Burns says ‘explicit’ things to audience in Pottle

Dr. Joe Burns did his part in Fanfare’s Then and Now lecture series, touching on the subject of explicit lyrics in rock ‘n’ roll, the roots of the Federal Radio Commission (FRC) and the Parent Music Resource Center’s (PMRC) “Filthy Fifteen.”

Burns started off the fifth installment of the Then and Now lecture series with a humorous disclaimer with censored words that may be heard during the lecture. He then talked about the Miller Test and described the changing meaning of obscenity over time.

“What is obscene is actually changing over time. What is obscene today is not what was obscene in the 1940s,” said Burns.

He went on to list several songs, including Dean Martin’s 1951 hit “Wham! Bam! Thank you Ma’am!” Other songs included were Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction” and George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex.”

Burns then moved his attention to the PMRC and the push to utilize a parental advisory label on records deemed as obscene. The creators of the PMRC were Tipper Gore, wife of former Vice-President Al Gore, Susan Baker, wife of Treasury Secretary James Baker, PMRC President Pam Howar and Sally Nevius, wife of former Washington City Council Chairman John Nevius.

“Four women came a gnat’s breath away from controlling exactly what we listen to,” said Burns, on the four founders of the PMRC.

According to Burns, the PMRC established a list of the 15 most obscene songs in 1985. The list, dubbed the “Filthy Fifteen,” hosted songs by bands and artists such as Prince, AC/DC, Madonna and Sheena Easton.

Burns focused on Twisted Sister front man Dee Snider, singer John Denver and musician Frank Zappa as the three main figures that spearheaded the movement against the PMRC. Although many musicians opposed the PMRC, Mike Love of the Beach Boys donated $5,000 as a start-up for the PMRC.

Burns furthered his argument by comparing his feelings to the subject then as compared to now.

“I have a five and seven-year-old. Pretty soon, music is going to be all-encompassing to them, as it does  for every person,” said Burns.  “I have to realize that it’s me, the father that has to be there for them, not some governmental agency. I need to make sure of what they’re listening to and I have to realize that every so often something’s going to get through.”

Some students felt much more informed after leaving the lecture.

“I liked it. I have a new respect for John Denver now,” said freshman communication major Joey King. “It was just really interesting. He’s a great speaker.”