How heavy metal and Satan gave us this sticker

On September 19, 1985, a congressional hearing
about rock music lyrics captured the nation’s attention. Over the course of 5 hours, a music expert,
a reverend, a group of parents, and quite a few deeply horrified politicians publicly
reprimanded the music industry for their lack of morals. This is Democratic Sen. Fritz Hollings Hollings: But in all candor, I would tell
you it’s outrageous filth. If I could find some way, constitutionally,
to do away with it, I would. The leader of this charge was the Parents
Music Resource Center or PMRC, a group led by the wives of a few washington politicians. And what started out as a dialogue about explicit
lyrics — Susan Baker: Cole Porter’s “The Bird’s
Do It, The Bees Do It” can hardly be compared with WASP’s “I F-U-C-K Like a Beast” —
turned into an all out attack on how rock stars portrayed themselves to kids. From music videos and album covers to the
names of fan clubs. Al Gore: Mr. Snider, what is the name of your
fan club? Snider: The fan club is called the SMF Friends
of Twisted Sister Al Gore: And what does SMF stand for when
it’s spelled out?” Dee Snider: It stands for the Sick Mother
Fucking Friends of Twisted Sister. Al Gore: Is this also a Christian group? Snider: I don’t believe that profanity has
anything to do with Christianity. Three musicians, Frank Zappa, John Denver,
and Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, defended their music citing the importance of free
speech. Denver: 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 supression, and will not be tolerated in democratic society. That five-hour-long hearing wasn’t an isolated
incident, it was just one moment in the war on rock music that had been infiltrating American
culture and politics for years. It was that war that gave us this sticker, one we pretty much take for granted today. Stuessy: Given the American philosophy, I think we’ve given the so-called creative artists a wide
berth. Somehow we must send a message to the recording
and radio industry: enough is enough you’ve you’ve gone too far. In the words of the heavy metal band Twisted
Sister, we’re not going to take it anymore. Tipper Gore: I bought the Purple Rain album
for our 11-year old. This is Tipper Gore, she was a very vocal
leader of the PMRC. I felt that it was inappropriate for her and her 8- and 6-year-old sister to hear
a song describing a girl masturbating in a hotel lobby with a magazine. Prince: I knew a girl named Nikki, I guess
you could say she was a sex fiend. I met her in a hotel lobby masturbating with
a magazine. Eric: So to recap, she bought this
album Sight Unseen. The lyrics were printed on the album. It was a soundtrack to an R-rated film, and
she played this for her children without any previewing of it whatsoever. Tipper doesn’t blame herself. She doesn’t blame her daughter. She blames Prince. This situation was Prince’s fault. Prince’s “Darling Nikki” ended up on
the PMRCs “Filthy Fifteen,” a list of songs they felt represented the most explicit music
of 1985. Eric: Subject matter might contain one to
four different objections. One was things that were violent, or in some
cases may have even encouraged acts of violence. There was sexual references. There was drug and alcohol references in songs. Take a close look at this list and you’ll
see one genre disproportionately called out. Heavy Metal. And a fourth rating, an “O” For the Occult. Rockstars have always been accused of being
a cohort of the devil. The legendary story of blues guitarist Robert
Johnson’s career is that he sold his soul to the devil so he could play better. That was in 1937. When the Blues became Rock and Roll, that mythology
became a full on aesthetic. From the Beatles featuring Aleister Crowley,
a known occultist, on St. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, to the Rolling Stones upping the ante with
an album called Their Satanic Majesties Request. But it wasn’t until Rock and Roll birthed
Heavy Metal that Satan and the occult became a central character in popular music. Black Sabbath, are widely considered the original
Heavy Metal band. They released their first album in 1970 and it
featured a figure in black on the front cover. That gloomy aesthetic extends to the very
first track which opens with a giant crash of thunder and ominous church bells. “Oh no, no, please God help me.” After this album, bands all over started popping up, building on the sound and the style. Even hard rock acts like AC/DC referenced
Hell and Satan as signs of rebellion. “Hey Satan.
Payin’ my dues.” “Playing in a rocking band.” By the 1980s heavy metal was mainstream and On one end there was highly melodic and commercial
bands like Motley Crue and Def Leppard, on the other end, darker, more intense groups like
Mercyful Fate and Slayer. Across this spectrum, though, remained a very
clear aesthetic: albums with gothic typefaces and visual and lyrical references to the occult,
Hell, evil, and violence. Jason: You should look up their version of
Suicidal Tendencies’ “Institutionalized” you will love it, you’ll love it. They also have another song called… That’s Jason Kalfin, he was and still is
a heavy metal fan. Jason: Ah what is it? Talk Shit Get Shot? It’s a classic. He’s talking about Ice-T’s heavy metal
band Body Count, but I digress. In 1981, with the launch of MTV, music videos
became a part of the daily TV diet of kids across the US. But it wasn’t all kids, it was mostly white teenage
boys who were MTV’s core demographic, because most of the communities wired for cable were
in suburban, largely white, neighborhoods. Jason: One minute you had a Metallica video and then the next minute you had a Culture Club video, or Wham! Or Motley Crue. When heavy metal came on you could pretty
much count on it being incredibly outlandish. Eric: At the same time that this is happening,
there is this cultural movement happening in the United States. Gary Greenwald: If you’re into rock and roll today, let me warn you. Eric: Of people who would tour around Evangelical
churches and basically scare the shit out of the parishioners by telling them that Satan
was controlling the entertainment industry. Greenwald: Satan is using the rock groups
