Censorship of Music

Censorship of Music

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Censorship of Music


During the Doors concert in Miami, in 1969, lead singer Jim Morrison,
"did lewdly and lasciviously expose his penis and shake it. . ." (Rosen et al.
90). Today, Billy Joe Armstrong, lead singer of Green Day, bares all at his
concert in Philadelphia (Bernstein 95). The eccentric Courtney Love will rip
off her bra for the audience to marvel and glorify at her action (Bernstein 95).
She acts in such a fashion because she is insane and wants to prove it to the
world, where as Billy Joe just performs naked for the shock value and the love
of hearing tabloids and gossip. Both performers of past and present conducted
strange acts on stage for the shock value and attention, but with performers of
old, it reflected their life and what they were really like. Today's performers,
however, do not act like that in real life, for the most part. Today,
performers take on challenges, like the dare of a child. . . "Betcha won't do
it!" These rock performers cannot turn down a dare or back away from even the
slightest bit of public notoriety. By listening to one of their
"questionable" albums, it is easily noticeable how they thrive off of it. All
of these performers do have one thing in common, at one time or another,
censorship made them victims because of their social unacceptable actions or
the content of their music and lyrics. While censorship is slightly more
realistic and open-minded (no more censoring performers from the waist down,
like Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan show), it still affects listeners and
their choice of music quite significantly. Although the government, music
associations, and other various groups try censorship, the music a person
chooses is still, and always should be, his choice.

Some children are too young for the exposure to certain types of music. Albums
containing sexually explicit lyrics depicting sexualacts in great detail are
not good for young children to hear. Also, sexual content within the albums, as
in their artwork, is unacceptable. For example, the Frankenchrist album by the
Dead Kennedys, which portrays an extremely sexual painting by H.G. Giger,
entitled Landscape #20: Where Are We Coming From (Wishna 444). Not to mention
all the shows and concerts in which some kind of pornography is used or
displayed that is inappropriate for younger kids, such as Billy Joe Armstrong,
of Green Day, baring all for a concert of his in Philadelphia (Bernstein 95).
Also, in Cleveland, a frustrated Courtney Love tore off her bra and screamed,
"Now you know how I get all the guys," (Bernstein 95).

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Most parents would not
allow their children to attend a concert with actions such as Courtney Love's.
These actions and paintings, however, are choices of the musicians, part of
their expression.

Who are we to say what is wrong and what is right? Parents are not always aware
of the references to sex in their children's music choices. Most parents would
not allow their children to listen to the music if they knew it consisted of
lyrical references to masturbation, orgasms, sodomy, and anal vapors (Zucchino
9). An example is the hit song, "Sugar Walls," by Sheena Easton which makes
references to orgasms: "The blood races to your private spots. . . come spend
the night inside my sugar walls," (Zucchino 9). "Feel the hot cum dripping on
your thigh," from "Tie You Up" by the Rolling Stones, is also a reference to
orgasms (Zucchino 9). Not to mention an excerpt from the 1983 song "Fits Like
A Glove" by Kiss, "when I go through her, it's just like a hot knife through
butter," (Zucchino 9). When the majority of people (children) listen to these
types of music, they do not sit and analyze the lyrics and say, "Gee, this
sure is quite sexual music." No, people listen to the music because they enjoy
the style, and most realize the sexual content of this music is not to be taken
so seriously. Lastly, an piece from Mentors' "Golden Showers" on their You
Axed For It LP:

Listen little slut /Do as you are told. . . /Come with Daddy for me
to put the gold. . . /All through my excrements you shall roam. . . /Bend up and
smell my anal vapor. . . /Your face is my toilet paper. . . /On your face I
leave a shit tower. . . (Zucchino 9). Most songs and lyrics are not quite this
extreme.

In addition, there are the songs which contain references to sex crimes mainly
against women. The PMRC produced lyrical references to the Senate on September
19, 1985 (Zucchino 9). The songs usually consist of either rape, incest, or
bondage. Two examples of these styles are: "incest is everything it's meant to
be," from the song "Sister" by the artist formerly known as Prince (Zucchino
9); and the Judas Priest song "Eat Me Alive" : "I'm gonna force you at gun
point to eat me alive," (Zucchino 9). Most men who hear this misogamist music
do not go out and commit crimes against women. Men realize that committing
such a crime against women could have serious consequences. Certain people
believe that censorship is violating the First Amendment, but it is highly
doubtable that the framers of the First Amendment thought that the amendment
would be used to protect such filth, so that it may be broadcasted into our
homes. What the framers wrote, however, is already "in stone." The amendment
means exactly what it says, people have the right to speak their minds and
express how they feel, and others cannot stop them.

