We all have seen those black and white Parental Advisory stickers on our favorite albums, but do you know where those came from?  In 1985, a group of women, known as the Washington Wives due to their personal relations with men working in DC, noticed an alarming increase in explicit content in the music that their kids were listening to.  As mothers concerned with protecting their children, they decided to form the Parental Music Resource Center, Appointing themselves to create a rating system for music, deciding which records were inappropriate and needed a warning label.  This organization changed the landscape of the debate on censorship forever.  PMRC founders Susan Baker and Tipper Gore claim that: “Rock lyrics have turned from ‘I can’t get to satisfaction’ to ‘I’m going to force you at gunpoint to eat me alive’”  There are “songs glorifying rape, or incest, or bondage”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_eB2lLO4b8U

Many artists and individuals were strongly outspoken in opposition to this organization.  

“Fuck you Tipper Gore, and Fuck the PMRC!” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_v9b8eaQUfg 

The Bouncing Souls are the most well known punk rock band out of New Jersey, with the exception of the Misfits.  Formed in the midst of nationwide moral panic over rock music, the 4 lifelong friends have been making honest, fun-spirited, anthemic punk rock music together since 1989.  

“He’s my friend he’s my alibi, my accessory to the crime, a bond that will never die, ‘till the end of time” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcXouGX5tzc

Much more political than their later work, the Souls’ 1991 debut 4 song EP Ugly Bill, deals with a range of political and social frustrations, featuring a cover of the Temptations’ “Ball of Confusion”, an anthem of frustration that people felt during the 1970’s due to empty promises made by politicians and the lack of real change in society.  

An eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth, vote for me and I’ll set you free.  The only person talkin’ about love today is the preacher, nobody’s interested in learning but the teacher.  Around and around and around we go”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArLCmPCIBB8

The four childhood friends who decided not to go to college and instead moved to the college town of New Brunswick to forge their own path as heroes of the legendary underground scene in New Jersey clearly had a political conscious, and while they never took themselves too seriously, there was one topic which they made their stance on extremely clear:

“Bullshit! Censorship motherfucker you tell me what not to say, no fucking way!” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8EMimXmVbU

PMRC by The Bouncing Souls encapsulates the combined opinions of musicians and other people in the recording industry who opposed the Parental Music Resource Center on the grounds that a group of 4 individuals should not have the power to dictate what can and cannot be expressed through music

“I think maybe rating records is going too far. I don’t know, that would be like rating books.  If it looks like censorship and it smells like censorship it is censorship no matter whose wife is talking about it it’s censorship” https://youtu.be/_eB2lLO4b8U

Those in opposition to the PMRC often reasoned that the power of deciding what is and isn’t appropriate should not be designated to any governmental organization, especially 4 upper class white women who all have husbands highly involved in politics.  Parents should make their own decisions regarding what types of media their children should and should not consume based on their own views and experiences.

“Discipline and self restraint when practiced by an individual, a family or a company is an effective way to deal with this issue.  The same thing when forced on a people by their government, or worse, by a self-appointed watchdog of public morals, is suppression, and will not be tolerated in a democratic society” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9gLmBgUTV4 

This was not nearly the start of a new debate however.  A New York Times reporter tells us:

“People have been complaining about popular culture since ancient Greece.  There are quotes from Plato about the violence in Greek tragedies and their effect on kids”. https://youtu.be/_eB2lLO4b8U 

This age old debate had simply been revived with a new context

“Rock music evolves in the ‘50s and then as soon as that happens, almost immediately, you see people, adults, trying to censor or control that music.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9gLmBgUTV4

Having recently graduated high school before establishing the Bouncing Souls in 1989, just 4 years after the establishment of the PMRC the band found themselves, at the start of their 30 year legacy, smack in the middle of a resurrection of the demonization of rock music. According to a report by Vox,

“The rise of heavy metal coinciding with the religious right gaining power seemed to create the perfect storm for an urgent national debate around rock music.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9gLmBgUTV4

The Bouncing Souls effectively deliver a cohesive summary of the arguments used against and attitudes held towards the PMRC by the group’s opponents in just under 3 minutes, in a raw and unfiltered manner, characteristic of punk music 

“They hear rap or metal, they’re in a panic if their kid doesn’t hear it he’s still a fucking manic, censorship wont make him or her better, constricted kid will always be a bed wetter” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArLCmPCIBB8

This idea that music is to blame for adolescent delinquency and that hiding the truth about the world from children is the solution to that problem was central to the formation of the PMRC.  As Eric Nuzum, author of Parental Advisory: Music Censorship in America explains:

They’d say ‘look at what that music is doing to my child’” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9gLmBgUTV4

The Bouncing Souls directly oppose this train of though through their song PMRC:

“What’s the matter with kids today? There’s so much trouble, let’s take that noise away.  Or thats what fuckin’ Helms would say when he sees that kids ain’t actin the right way.  Helms looks at the music but that’s not the problem If a kid can’t handle a 2 Live Crew song it’s because society’s in the wrong” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArLCmPCIBB8 

Helms looks at the music, well that’s not the problem.  If a kid can’t cand a 2 Live Crew song it’s because society’s in the wrong.  Referring to North Carolina senator Jesse Helms, who vehemently supported the PMRC, the Bouncing Souls claim that blaming music for the problems in society is insufficient and there are more foundational reasons why we see the issues that we face in society.  One of the largest arguments against the PMRC was that the government has different more important issues it should be focusing on that are the real causes of social issues.  During an debate on the Oprah show between supporters and opponents of the PMRC, Bob Guccione, Editor of ‘Spin’ Magazine, claims that

“Were looking at the whole problem from the wrong end of the telescope.  Were saying we’ve got some social problems in our world today; thats obvious and we’re saying that maybe it’s music that’s creating the problems so we’re concentrating on music,iInstead of concentrating on the real social dilemmas, we have the highest rate of illiteracy this country’s ever known. We have the most crippling drug problem this country’s ever known.  That is not the fault of a few rock ‘n’ roll songs or a few of anything, a few plays by Shakespeare, a few TV shows.”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpUeo6wR7M4

The main idea is that giving 4 individuals to dictate which content is and is not appropriate is wrong.  Art is subjective, and there is usually not one concrete way to interpret a song.  Something that may be considered explicit to one individual may be deep and profound to another, and that judgment is best left to individuals.  Most eloquently worded by the BOuncing Souls in this song, “An explicit lyric to you, may be truth to me, but it’s the enemy of the world around me.  And old man is cussin’ and stompin’ at the way we live and the way we try, to do our best in our world but he don’t ask why.”