Parents Music Resource Center
The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) was an American committee 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. Although the PMRC had not objected to any of Zappa's work he campaigned against their plans and appeared before the Senate committee discussing the issue.
In late December 1984 Tipper Gore purchased a copy of Prince's chart topping album "Purple Rain" for her 11 year old daughter Karenna. The song Darling Nikki with its references to sexual deviancy upset the family:
“At first, I was stunned — then I got mad! Millions of Americans were buying Purple Rain with no idea what to expect. Thousands of parents were giving the album to their children”
In the new year she raised her concerns with acquaintances who agreed that rock music put the moral development of their children at risk. To counter the perceived threat of what was termed Porn Rock they formed the PMRC on May 13, 1985. Financed by Mike Love of the Beach Boys and Joseph Coors of Coors Beers and offered support by religious groups such as Pastor Jeff Ling, Pat Robertson and Robert Demoss, Jr. of Teen Vision, Pittsburgh.
The four women founding the committee were known as the "Washington Wives" - a reference to their husbands' connections with government in the Washington DC: 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.
Zappa later gave his view of their founding:
"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."
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, with his wholesome clean-cut image, may speak in support of the PMRC's proposals but he spoke against the PMRC and resolutely objected to any form of censorship and likened the proposals to Nazi book burnings.
There was a response to the PMRC's proposals by the music industry but Zappa was dismissive of their efforts and, at his own expense, initiated his own 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.
- Tipper Gore, Raising PG kids in an X-rated society. 1987, Bantam Books.
- Ling quoting objectionable lyrics was used on Porn Wars Deluxe.
- Frank Zappa, The Real Frank Zappa Book
- Dee Snider on PMRC Hearing: ‘I Was a Public Enemy’, Rolling Stone, September 18, 2015
- The Musical Majority organised by Danny Goldberg which included the likes of Hall & Oates, The Pointer Sisters and John Melloncamp.