June 24, 2018 / 8:11 PM

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Ranking PMRC's 'Filthy 15': Madonna, Prince and More Get Dirty

 

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Tipper Gore and a group of other (socially) conservative and influential women gathered 30 years ago to organize the PMRC (or Parents Music Research Center) after listening to the travesty that was Prince's "Darling Nikki." That organization has become the face of the censorship movement in the United States, ruining good album artwork and antagonizing Eminem, Marilyn Manson, Frank Zappa and others for three decades now. When it formed, the group issued a list titled the "Filthy 15," listing tracks that it considered especially repulsive. Music Times is ranking those first 15 songs in terms of potential for wrecking lives, from Madonna to Prince.

From least problematic to most:

15) "We're Not Gonna Take It" by Twisted Sister

If any song goes to show how off-base the complaints of the PMRC were from the beginning, Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" sums it up best. The song, which calls for the people to demand the most from its government (ironic, considering that the PMRC received government funding), was cited for "violence." Frontman Dee Snider loudly derided the committee during the initial Senate hearings on censorship. It's since been used in Extended Stay America commercials, for context.

14) "Dress You Up" by Madonna

Madonna has never been one to dodge controversy, which makes it somewhat surprising that "Dress You Up" was the most spicy part of her catalogue that the PMRC could identify. Yes, we realize that "dress you up in my love" is a reference to sex, but musicians have been making more bawdy remarks for 60 years leading up to that point in history. In terms of innuendos, "Dress You Up" is on the family-friendly side of things.

13) "High 'n' Dry (Saturday Night)" by Def Leppard

Admittedly, if the government should be cracking down on any subject matter in music, it should be the promotion for casual abuse of alcohol and drugs...as that's something children can easily take literally. That said, censoring every alcohol reference would also make the work of the PMRC much more difficult. Casual tales of a long night at the bar don't exactly smack of the need for censorship, and frankly, Kenny Chesney has written more hardcore songs about booze than Def Leppard does here.

12) "She Bop" by Cyndi Lauper

Again, every listener above the age of 15 realizes that Cyndi Lauper is referencing masturbation when she leads into her chorus of "she bop, she bop." That said, it's a far less racist way of doing so than The Vapors' "Turning Japanese." Not to mention, music could use more support for masturbation. A lot of the booze-and-sex narratives of the country/hip-hop genres borders on casual sexual assault. Lauper isn't hurting anyone here.

11) "Possessed" by Venom

This song probably frightens casual listeners more than any other entry to the "Filthy 15," but one has to wonder how dangerous it really is. Venom talks about being the left-hand of Satan, about "drinking of the beast" and other bizarre, gothic rituals, but at what point does that become dangerous? If you take a chapter from Harry Potter that deals strictly with Voldemort, is that any more innocuous than a British metal band? Probably not. It's just too fantastical to consider a serious threat to society.

10) "In My House" by The Mary Jane Girls

This is like, the unrated deleted scenes that would appear on the "Dress You Up" DVD. The Mary Jane Girls tell the listener that they're happy to please their man sexually, and will excitedly tackle any fantasy he might come up with. Not that they list any of those fancies, Fifty Shades of Grey-style. The only difference between this and the Madonna track above is that the word "sexually" is used. If anything, the band should draw some parental concern for the probably marijuana reference in the band's title.

09) "Let Me Put My Love Into You" by AC/DC

We're sure that the PMRC had a headache after reviewing the AC/DC discography to find the best, most "offensive" sexual innuendo to apply to the "Filthy 15." The band has made a career out of coming up with bawdy song titles that get dads and high-schoolers alike to chuckle at. Some other examples from Back in Black: "Givin' The Dog A Bone" and "You Shook Me All Night Long." Hell, Brian Johnson is even ASKING for permission in this song title. It should be an ideal formula for legal hookup procedure, not a censored item.

