Parents Music Resource Center

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The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) was an American committee formed on May 13, 1985 with the stated goal of increasing parental control over the access of children to music deemed to have violent, drug-related or sexual themes via labeling albums with Parental Advisory stickers. The committee was founded by four women known as the "Washington Wives"—a reference to their husbands' connections with government in the Washington, D.C. area. The women who founded the PMRC are Tipper Gore, wife of Senator and later Vice President Al Gore; Susan Baker, wife of Treasury Secretary James Baker; Pam Howar, wife of Washington realtor Raymond Howar; and Sally Nevius, wife of former Washington City Council Chairman John Nevius. The PMRC eventually grew to include 22 participants before shutting down in the mid-to-late 1990s.

"The background history of the Parents Music Resource Center, or PMRC, would take up more space than it's worth to spell out in detail. There are several 'historical accounts' from which to choose. Let's arbitrarily choose this one:

One day in 1985, Tipper Gore, wife of the Democratic Senator from Tennessee, bought her eight- year-old daughter a copy of the soundtrack album to Prince's Purple Rain -- an R-rated film which had already generated considerable controversy for its sexual content. For some reason, however, she was shocked when their daughter pointed out a reference to masturbation in a song called "Darling Nikki."

Tipper rounded up a bunch of her Washington housewife friends, most of whom happened to be married to influential members of the U.S. Senate, and founded the PMRC."[1]

PMRC letter

The PMRC started contacting companies in the music business and wrote to the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) who were responsible for 85% of the total sales of recorded music in the U.S. The RIAA response was to initially reject all of the PMRC’s demands, invoking First Amendment rights of the free exercise of speech. However, on August 5, 1985, RIAA President Stanley Gortikov sent a letter to PMRC President Pam Howar agreeing that the RIAA would be placing warning sticker on future albums that contained songs with explicit lyrical content. The sticker would read: “Parental Guidance: Explicit Lyrics.” Zappa responded by writing "Extortion, Pure and Simple" - An Open Letter to the Music Industry for Cashbox magazine. This was followed by a letter to the President on 29th August 1985.

On 19th September 1985 Zappa attended the Senate Commerce, Technology and Transportation Committee hearing to discuss the PMRC's proposal (five of the Committee's members had wives in the PMRC). Zappa was joined by Dee Snider and John Denver. They would all make statements to the committee. Zappa and Snider were concerned that Denver may speak in support of the PMRC's proposals[2] but he spoke against the PMRC and resolutely objected to any form of censorship and likened the proposals to Nazi book burnings.

Introductory Z/PAC letter

At his own expense Zappa initiated his campaign against the proposed classification of recordings. He distributed the Z/PAC which contained a typical PMRC letter, the letter Zappa had written to the President and the Cashbox editorial piece. As the campaign progressed the contents would vary.


Zappa's statement video

Denver's statement video

Snider's statement video

The whole 4 hours 55 minutes session video


See also