Rap, as all music, has its positives and negatives, but it is not as awful as
people seem to think. The problem of urban violence is much bigger than rap,
and rap should not be named as its main cause (Leland 64). The real problems
are outside the music, not within it. Hard-core rappers are only telling what
life is really like in the ghettos and hoods. Rappers would not have the gangs
and gang violence to sing about, if police started abolishing gangs and gang
warfare (Leland 64). Rappers speak the truth about where they are from and if
people do not like it, they blame it on the rappers (Leland 64). People could
at least put blame where blame is due, the law enforcement agencies.

The arrests of Tu Pac Shakur, Snoop Doggy Dog, and Flavor Flav show what little
effect rap actually has in the real world (Leland 64). These people should be
the classic American success story: young unknown men, who through a lot of
hard work and talent, rose to be the millionaire with the mansion on the hill.
Ironically, most rappers do not own a mansion; they choose to stay where their
roots are, which is usually the slums, ghettos, or inner part of whatever city
they are from (Leland 64). The fact that they stay with their roots proves
that they do not all forget where they came from and who helped bring them
along through the rough times. Obviously, some of them actually do care about
their roots and the people that helped them get where they are today; and they
are not all corrupt.

Snoop Doggy Dogg really is not the sinister, awful person his critics make him
out to be. (He received this rap by being an ex-gang member. Also, because of
the content of his lyrics, the critics labeled him "bad.") About four years ago,
Snoop (real name Calvin Broadus) called up Richard Harris, minister of Golgotha
Trinity Baptist Church (coincidentally where he learned to sing in the
children's choir), just to recite a Biblical rap about grace, Jesus, and coming
down from the cross (Leland 64). Snoop's music is not intended to cause people
to go out and kill people and steal and do drugs. Instead, it is intended to
make people STOP committing violent crimes. Taneika Archer, 17, an African-
American girl, believes this about Snoop Doggy Dogg:

He tells it like it's supposed to be told. People will always try to bring you
down no matter what you do. It's the same with Dolly Parton and her big breasts.
He's not trying to be something he ain't. If he said he wasn't a gangster,
he'd be lying. They [gangster rappers] talk like that to look hard. They don't
actually treat people that way. Most girls won't let them." (Leland 63-64).

Snoop described his idea of the perfect happy day:

I want peace on the street like it was 4/29/92-" the day Los Angeles gangs
called a truce- "That shit felt good. Bloods, crips, everybody just chill'n. I
ain't never felt that before, being able to go to the neighbor-hoods where they
restrict you because you wear this color and they wear that color. Everybody was
together. That's what my music's going for- to stop you banging for a second.
Listen to my music and get on another vibe." (Leland 64). While rap is not the
devil, it is also not perfect either. Dr. Dre's reputation could use a little
doctoring itself. His top hits, "Deep Cover," main chorus read, " It's 1-8-7
on an undercover cop": 187 is Los Angeles cop talk and rap slang for homicide.
The song's main topic (yet again) consisted of killing a cop (Leland 63). The
line, "if your bitches talk shit, I have to put the smack down," seemed quite
arresting and ironic coming from Dr. Dre because he just settled a law suit
for allegedly beating up Dee Barnes, a rap television host (Leland 63). Public
Enemy's Chuck D and Ice Cube defend their lyrics by stating that the lyrics
depict real inner city life and ghetto realities and black consciousness in
ways that have never been documented before (Lewis n. pag.). Ice Cube said
that the song "Black Korea" describes life with Koreans in a black community.
He believes that Blacks do not like the Koreans and vice-versa. There is much
hatred shared between both groups (Lewis n. pag.). So, in the song he raps
about killing the Koreans because they cannot live in the black community. He
also raps how they take away money and jobs from the black people because of
their stores, mainly grocery stores (Lewis n. pag.). For this, the Korean
grocers boycotted the malt liquor of the McKenzie River corporation that Ice
Cube endorsed. The company then turned around to bounce Ice Cube from the ads
and donated $90,000 to the Korean grocers (Lewis n. pag.).

Some people are "waking up" and finally taking a stance against it. The KACE-
FM radio station out of Los Angeles has banned all songs degrading women or
promoting drugs or violence (Leland 64).The Reverend Calvin Butts, a high
profile minister of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, has mounted a
crusade against "offending" (rap) music (Leland 64). Last summer he held a rally
where he ran over tapes and compact discs of " offending" material with a
steamroller (Leland 64). The Reverend Jesse Jackson added policing rap part of
his campaign against black-on-black crime. Even Rap Sheet, a hip-hop fanzine,
has taken a stand by banning all album and artist ads featuring guns (Leland 64).
These people care enough to speak up for what they believe and some of them
actually know what they are talking about.