08) "Eat Me Alive" by Judas Priest

We're entering a part of the list where every song deals with pretty much the same subject matter: sexual behavior, in differing levels of detail. "Eat Me Alive" is apparently the most dangerous song from a band that wrote the song "Breaking The Law," with lyrics such as "your wild vibrations / got me shooting from the hip." This is somewhat pornographic material to be sure, best kept away from grade-schoolers perhaps. Just imagine how horrified Tipper and co. would have been if they had known at the time that Priest frontman Rob Halford was gay (don't think Democrats have always been on the pro-gay marriage train).

07) "Sugar Walls" by Sheena Easton

Alright, we feel bad as supposedly mature members of society, but "Sugar Walls" by Sheena Easton is bad. Bad as in, this songwriting is comedically over-the-top...not necessarily bad in its sexual explicitness. The single operates more as a map of Easton's genitals-as-the-Emerald-City. The houses are silver, the streets are gold and the walls, of course, are sugar. We were chuckling at first and shaking our head but when she said "blood races to your private spots," your correspondent cracked up laughing and drew nasty glares to his desk. Again, apologies.

06) "Strap On Robbie Baby" by Vanity

Please, please don't make us explain this song title to you. It needs to be clarified that the titular "Robbie" is an actual human being, and not the name of the device referenced throughout the song. The mechanical activity of said device is somewhat uncomfortable to hear described, but the only thing that truly offends us is Vanity implying that we require help in the bedroom (pouty face).

05) "Darling Nikki" by Prince

Ah, the one that started it all. It's as if Prince was reading the earlier entries on this list when determining how he could push this single over the top of all of them. Nikki is a class-A offender before the end of the first verse. The vocalist finds her masturbating, in the middle of a hotel lobby no less (public indecency!). By verse two he's gone back to her place for coffee, where she shows off her collection of "so many devices." Again, it's just sex—and Prince isn't too explicit with his terminology—but the Purple One put forth the effort so we'll give him a high ranking.

04) "Into The Coven" by Mercyful Fate

Mercyful Fate comes from the same school of thought as Venom, but "Into The Coven" packs a little more punch than "Possessed." One thing that occurs during the listener's conversion to Satanism during "Coven" that Venom never touches on: murder. Apparently you've got to kill someone/something to join the club. The listener is also told to strip down to the nude during this song, but that just seems like semantics when becoming a minion of the dark one.

03) "Animal (F*ck Like A Beast)" by W.A.S.P.

For all of the sexual "indecency" featured in the aforementioned songs, only one band on the PMRC's hit list actually used the word "f*ck" to describe the experience. Kids rarely understand sexual innuendo, but they'll always repeat words they hear on the radio or read on a single. So we understand the need to keep track "F*ck Like A Beast" away from them until high school at least. The band's name could mean any number of controversial things, from "White Anglo-Sexual Protestant" (a term popular with racial organizations such as the Klan) to "we are sexual perverts," another real suggestion that's been thrown out. The band has remained mum on the true meaning of the acronym.

02) "Trashed" by Black Sabbath

Def Leppard didn't really crack the surface of what was possible with the abuse of drugs and alcohol. It's odd that it would take Black Sabbath, a band more likely to be associated with Satanism, to truly demonstrate how problematic booze could be...and it wasn't even the rendition of Sabbath featuring Ozzy Osbourne. Instead, former Deep Purple frontman Ian Gillan uses the song "Trashed" to discuss a night out on the town where, after drinking a bottle of tequila, he takes his car more than 100 miles-per-hour down some train tracks. He gets into a car accident and...goes right back to the bar.

01) "Bastard" by Motley Crue

Name a vice and there's a decent chance that Motley Crue has made a hit out of it: sex ("Girls, Girls, Girls"), drugs ("Dr. Feelgood") and maybe even devil-worship ("Shout At The Devil"). Although "Smokin' In The Boys Room" has the potential to scar the youth of a high school student, the band's less renowned single "Bastard" is probably the worst, threatening to stab, "blow off his head" and do a number of other grisly actions before you "consider that bastard dead." At least there's some sort of Y.O.L.O. attitude with the rest of Crue's hits...this song from early in its career comes across as a tad more deranged and problematic.

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