as his patsies to evangelize the youth of the world! That fringe group quickly morphed into a wave
of televangelists ripping rock music, even Christian rock, apart in front of a national
audience. Jimmy Swaggart: One young man with an earring
in his ear, and his hair down to his back, singing rock music, says his pastor told him to do that, it’ll win the kids. To the growing religious right, all of pop
culture was just hell on earth. Everything from the game Dungeons and Dragons
to this Proctor and Gamble logo were under scrutiny. But it was rock music and heavy metal in particular
that seemed to get the most attention. It seemed to be the crazier
their claims were, the more bookings they got. So it became a financial incentive for them
to make these ludicrous claims about the music industry. Like the Truth About Rock Seminar by The Peters
Brothers. Are you ready for Truth about Rock? The Peters Brothers’ seminars and bonfires
have drawn press attention from coast to coast. Here they are outside a KISS concert. When I see the way these people are encouraging
kids to live, there is no doubt in my mind, we have got be more militant in our own sand, Steve.” There was literally a feature length movie
called “Rock It’s Your Decision” about a kid named Jeff struggling to choose between listening
to his favorite music and God. Kid: When I went through my own record
collection I was shocked! Isn’t sex a major theme? And the occult too? And what about the lifestyles of the popular groups and artists? Some are admitted homosexuals! Spoiler alert, he chooses God. There were rock record burnings across the
country. Jason: Gene Simmons from KISS said it best one time, he was like if you don’t like my record go out and buy 1,000 copies and burn it. Just keep buying them. Bands like AC/DC and KISS even had to prove
their names weren’t acronyms for satanic worship. Eric: Kiss, that’s all it stands for. However they’d say “no, no, no, that stands
for Knights in Satan’s Service” We need to talk about KISS, does their name
really stand for Knights in Service to Satan? Eric: KISS were clowns. They were ridiculous people who did ridiculous
bombastic big huge things. They were not in league with Satan. Not surprisingly, the craziest claims were
the ones that traveled the furthest. One of them was backmasking. Eric: The idea was that there were things
you could hear when you were playing the record backwards, that somehow when you listen to
it forward your brain could still hear the message flip it around, decode it. It wasn’t just the record covers or the
written lyrics, these evangelists believed rock music was a breeding ground for satanic
subliminal messages. “Backward Masking Unmasked” was a book written
about subliminal messages in rock music. It was sold in churches across the country. One of the most legendary and famous allegations was
that Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” played backwards said “My Sweet Satan” I’m going to fast forward now, and you can kind of
get a feel for the song now. Very mellow, you know, almost pretty. Back to Stairway to Heaven, here’s that
same section, reversed. In every single instance, the only way the
audience could successfully hear the Satanic message was is if the guy said the phrase
before he played the song in reverse. Backwards it says “Here’s to my sweet
Satan” It says “Here’s to my sweet Satan” How many actually heard that? I heard it. Eric: As you can imagine, it became quite
a kind of fun thing for everybody to sit there and spin records backwards and listen ‘what
do you hear? what do you hear?’ This was all pretty entertaining until this
happened. A lot of people hear, the phrase my sweet
Satan. Here let me play this backwards. You hear it? My sweet Satan. Backmasking became national news. Not only that, in 1982 labeling albums with
“backmasked” songs became a proposed piece of legislation in California. Styx: Last year state legislature
in California was so loosened up that they decided some records including ours had backwards
Satanic messages on them. But we can honestly and sincerely
say, as we stand before you this evening, that the devil had nothing to do with this next song from the Paradise Theater album. A song entitled “Snowblind.” 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. But it wasn’t the rock stars that were the
center of the conversation. It was their teenage fans. Eric: 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. Kids are expressing themselves and they are
letting out their frustrations and their happiness and their joy. They’d say, look at what that music is doing
to my child. Remember the Peters Brothers outside that
KISS Concert? They’re part of the same generation that was
listening to Elvis. Decades later, they were judging teens for
doing the same thing with KISS. Peter Brothers: From the moment they stepped
on stage nobody ever sat down, they kept yelling, and shouting and jumping up and down. Clapping, you can hear them applauding now. The Satanic message is clear, both in the
album cover and in the lyrics which are reaching impressionable young minds. More likely than not, your kids have already
seen and heard what some of you will see and hear for the first time tonight. When a form of music that our children like
becomes linked with ghoulish images and violent theatrics and even suicide, it demands our
attention. Perhaps more to the point, the children need our attention. One of the biggest reasons for the backlash
against rock music, though, stems from this chart. In the 1980s the youth suicide rate was rising,
particularly among the same demographic that that was listening to Heavy Metal: Teenage
boys. The kids that listen to this music are killing
themselves and each other because of it. The music is called “Heavy Metal.” Four young people died in a suicide pact,
a heavy metal cassette box was found at the the scene. For a lot of young people, the intensity of
heavy metal had a big draw — which also made the genre a scapegoat. Eric: Music has always been
a calling card for people, it expresses who we are, what we care about, our values. It is an expression of self. Well if your inner-self is kind of torn up
