Susan Baker

Senate Statement on Rock Lyrics & Record Labeling

delivered 19 September 1985, Washington, D.C.

Audio mp3 of Address


[Warning: Contains mature themes and language]

[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

Chairman Danforth: Mrs. Baker, thank you very much for being with us. Please proceed.

Mrs. Baker: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We would like to thank you and the committee for the opportunity to testify before you.

Chairman Danforth: If you could speak directly into the microphone, thank you.

Mrs. Baker: Before I begin, I would like to introduce the president of the PMRC, Pam Howar, and our treasurer, Sally Nevius.

The Parents Music Resource Center was organized in May of this year by mothers of young children who are very concerned by the growing trend in music toward lyrics that are sexually explicit, excessively violent, or glorify the use of drugs and alcohol.

Our primary purpose is to educate and inform parents about this alarming trend as well as to ask the industry to exercise self-restraint.

It is no secret that today's rock music is [a] very important part of adolescents' and teenagers' lives. It always has been, and we don't question their right to have their own music. We think that's important. They use it to identify and give expression to their feelings, their problems, their joys, sorrows, loves, and values. It wakes them up in the morning and it's in the background as they get dressed for school. It is played on the bus. It's listened to in the cafeteria during lunch. It's played as they do their homework. They even watch it on MTV now. It's danced to at parties, and puts them to sleep at night.

Because anything that we're exposed to that much has some influence on us, we believe that the music industry has a special responsibility as the message of songs goes from the suggestive to the blatantly explicit.

As Ellen Goodman states in a recent column, "Rock Ratings" (and I quote):

The outrageous edge of rock and roll has shifted its focus from Elvis' pelvis to the saw protruding from Blackie Lawless' codpiece on a W.A.S.P. album. Rock lyrics have turned from 'I can't get no satisfaction' to 'I[m'] going to force you at gunpoint to eat me alive."

End quote.

The material we are concerned about cannot be compared with Louie Louie, Cole Porter, Billie Holliday, et cetera. Cole Porter's "the birds do it, the bees do it," can hardly be compared with W.A.S.P.', "I [f-u-c-k] like a beast." There is a new element of vulgarity, violence, and brutality to women that is unprecedented.

While a few outrageous recordings have always existed in the past, the proliferation of songs glorifying rape, sadomasochism, incest, the occult, and suicide by a growing number of bands illustrates this escalating trend that is alarming.

Some have suggested that the record[s] in question[[s]] are only a minute element in this music. However, these records are not few, and have sold millions of copies, like Prince's "Darling Nikki," about masturbation, sold over 10 million copies. Judas Priest, the one about forced oral sex at gunpoint, has sold over 2 million copies. Quiet Riot, Mental -- "Metal Health," about -- has some songs about explicit sex, over 5 million copies. Motley Crue, "Shout at the Devil," which contains violence and brutality to women, over 2 million copies.

Some say there's no cause for concern. We believe there is. Teen pregnancies and teenage suicide rates are at epidemic proportions today. The Noedecker Report states that in the U.S.A. we have the highest teen pregnancy rate of any developed country: 96 out of 1,000 teenage girls become pregnant. Rape is up 7 percent in the latest statistics. And the suicide rates of youth between 16 and 24 has gone up 300 percent in the last three decades while the adult level has remained the same.

There certainly are many causes for these ills in our society, but it's our contention that the pervasive messages aimed at children which promote and glorify suicide, rape, sadomasochism, and so on, have to be numbered among the contributing factors.

Some rock artists actually seem to encourage teen suicide. Ozzy Osbourne sings "Suicide Solution." Blue Oyster Cult sings "Don't Fear the Reaper." AC/DC sings "Shoot to Thrill." Just last week in Centerpoint, a small Texas town, a young man took his life while listening to the music of AC/DC. He was not the first.

Now that more and more elementary school children are becoming consumers of rock music, we think it's imperative to discuss this
question: What can be done to help parents who want to protect their children from these messages if they want to?

Today parents have no way of knowing the content of music products that their children are buying. While some album covers are sexually explicit or depict violence, many others give no clue as to the contents. One of the top 10 today is Morris Day and the Time, "Jungle Love." If you go to buy the album "Ice Cream Castles" to get "Jungle Love," you also get, "If the Kid Can't Make You Come, Nobody Can," a sexually explicit song.

The pleasant cover picture of the members of the band gives no hint that it contains material that's not appropriate for young consumers.

Our children are faced with so many choices today. What is available to them through the media is historically unique. The Robert Johnson study on teen environment state[s] that young people themselves often feel that they have: a) too many choices to make; b) too few structured means for arriving at decisions; and c) too little help to get there.

We believe something can be done, and Tipper Gore will discuss a possible solution.

Thank you.

Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

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