Nathan McCall, a reporter for the Washington Post, knows all too well the
influence of violence in the entertainment (Leland 64). He served nearly three
years in jail for armed robbery in the mid seventies (Leland 64). He recalled
the exhilaration of shooting someone as a teenager, and being intoxicated with
the rush of living out and fulfilling the life he watched on the screen in The
Godfather (Leland 64). The influence of violent entertainment on teenagers is
something he takes quite seriously. One reason, according to him, that the
black community ignores some of the harsh language is because it reflected the
backlash and anger of young, disenchanted black folk, but then evolved into
something else (Leland 64). Also, he feels that we should acknowledge the
"obvious" correlations between the constant, negative, violent messages that
are being put out by rap and violence in the world (Leland 64). He realizes
that some people take the rap they listen to very seriously and just wants to
warn people of why and how these boys can sing about such violence and
destruction.

Some options for the awareness of music and its content have been and could
possibly be made public, making censorship unnecessary. In 1985, the Parents'
Music Resource Center, better known as the PMRC, managed to pressure eight
percent of the music industry (twenty-four companies) into placing a PG rating
onto music of uncertain content (Zucchino 9). More pressuring enabled them to
persuade companies to print the lyrics in some albums of uncertain content
(Zucchino 9). Also, the television plays a very strong role in society, so it
could be used as a very strong medium. People complain about the filth that
fills the air-time of television, but if some of the time consisted of alerting
parents of certain parental issues, such as music and the different types and
styles of music, then people could not complain as much. Not all choices for
awareness are possible though.

Certain styles of censorship cannot be enforced for many reasons. Unlike the
movie industry, records and albums cannot be rated the way movies are because
approximately 25, 000 songs are released every year in comparison to only about
325 movies per year (Zucchino 9). Although the idea of printing lyrics in the
albums and cassettes has the endorsement of the great Frank Zappa and John
Denver, this is not possible (Zucchino 9) . The record companies, who print the
albums, do not own the rights to the lyrics, the music companies do (Zucchino
9). Providing printed lyrics to radio stations cannot be done for the same
reason (Zucchino 9). Because of FCC regulations, the music a station chooses
to air cannot be controlled, let alone how often the music is played (Zucchino
9). Lewd or otherwise, actions of rock performers at their concerts, cannot be
controlled because only the performers can control their actions (Zucchino 3).
A rock concert cannot be rated for content because the content of the
happenings is not known until after the concert has occurred (Zucchino 3).
Placing "questionable" albums behind the counter or wrapping them in a plain
brown package would jeopardize a retailer's business, therefore they refuse to
do that (Zucchino 3). Parents place too much responsibility on society for
establishing what is morally and socially acceptable and not acceptable in
music. If they are wary of the actions at a concert or of the lyrics their
children are listening to, then obviously the best censorship is parental
awareness (Zucchino 3). Getting more involved with their children and learning
what their tastes consist of, is much better than society doing it (Editors 10).
If society becomes too involved, it will take away parental responsibility.
Then gradually (perhaps) parents could become virtually meaningless.

Most definitely the music industry cannot "refrain from the use of hidden
messages or backward masking" for a few reasons (Zucchino 3). First of all, the
industry does not have and cannot take the time to play each song of every
album released backwards and analyze the lyrics and music, scrutinizing for
these so called "hidden messages" and "lewd meanings" (Zucchino 3). Secondly,
the writers of music would also have to do this and they are more concerned with
placing their album onto the market than with acknowledging the content of the
lyrics within their albums. (Zucchino 3). Finally, most executives have never
even experienced such things. Even Stanley Gortikov, president of the
Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), claims he has never heard of
or heard an example of these "hidden backwards messages" in all of his twenty-
five years in the business (Zucchino 3). Most of the general public has not
ever heard of these either.