and tormented, you’re going to look for music that expresses those feelings. If it’s too loud, you’re too old. Take Jay’s father for example he never shared
his son’s devotion to the music. Father: I’d yell turn it down, but seriously,
I have no objection to what music he likes to listen to. Would you? Jason: What? Turn it down? Jason: Would I turn it down? No I’d turn it up. Jason: Did you see I wasn’t paying attention
when the guy asked the question? I’m like what? Jason was one of the kids profiled in a 20/20
segment on the effects of heavy metal. Stone Phillips: Teaneck High has its own
group of so-called tough kids, hoods, or burnouts. Some into drinking or drugs, others into not
much of anything at all, except heavy metal music. Jason: Even then I couldn’t understand that. I was like, it it can’t be the music, you know, it’s gotta be the
individual. You gotta have some serious serious serious issues. In this New York Times article about youth
suicide, there are a few possible factors. Family breakups, drug abuse, dwindling job
and educational opportunities, and of course, the growing availability of guns. Heavy metal never made the list. But the media persisted in looking for answers
in the music. Geraldo Rivera: Every single kid whose case
we know about, who committed a violent act in Satan’s name was also into heavy metal
music. What’s your response to that, Ozzy? Ozzy: Well I don’t really know. All I do is make music. I don’t sit down and purposefully plan to
freak everybody out. It’s in this Satanic panic environment that
the Parents’ Music Resource Center was formed. Their main goal? Create a rating system that
would signify to parents how harmful music could be to their kids. They created a 33-minute PSA video that was
eerily similar to films made by various Christian groups. But more importantly, their ties to Washington
got them a meeting with the Senate. Susan Baker: Some rock artists actually seem to encourage teen suicide. Ozzy Osbourne sings “Suicide Solution” Blue
Oyster Cult sings “Don’t Fear the Reaper” AC/DC sings “Shoot To Thrill” — just last week in Center Point, a small Texas town, a young man took his life while listening to the music of AC/DC. He was not the first. What this all came down to though, was a request
for a tiny little label on a record. How bad could that really be? Why was this so threatening to artists? Eric: How much trouble could that cause? And the truth is it causes no problems on
its own. But then you look at how that sticker gets
used in the world. It becomes very troubling very quickly. Eric: Within literally weeks, you have more than a dozen States who want to include that label’s
presence in their definition of obscenity, which is a felony. The circus atmosphere of the hearing was certainly
entertaining, but the fact that it even happened in the first place was terrifying for musicians. Eric: When you get into the 1990s
and the sticker starts coming out, a big problem immediately emerges, which is at that time
the largest retailer of music in the United States by not little bit, but a huge margin,
was Wal-Mart. Wal-mart, the family-friendly retail chain
immediately felt pressure to keep albums with the label off their shelves. Eric So the record labels figured
out, “Hey, well maybe we can create a version of this album that does not have the sticker
on it.” And then Wal-mart will buy it. Album covers were changed. Song titles were changed. Entire songs were omitted from albums. Eric: The thing you have to remember about
censors is they don’t think they’re censoring. They think they’re protecting people. Rock and roll always thrived on pushing against
the system. Songs blasting the PMRC became signifiers
of rebellion. Mother, tell your children not to walk my way. Tell your children not to hear my words.
What they mean, what they say. Mother. Frank Zappa even made his own warning label. “This album contains material which a truly
free society would neither fear nor suppress.” In an unfortunate twist of fate for this guy, the 1980s saw a huge uptick in albums with
intentional backmasked messages, poking fun at the whole controversy. If Tipper Gore had paid a bit more attention to “Darling Nikki” she would’ve probably
heard something she liked. “I’m fine. Fiiiine. Cause I know that the Lord is coming soon.” In 1990, the explicit lyrics sticker was finally
put into effect. And a new genre of music was taking over the
charts, one that would fuel the conversation around censoring lyrics over the next decade. [OPRAH: And this next group calls itself NWA which stands for N—s with attitude. Their album Straight Outta Compton went platinum. Critics say their lyrics promote violence
and urge black youngsters to kill policemen. The explicit lyrics sticker seems pretty innocuous
now. Some of the most critically acclaimed and
commercially successful albums of the last 25 years have carried it. Kendrick Lamar’s Damn is an album filled
with backmasked messages. There’s clear references to sex, addiction,
violence, and evil. It would have probably made it to the top
of the filthy fifteen list in 1985. In 2018 though, it won the Pulitzer Prize in music. The first non-classical or jazz album to do so. We’ve come a long way, but that doesn’t
mean we left censorship behind. Eric: The truth is, any parent has the right
to decide what their children are going to see. It’s one of the toughest things about being
a parent And that’s what this whole argument comes
down to. People who are willing to either A) be the
voice of deciding what’s appropriate or not for your children or the people who say, which is more horrifying to me, people who are willing to let that other person make their choice for them. Thanks so much for watching episode 1 of season 2, all about the explicit lyric sticker. There are so many stories and angles into why we have the explicit lyric sticker in the first place that I just simply wasn’t able to fit into this episode. But I really want to talk about them, so in the Video Lab I’ll soon be sharing a behind-the-scenes peek at all of the research that went into this episode, and all of the angles into this story that I wasn’t able to fit in, but might still pique your interest. So join the Video Lab, and I’ll see you there.

