|It all started on a December morning in 1984. Tipper and her daughter Karenna returned from a shopping trip, where Tipper bought a copy of the soundtrack to the movie, Purple Rain. When they got home, they immediately put the CD on the stereo. But when they listened to track five of the CD, "Darling Nikki," the Gores heard graphic references to masturbation and according to Tipper, "I was stunned, then I got mad." (Gore, Mary 3)
Tipper Gore then began watching several music videos with her daughter, including Van Halen's "Too Hot For Teacher," the Scorpions, "Rock You Like A Hurricane," and Motley Crue's "Looks That Kill." (Nuzum "Parental") She was shocked at the amount of sex and violence in these videos. She said, "The images frightened my children, they frightened me! The graphic sex and the violence were too much for us to handle." (Moran 40) So as the wife of the senator from Tennessee, she talked to several of her friends, including Susan Baker and eight other wives of influential Washingtonians and eventually formed the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) (Riley). According to Tipper Gore, the PMRC was formed to alert the public of "the growing trend in music towards lyrics that are sexually explicit, excessively violent, or glorify the use of drugs and alcohol." (Gore, Tipper 68)
The PMRC held the view that rock music contributes to the growing trend of rape (up 7%) and suicide between the age of 16 and 24 (up 300%) over the past three decades. (Gore, Mary 20) Nevertheless, it does recognize that there are more causes for these growing trends. According to the PMRC, the link between rock music and suicide is evident, because "some rock artists actually seem to encourage teen suicide." (Gore, Tipper 9) The PMRC used three songs, Ozzie Osbourne's "Suicide Solutions," Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear The Reaper," and AC/DC's "Shoot To Thrill," to support their claim. (Nuzum "FTC...")
According to Tipper Gore, "this change in popular culture co-existed with the breakdown of the nuclear family. When the nuclear family started to decay, there was also a breakdown in the immunization system to evil. Since children today lack the stable family structure of past generations, they are more vulnerable to role models and authority figures outside established patriarchal institutions. I see the family as a haven of moral stability, while popular music - e.g. rock music - is a poisonous source infecting the youth of the world with messages they cannot handle." (Gore, Mary 24)
The PMRC's first order of business was to write an official letter to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), calling for the industry to "exercise voluntary self-restraint perhaps by developing guidelines and/or a rating system, such as that of the movie industry." (Holland "Stickering...") The letter was signed by the wives of twenty influential Washington businessmen and politicians. At least four of those politicians sat on committees that were due to hear arguments for the Home Recording Act, which, if passed, would prevent people from home taping music and music videos. (Benesch) The RIAA believed that the industry was losing millions of dollars a year in unpurchased products. So with that on the line, the RIAA were very intrested in the PMRC's proposal. Five months later, more than 150 newspapers and several popular television shows were talking about the music controversy. ("Censorship and the..." 23) Later in 1985, the PMRC released the "Filthy Fifteen" a list of music and artists which represented the type of music they wanted to see banned. The entire list can be found in the Filthy 15 section. ("Censorship and the..." 15)
Upon hearing the news, the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) first called on the music industry to "put a label on record, tape, and cassettee owners rating the material contained within and require that such a rating would read profanity, sex, violence, or vulgarity." (Waliszewski) The National PTA stressed that "all we want to do is take the element of surprise out of buying an album." (Radio Free World) Only 7 of the 62 record companies invited to discuss the issue responded at all and not a single company agreed to do so. (DesRoisers 16)
The goal of the PMRC was pretty simple. The more media attention, the more pressure it put on the RIAA. According to a 1985 issue of the Washington Post, Susan Baker and Tipper Gore relesaed the six demands they had:
1. Print lyrics on album covers.
2. Keep explicit covers under the counter.
3. Establish a ratings system for records similar to that for films.
4. Establish a ratings system for concerts.
5. Reassess the contracts of performers who engage in violence and explicit sexual behavior onstage.
6. Establish a citizen and record-company media watch that would pressure broadcasters not to air "questionable-talent."
(Nuzum "Parental" 22)
Shortly after their demands were printed in the Washington Post, the Reverend Jimmy Swaggert began pressuring retailers to stop carrying rock music. (Nuzum "Parental") As a result, Wal-Mart, J.C. Penney's, Sears, and even Fred Meyer stores across the country started pulling all of their rock music and rock magazines from their shelves. (Benesch 42)