Revisiting the PMRC “Filthy 15”


Way back in the mid 1980’s the country was not in the middle of a government shutdown.  In fact, there was so much active people in politics they had the free time to go after music. If you’ve ever seen a Parental Advisory sticker on a record, cassette, or CD this is the genesis of that. Tipper Gore, wife of then Senator Al Gore, didn’t like a song that her daughters were singing. That inspired her and other wives to form the PMRC, Parents Music Resource Center. They went after hit songs that were offensive and shouldn’t be heard by children. Songs glorifying sex, violence, drugs, and the occult.  Songs from such popular at the time artists like Cyndi Lauper, Prince, and ummm Mercyful Fate, Venom, WASP.

Wait a minute.

Some of these songs were released in 1983 and I’ll be discussing them over a series of posts. A common theme throughout is how much money every one of these artists made thanks to making the list of the Filthy 15, the 15 worse of the worse songs. By labeling them as unfit for children, they succeeded in making them irresistible to that audience.

Other than Prince, which was the initial inspiration for their cause, the entire list is a dart board of selections. Who would come to the rescue of Twister Sister or Motley Crue? No one. That’s why other artists from 1983 (and subsequent years) weren’t singled out. “We’ve Got Tonight” is about two strangers shacking up for the night because they have no other options. A song that encourages one night stands and sex out of wedlock, yet a song that also was #40 for the year and sung by Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton.

The number one song of the year, “Every Breath You Take” by the Police, is about an obsessed stalker. Yet the song was the biggest of the year due to people misinterpreting it as a love song. This continued into 1997 when Puff Daddy sampled it for “I’ll Be Missing You”.

There may be those reading this who think I’m taking songs out of context. Which I am, because that’s also what the PMRC did. Prince makes sense in context. Motley Crue’s selection was taken out of context. Mercyful Fate has a concept album which didn’t come across to them.

Tune in as I defend music and maybe you’ll discover a new (old) treasure.

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