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Lost Moments in Music History: Frank Zappa's fight against the PMRC

Back when I was first forming coherent sentences, the wives of Al Gore and Strom Thurmond came together in a rare instance of bipartisan ignorance and - with the help of the National Parent-Teacher Association, Recording Industry Association of America, and family-value Christians - went apeshit over offensive lyrics in pop music. As everyone today should know, when you find a "Explicit Lyrics" sticker on your newly-bought album, you can thank Al Gore's wife, Tipper, and the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC). Thanks, gang.

That's common knowledge. What isn't widely known is that in the midst of this political hoo-ha which threatened the first amendment and the commerce clause, only a few musicians actually spoke up to make the artistic viewpoint heard in the congressional hearings before the Senate Commerce committee.

John Denver, who whined about misunderstood lyrical allusions in "Rocky Mountain High."

Dee Snider, who wimped out and said, No, no, 'Under the Blade' isn't about sadomasochism, it's a simple description of medical procedures.

And Frank Zappa...who kicked all of their asses:

At the PMRC hearings (Check out a young and sheepish Al):


On mo'f*ing Crossfire:


And debating on Charlie Rose:


Yeah, we all appreciate the DIY aspect of the '80s, the underground scenes, the new wave, and the punk sensibility that has reared its head today against the RIAA's efforts to sue the pants off every college kid. But let's give Frank some credit here. Of all the articulate, news-savvy musicians of the day, Zappa was the only one who stuck up for free speech when the PMRC threatened it. Yet to this day, he's unfairly remembered as a jam-rock Howard Stern.

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“Lost Moments in Music History: Frank Zappa's fight against the PMRC”