore and co-founder of PMRC) “is a sick new strain of rock music glorifying everything from forced sex to bondage to rape.”

Pop music, through lyrics that dwell on sex and Satanism, drugs and demon alcohol, is threatening to turn the minds of children to muck and pervert a

nations youth, reckons the PMRC: therefore theyd like to see a ratings code introduced for records—an ‘X for songs featuring sexually explicit lyrics, a ‘V for those that glorify violence, an ‘O for occult-oriented offerings and a ‘D/A for drugs and alcohol. Theyd also like it to be made compulsory to include lyric sheets with all records so parents could scan them for suitability. Examples of offensive material? Well, Prince comes pretty high on the hit list: “Id heard Prince over the radio.” says Pam Howar, another PMRC founder. “One day at the breakfast table my daughter was listening to the music, and I noticed this punk look about her. I started thinking, ‘Wed better get a pressure group together.

Quite what is signified by a “punk look” is not explained, but it has to be admitted that some of Princes lyrics are pretty, ahem, “frank” (“I met her in a hotel lobby/Masturbating with a magazine” he sings on “Darling Nikki” from the “Purple Rain” album).

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Then there is little Sheena Easton whose “Sugar Walls” (written by Prince) has upset parents sensibilities with its thinly-veiled references to sexual arousal (“I can tell you want me/You cant hide/Your bodys on fire/Come inside/My sugar walls”). Then there is Cyndi Lauper, whose 1984 hit “She Bop” is—or, at least, appears to be—about masturbation: “Huh yeah I wanna go south an get me some more/They say that a stitch in time saves nine/They say that I better stop or Ill go blind/Oh she bop she bop”.

Also cited by the PMRC as X-certificate stuff are Madonnas “Dress You Up” and Prince protogee Vanitys “Strap On Robby Baby”, but the majority of musical items on their list of unsuitable listening for minors are by heavy metal acts—things like Motley Crues “Too Young To Fall In Love” (for its violence—“Well now Im killing you/ Watch your face turning blue), Venoms “Possessed” for dabbling in the occult, and Def Leppards “High ‘n Dry” and Black Sabbaths “Trashed” for going on about drugsnbooze.

The PMRC have got as far as persuading the US Senate to hold hearings into the matter and whether LPs in the future will come festooned with Government Health Warning type stickers depend largely on the outcome of these. But what “good” will stickers and lyric sheets do? The moral guardians argue that they will assist parental guidance, their opponents insist that they will just draw peoples attention to matters that would otherwise go unnoticed. (Take Frankies “Relax”—would that ever have been such a massive hit without all the publicity surrounding its Radio One “ban”?). Blackie Lawless, lead singer of W.A.S.P.—another heavy metal band under attack—says hed actually welcome a sticker ratings system because it would “sell three times as many records for us”.

What nobody has mentioned in the debate so far is just who is to decide what is offensive material and what is not. Where song lyrics are concerned, doesnt the sauciness/horror-quotient depend to a great extent on ones personal interpretation? Who can say? The PMRC will not be diverted by such questions, however: “We will be around until there is a satisfactory solution so we can protect our children from harmful messages.”

So what do YOU think about it all? Britains Brightest Pop Magazine invites you to fill in this questionaire—because, as Hughie Green used to say on Opportunity Knocks a million years ago, YOUR VOTE REALLY COUNTS…