THE PMRC
                                       
   
   
   Option Magazine Within the last year the Parents' Music Resource
   Center (PMRC) has requested that record companies rate records they
   produce similar to the current rating of films. You've been involved
   in this recent controversy. What did the record industry finally agree
   to?
   
   Frank Zappa Well, to quote you from the Associated Press Wire Report,
   dated November 1, 1985, the basic points of the agreement between the
   Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the PMRC are that
   "parents' groups will have no role in determining what is explicit."
   Next, "the record companies will determine what is explicit." When
   asked, "What is explicit?," Stanley Gortikov (president of the RIAA)
   replied, "What's explicit is explicit." Third, "those artists whose
   contracts give them control over their packaging are free to ignore
   the understanding." Does this sound like something you could enforce?
   
   I think the record industry allowed the ladies to save a little face
   (by making a formal agreement at all), which just encourages them
   more. The PMRC has moved to new quarters in Virginia; they are no
   longer in Washington D.C. They have a new printed fund-raising package
   which heralds their victory while omitting those parts of the
   agreement that render it inoperable. The fund-raising package says
   that if you'll send them money, they will send you more examples of
   the horrors of these lyrics. They are making an industry out of this
   thing! Meanwhile, Reverend Jeff Ling, their consultant, has this new
   slide show that he is taking around.
   
   Option Magazine Are there any legislative attempts to require record
   ratings?
   
   Frank Zappa Last year the state of Maryland considered a bill which
   would make it illegal to sell a record declared "obscene" to a person
   under 18 years of age. The text of the bill stated that its purpose
   was to keep people from seeing or hearing references to illicit sex.
   And then it had a definition of what constitutes illicit sex in the
   state of Maryland. Sexual intercourse is the first thing on the list.
   What the legislators did was take the existing visual pornography law
   and just add the words "phonograph record, magnetic tape, compact
   disc" to it. Since the existing law in Maryland is already a bit
   vague, adding just those words isn't going to give you an enforceable
   regulation.
   
   To give an example of how ridiculous this bill was, under this bill
   you were not allowed to advertise pornography. So let's say that
   somebody decided that a Motley Crue album was obscene. If you were
   wearing a tee shirt that says Motley Crue on it you would be
   advertising pornography. You could be fined $1000 and/or go to jail
   for a year. If you wore the tee shirt it is $5000 and three years in
   jail.
   
   Option Magazine Did the bill pass in Maryland?
   
   Frank Zappa It passed the House of Delegates with a 96 to 3 vote. When
   it was sent to the Maryland State Judiciary Committee, I went to
   testify. The bill was eventually killed in that committee. But because
   the issue was brought up, a number of other states have similar bills
   which they are considering. Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New
   Jersey, and Mississippi have all considered similar bills.
   
   Option Magazine What interactions did you have with the Maryland
   legislators outside of the judiciary hearings?
   
   Frank Zappa The night before I testified in the State Senate, I
   attended a cocktail party that a bunch of legislators were invited to.
   The bill had already passed in the House of Delegates. My objective in
   this exercise was to keep the bill from going anyplace in the Senate
   because if the Senate approves the bill it becomes law. But if you
   kill the bill in the Senate, it's dead. Delegates and Senators were
   coming to this cocktail party. Every time somebody would say, "Here's
   Delegate So-and-So," I would say, "Which way did you vote?" And of the
   ones who voted for the bill, I always asked them, "Why?" Most of them
   were embarrassed that they had. And I would say, "Would you care to
   apologize?," and hand them a piece of paper to get their apology in
   writing. I've got slips of paper from at least five delegates who
   voted for the thing with the most unbelievable quotes. I read the
   apologies in the Senate the following day. Here's some quotes: "I was
   swept away by the rhetoric." And "I had to vote that way because
   that's the way my district is." That guy came from a district where he
   might have had his legs badly mutilated if he hadn't done it.
   
   Option Magazine It seems reasonable for delegates to vote the way
   their districts want them to vote. After all, shouldn't they attempt
   to represent the viewpoint of their district?
   
   Frank Zappa Well, let's look at both sides of that. If you are
   representing the economic interest of your district, I suppose you
   should fight for that. But in terms of this piece of legislation, even
   if you agreed with the premise, the design of the bill was a disaster.
   I think elected officials have a certain amount of responsibility to
   the people in their districts. I think that it is a cop-out not to
   inform their districts of the dangers of any piece of stupid
   legislation.
   
   
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