Our First Amendment has been challenged numerous times. Particularly in what we as Americans often use and enjoy as an escape from the stress and drama we can endure in our daily lives, which is music. And when many artists have been attacked by those assaulting our constitutional rights, they stood strong for us by defending their right, which in turn is our right. Wielding of course, the powerful weapon of music
In 1984, 1985, the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) was founded by a group of four women dubbed the “Washington Wives” due to the prominence of their husbands in Washington, D.C. Tipper Gore, wife of Senator and later Vice President Al Gore; Susan Baker, wife of Treasury Secretary and then Secretary of State James Baker; Pam Howar, wife of Washington realtor Raymond Howar; and Sally Nevius, wife of former Washington City Council Chairman John Nevius. The actions of these four power hungry women paved the way for many assaults on the music industry. Which was truly an attack on a freedom many take for granted to this day.
Prior to or around the PMRC’s creation, a tragic event occurred that led to one of the first attacks on free speech. 19-year-old John McCollum of Indio, California committed suicide on 10-26-84 with a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. Coincidentally, it was discovered the young man was listening to the song entitled Suicide Solution by Ozzy Osbourne. The parents of the teenager filed a lawsuit against Osbourne claiming the lyrics incited their son’s death. Without failing to acknowledge the teen had been suffering from drug and alcohol problems leading up to the unfortunate death. When I watched the documentary entitled Ozzy Osbourne: Don’t Blame Me, I was extremely impressed with how Ozzy and his attorney were able to point out how absurd the lawsuit was. Thomas Anderson, who was the attorney for McCollum’s parents, was what I deem as “Weak Sauce” on the subject.
Anderson used the claim of something called “Hemi-Sync” in the lyrics. Which Anderson claimed was a subliminal message inserted into the song. Citing what could be perceived as “Get the gun and shoot, shoot.” Which Anderson argued was in the lyrics. And when Ozzy spoke on the subject in Don’t Blame Me, he rebutted by basically saying it was basically mumbling in the course of singing, which can be common. As Ozzy said, “I never said get the fucking gun!” And Ozzy went on to say “The only sink I’ve ever heard of is the one you wash your fucking face in the morning.’ (Ozzy Osbourne, Don’t Blame Me)
I did Google hemi-sync since I wasn’t knowledgeable about the meaning of it or whether it really and truly does exist. It was invented back in 1974, which is the year I was born. And when Robert Monroe invented it, it was intended for meditation, not subliminal messages like Anderson ridiculously claimed. Ozzy reiterated how the song was about the late Bon Scott, former AC/DC front man dying of hypothermia from passing out drunk in his car. (Ozzy Osbourne, Don’t Blame Me)
And in 1986, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge John L. Cole dismissed the lawsuit against Ozzy citing how ruling in favor of the plaintiff would have been an attack on our First Amendment. A major miss-perception went to extremes here and many other times. I have many examples of this with solid evidence to back it up.
Twisted Sister wrote and performed a song entitled Under the Blade in 1982. The song was about Dee Snider’s guitar player pending a major throat operation. But Gore and all of her ignorant PMRC counterparts perceived the song to be about sadomaschacism and bondage. And as Dee Snider states it, “One’s own imagination will shape your perception of something.” I’ve inserted the link below so that you can hear Snider in his own words on the matter.
I myself, among many others have been guilty of misinterpreting what songs are about. The song entitled Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds written by John Lennon and performed by the Beatles in 1967 was thought to be about the drug LSD. When it actually was about a name of a drawing his four year old son at the time Julian made at school. Lennon did admit his many Acid trips did inspire the song, but that it wasn’t solely based on it. And till over a year ago, I honestly thought it was meant to be a disguised spell out for the abbreviation of the psychedelic drug. And when a dude I was working with happened to be playing it at his work station, I mentioned that the song was about the Acid. Well, he informed me that it was actually what John Lennon clarified. He had knowledge of the song when I and many others didn’t. That was a huge reiteration for me to never believe everything you hear, never assume, and always fact check. When in doubt, Snopes is a great tool to assist.
In 1985, a list was compiled by the PMRC entitled The Filthy Fifteen. It was a list of fifteen different songs by fifteen different artists that group of evil witches threatening our freedom recommended to be banned. All the different songs were based off of five different categories. They were: Sex and masturbation, sex, violence, drug and alcohol use, and occult. With one of the songs happening to be entitled We’re Not Gonna Take It by Twisted Sister. With that song perceived to be inciting violence. If that were really the case, then the song entitled Domination by Pantera is definitely inciting violence because the title is the word “domination,” which any idiot will try and say is instigating beating people up, etc. I could go on for days on end about how ignorant they are about misinterpreting song subject matter. But regardless of what a song is based on, The First Amendment protects our right to listen to or not listen to what we want to. Here’s the link of what the fifteen songs were that thankfully to say we are still free to listen to if we wish to this day.
Then yet another attack on free speech came in 1990 when the album entitled As Nasty As They Wanna Be by the rap band 2 Live Crew was banned in the state of Florida. The album was ruled to be “legally obscene” and the first in history to ever be labeled that by a court of law. Many record stores in Florida were cited for deciding to sell the album after it was banned. If a business decides to not sell a product, that is the right of the business. Not the right of the government! Hats off to Luther Campbell and his band mates for continuing the fight for our freedom by releasing the album entitled Banned In The USA. And props to Bruce Springsteen for assisting Campbell and the rest of 2 Live Crew by granting them the permission to interpolate Born in the USA to be used as the title track. But out of vengeance, that was the first album to receive that nasty black and white label in all caps that says PARENTAL ADVISORY EXPLICIT LYRICS. This later expanded to PARENTAL ADVISORY EXPLICIT CONTENT regarding album covers. When it’s clearly the job of the parents to figure out what is deemed acceptable versus unacceptable for their kids to listen to. I wonder if that paved the way for fast food to list calorie content on its product all the way up to a combo meal? It scares me to think it’s possible.
And after an appeal, 2 Live Crew won and the ban was lifted on As Nasty As They Wanna Be. And which in turn was also a victory for America. And which we as free Americans should never take for granted in the least bit. Whether you like their music or any other music that was being threatened by unconstitutional bans, the right to publish it should always be supported. I can’t get any more crystal clear than that.
In closing, our constitutional right of free speech has been challenged numerous times. And with courage and pride we have prevailed on not letting it erode away. And I most definitely applaud musicians such as Ozzy Osbourne, Dee Snider, Luther Campbell, and his band mates in 2 Live Crew for standing strong when their rights were threatened. However, we all must realize they were actually representing us all as free Americans; especially those that wore the uniform and died defending that right for us all. That is why music will continue to be a powerful weapon in defending our First Amendment.
Article Written by: Mick Potter
List of Sources
Clary, Mike October 21, 1990 Jurors Acquit 2 Live Crew in Obscenity Case
Gantt, Kareem October 18, 2014 Back in the day review: 2 Live Crew: ‘As Nasty As They Wanna Be
Murphy, Kim December 20, 1986 Suit Claiming Ozzy Osbourne Song Led To Suicide Dismissed
Brien, Jeb 1991 Ozzy Osbourne: Don’t Blame Me