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If you have kids, turning on the today’s radio is a bit like playing Russian Roulette with your children’s ears – the only difference being that all but one of the chambers are full. Almost every song on the radio is filled to the brim with innuendo, drug references, and filth-flarn-filth as far as the ears can hear – and that’s just the latest track from Selena Gomez.

Kidding aside, the explosion of filth on the radio can be directly attributed to one group of individuals, whose tenacity and combined efforts sent popular music into a decency death spiral:

Guess again.

Guess again.

It was the Parent’s Music Resource Center, or the PMRC.

There you go.

There you go.

The PMRC was founded in 1985 by a group of four women known as the “Washington Wives”: Tipper Gore, Susan Baker, Pam Howar and Sally Nevius. These women were appalled by the content in the music their kids were listening to, and vowed to make sure no child would ever again be corrupted by the evil influence of pop stars like Cyndi Lauper.

Pictured: The face of true evil.

Pictured: The face of true evil.

To that end, they identified the “Filthy Fifteen“, a collection of songs so rife with lyrics about sexual innuendo, drug abuse, and violence they threatened to undo the very fabric of adolescence in one fell swoop – or worse, make yuppies have to talk about uncomfortable subjects with their kids.

I'm pretty sure that was the plot of a horror movie back in the 80s.

I’m pretty sure that was the plot of a horror movie back in the 80s.

Their efforts led to the “Parental Advisory” stickers that are plastered on all CDs today – and that’s where it all went downhill.

Prior to the creation of the PMRC, artists and musicians were forced to use another tool to ensure that their adult messages were not reaching the ears of children- creativity. Most of the more offensive content in the songs of yesteryear were veiled in metaphor, so the average child would have no idea what was being said. A kid who heard the song was like a toddler who accidentally heard cursing- he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but its damn fun to say.

After the advisory system went into effect, there was no need for artists to continue using common sense or thinking about how their music would effect impressionable youth – that was now the job of the parents. Artists were now free to say whatever they wanted, and the floodgates were now wide open.

They thought the Mary Jane Girls were bad? Wait til' they get a load of us.

They thought the Mary Jane Girls were bad? Wait til’ they get a load of us.

Tom Here. I understand, in the most abstract sense what they were trying to do, but the actual execution ends up making them look like Maud Flanders.

Their argument had two major flaws.

The first problem was the the fifteen songs they picked were pretty much random, and indicated that they knew nothing about music or filth. Ideally, when making an argument that some songs are so awful that the entire industry should be changed, you wouldn’t partially base your argument on the Mary Jane Girls single, “In My House,” or Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”

The other problem is that they knew nothing about how movies are rated. Asking music to be rated like movies are is insane. The MPAA is a hot mess. The biggest problem is that there are very little written guidelines for what content goes into what rating, so producers have to guess or use their influence to affect ratings. The previous year, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom had a scene where a heart was extracted from a living victim in a movie that was pitched to children, in the ensuing melee, a new rating (PG-13) had to be created.

This was the system they wanted to imitate. A nebulous board that rated the Transformers movie an R but G.I. Joe the Rise of Cobra a PG-13? (G.I. Joe had a bodycount of roughly 186, and was in the top five most violent film I’ve seen in the last couple years.)

Since the creation of the NC-17 rating, it is a crapshoot to figure what was an R rated movie, and what went too far. Ridley Scott’s Hannibal, where a man had his head cut open and his brains eaten by himself and others while he was still alive? R rating. It was just fine.

Trying to apply the movie ratings system to anything else is like trying make gun laws that replicate war torn Afghanistan. Actually…

This week, Tom and I will review all fifteen of these nefarious tunes, and try to understand why, for a brief time in the 80’s, people thought these songs had the potential to stain this country’s moral fabric permanently. And if, in the process, we somehow become drug-addicted, sex-crazed, bloodthirsty hooligans – we’ll know we should have listened to Tipper.

Curse you, Vanity!

Curse you, Vanity!

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