Fuji Tape conducted a survey of young Americans between the ages of eighteen
and twenty-four asking whether or not anyone has the right to control what
prerecorded music is bought or sold. Seventy percent of those surveyed believe
that no one has the right to control what prerecorded music is bought or sold.
Of those who did reply yes, twenty-six percent would give it to local or state
governments, twenty-five percent to record companies, and eighteen percent
would give it to the federal government ("Youth Will Be Heard " 4). This study
shows that most people realize how unnecessary censorship actually is. There are
numerous reasons why censorship is unnecessary and unwanted . Only nine
percent of buyers of censoring-type music are between the ages of ten and
fourteen (Zucchino 9). Parents seemingly enjoy complaining about the trashy
music their children listen to, but if parents feel that strongly about it,
they should check the music their children purchase either before or after
their children purchase the album (preferably before) (Editors 10). People and
musicians alike, agree that it violates the first amendment, " freedom of
speech" (Rosen et al. 10). Since most of the lyrics to that type of music are
inaudible anyway, what is the point? (Editors 10). These supposedly, awful,
"backward messages" would be very hard to detect because approximately ninety-
five percent of music players cannot play things backwards (Editors 10). By
stating such a thing, advocates of censorship suggest that when played
backwards, secret messages are unearthed that normally would not be heard when
music is played like it should be played. The censorship action of taking the
music off the shelves takes away the privilege of buying that music for people
who have different values and who want to listen to that music. If the music
bothers someone, turn it off; if the album offends someone, complain to the
band or ignore them; if a video disgusts someone, change the channel. The
options for censorship are there, use them. Not every person in the world is a
moral freak. The government takes censorship too far because most of the
senator's wives are members or "associates" of PMRC. In most music stores,
listening booths have been erected in order for customers to listen to the
music before purchasing it, so that they did not buy "objectionable" music or
music that they personally found offensive. Also, radio stations cannot please
everyone all the time. Meaning that some of the music played might be
objectionable to some, but everyone's thoughts and ideas on "objectionable"
music differ. Therefore making it virtually impossible to please the entire
public at the same time. Not all alternatives to censorship are inept and
unreasonable. "Toning down" lyrics is an option to musicians, especially big-
time sellers. Maybe if more parental involvement became incorporated in their
children's lives, which includes music, the need for censorship would decrease.
Labels placed on albums acknowledging the use of explicit or vulgar language
alert people who prefer not to hear those sort of words. Printing the lyrics
inside the albums was also a suggestion made to musicians. Musicians might
also start to consider the majority age group in which they are popular, and if
the group is of younger ages, nine to fourteen, for them to consider the "moral
health of children in America" when writing lyrics. Lastly, if what the
listener is listening to does not appease them, the off and stop buttons are
there for a purpose. If the radio is a problem, turning the station will do
just fine.

Most ratings and labels are unnecessary evils we have to live with. Musicians
feel these will eventually lead to more and more censorship, such as taking
away the first amendment rights and telling them they may not sing certain
lyrics because it is "offensive" or rated R. As quoted way back in 1985, Frank
Zappa feels it:

Opens the door to and endless parade of moral quality-control programs based on
Things Certain Christians Don't Like. What if the next bunch of Washington's
Wives demands a large yellow J based on the material written and performed by
Jews. . .? (Zucchino 9).

During the summer of 1985, the women of PMRC, managed to get eight percent of
the music industry to place PG labels on albums with lyrics or pictures thought
to be sexually explicit and/or promoting violence, suicide, rape, the occult,
or drug abuse. (Eight percent is about twenty-four companies) (Zucchino 9).
The label reads :"Parental Advisory - Explicit Lyrics," (Zucchino 1). As if the
PG rating was not enough, the PMRC felt it had been watered down too much. So
they asked that it be raised to R (Zucchino 9). Also, because they already had
the PG label they wanted, they felt they could get more, so they tried for four
additional labels: D/A for drugs and alcohol, V for violence, O for occult, and
X for vulgar and explicit language (Zucchino 9). Plus, they wanted a panel of
all industry types [such as artists, songwriters, executives, producers,
distributors, broadcasters, retailers, et cetra] and consumers to draw the
guidelines of what qualifies for this rating, instead of the people who
actually write these "dirty records" (Zucchino 8).

Stanley Gortikov, president of the Recording Industry Association of America
(RIAA), suggested that the PMRC develop its own rating system for songs, lyrics,
and albums, as the Catholic Church had done for movies (Zucchino 3). He felt
insulted that the PG rating was shoved back into his face as not being good
enough. Even the PG rating was "approached with trepidation," and yet they had
the audacity to push and push for more. A "review panel" in itself is a first-
stage form of "ad hoc censorship," to him. After two meetings with the PMRC
women, Gortikov had been pressured into trying to get ALL recording companies
to place the PG rating label on certain albums (Zucchino 8). For that, Frank
Zappa, Dee Strider (lead singer of Twisted Sister), and Danny Goldberg ( a rock
manager and lyric libertarian), accused Gortikov of "caving in" to PMRC
(Zucchino 8). The PMRC realizing that it was strongly influencing Gortikov,
took advantage of that and pushed for further extensive ratings (Zucchino 8).
Ratings ultimately provide no benefit to the children they are meant to protect.
In fact, they seriously threaten the artists' freedom of expression and
everyone's freedom of choice (Editors 13). Currently, songs identified as
"objectionable" contain sexual, violent, or occult imagery or lyrics. But once
the restriction of language, for any reason, becomes possible, that could be
extended to include politically unorthodox lyrics (Editors 13).

Radicals and people who believe they can change the country constantly try to
convince the American public that censorship is a very good thing and it is
"healthy." People were born with minds for a reason, to use them and make
choices for themselves. Censoring music takes away that whole purpose. If we
had been born without brains and not able to make choices for ourselves, then
maybe censorship might be necessary. Ratings, labels, and censoring in any
form are all unnecessary evils that society needs to relinquish, besides that, a
brain's purpose for creation involved choice and decision making, let people
take advantage of their privilege.
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