Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The PMRC, Iron Maiden and hypocrisy

(Holy smokes, it's a JayG-and-Borepatch-a-lanche! Welcome, new people! Main page is here, pull up a seat and stay a while!)

I've been mulling over this post for a couple of weeks, especially since I read this post from Borepatch.

No doubt everyone who has at least a cursory knowledge of rock history knows about the shenanigans of the Parents' Music Resource Center back in the 1980s, and their witch hunt of sorts targeted at certain rock and metal musicians. I was pondering this the last couple of weeks, and thought once again of Iron Maiden.

Maiden was, of course, one of the bands the PMRC accused of promoting Satanism. If I remember right the gang accused the band of promoting Satanism with backmasking, as well as the lyrics to "Number of the Beast." I can't really speak to the backmasking thing, because, well, I never listened to an Iron Maiden record backwards. However, anyone who listens to the song "Number of the Beast" should be able to tell that the song isn't promoting Satanism. For one, the song was written about a man who ran into a satanic ritual in the woods. And for two, he wasn't making that out to be a good thing, as you know if you've heard the song:

This can't go on
I must inform the law
 In other words, he was wanting to get the hell outta Dodge and tell someone what was going on.

And I feel pretty certain that Maiden wasn't promoting Satanism even with backmasking. Why is that? Well, consider once again "Rime of the Ancient Mariner":
The curse it lives on in their eyes
The mariner he wished he'd die
Along with the sea creatures
But they lived on, so did he.

And by the light of the moon
He prays for their beauty not doom
With heart he blesses them
God's creatures all of them too.

Then the spell starts to break
The albatross falls from his neck...

The mariner's bound to tell of his story
To tell this tale wherever he goes
To teach God's word by his own example
That we must love all things that God made. 
 In other words: The mariner sees the beauty of the creatures as a creation of GOD, prays for them, and as a result good things happen to him -- namely, he finds redemption and travels about telling his tale, "teach(ing) God's word...that we must love all things that God made." Does this honestly sound to you like a recording of a band that says Satanism is the way to go?

The whole thing made the members of the PMRC and the groups supporters look extremely hypocritical, really -- especially Tipper Gore. She and Al are both big fans of the Grateful Dead, and from what I understand, way back in their day if you wanted to get yourself into a, shall we say, altered state, there were few better places to do it than at a Grateful Dead concert. And there's no way you're going to persuade me that Tipper didn't partake of any of them. So who the hell was she to condemn anyone?  They all acted as if the themes of sex, drugs and violence had only recently found their way into rock'n'roll, and that just isn't so. Consider the Rolling Stones classic "Honky Tonk Women":
I met a gin-soaked barroom queen in Memphis
She tried to take me upstairs for a ride

What kind of a ride do you think the character in that song was talking about?

How about Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit":
One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don't do anything at all
Go ask Alice
When she's ten feet tall

 Was Grace Slick really smoking an innocent little Marlboro when she penned that? Do I REALLY look that naive?

Or how about The Doors' "The End":

Father, yes son, I want to kill you
Mother...I want to...(fuck you)

No, the songs of the 1960s and '70s were certainly not all "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," not by a long shot. They were every bit as deviant as their 1980s brethren. In an ironic twist, I'd have to say the rock and metal fans of the '80s probably turned out better than the rock fans of the '60s because as far as I can tell, none (or at least fewer) of them got on their high horses about what others were listening to -- except perhaps to complain about its banality, and I do that damn near every day so all I can do is agree with them...

UPDATE: I did like how JayG pointed out the hypocrisy on the other side of the equation, that is, the Grateful Dead lending assistance to the Gores later on in their political lives after the Gores tried to put the Dead's fellow musicians out of business. As I said in comments there, you could call that the musical equivalent of the hunters throwing the semiautomatic rifle owners under the bus not thinking about the gun-banners coming after their "high-powered sniper rifles" later. Both of those are quite infuriating, yes. I am also not surprised at the media's not exposing the Gores for the hypocrites that they were; that's just the way they roll with the Democrats. Would that the PMRC had come along now, or even 5 or 10 years ago, as opposed to 1985. I am sure things would have been quite different, what with the traditional "gatekeepers" of information not having the monopoly on information disbursal that they had back then.