100 Replies to “How heavy metal and Satan gave us this sticker”

  1. Vox Earworm is back with season 2! It's hard to believe Estelle couldn't fit everything she wanted into this 20-minute premiere, but if you want to see the extras she mentioned, consider joining the Video Lab:

  2. It is very clear that bad parenting hasn't changed since the 50s and most of them decide to blame others rather than own it up themselves in making sure what kids should be listening to. Bravo…..

  3. 4:12 Vox states Blues evolves into Rock & Roll while showing Chuck Berry. Well done, Vox 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽

  4. You guys are all avoiding one question and that question is why. Why are these rock bands using this Satan-themed look, what is so fascinating about it. You know the truth, and True Christians do.

  5. All I'm thinking about right now is just how great it is to have such variety in the art of music and the history behind it all.

  6. Conservatives always preach personal responsibility until they are held responsible. Then its everyone else's fault, music industry, artists, Hollywood, … etc etc

  7. Most Black Sabbath songs have very positive messages and warnings. War Pigs is the best anti-war song ever written IMO.

  8. I never even thought too much about the lyrics when I listen to the lyrics. It just sounds fun so I just enjoy myself, it makes me feel good to listen to it.

  9. Haven’t seen this whole video yet, and it probably portrays this whole subject poorly. I want to let everyone know that yes people do sell their souls to Satan to fame, yes it was a big problem in rock and roll, and yes it is actually more prevalent in today’s rap music

  10. Cowardly unscrupulous dishonest politicians will always find escape goats like the media to blame their failures on.
    Nothing's changed back then it was rock music, today it's video games, nothing's changed.

  11. "The thing about ceneorers is they don't think they're censoring they think they're protecting"
    Omg this is soooooo true omfg

  12. and now it's video games. go figure. What's even dumber is that there is a warning label on video games yet there are parents who STILL complain about their kids playing violent video games that THEY bought FOR THEM!!!!!!!

  13. Religious right? Democrat Al Gore’s wife was the leader of the PMRC. The democrats and republicans both had deep religious roots.

  14. Once you reach your teenage years (every generation) loves to rebel against their predecessors. It's not until they become older and wiser that they realize their mistakes and try to teach their young ones… but the cycle repeats.

  15. Funny what happens when people confuse 'I don't like X.' with 'Nobody should like X.' … Not everyone shares your preferences or wants to be constrained by your arbitrary and delicate sensibilities. Literally everything is 'objectionable'; get over yourself.

  16. Vox ! You did not do good research ! Black Sabbath was not the first group to sing bout satan. Around 1969 a group called: Coven which featured the famous singer Jynx . It was a three person group. The Satanic Rite was also first recorded ever on their album. You should up date/correct this documentary and also find the singer Jynx. She may shade more light on her group and ideas of them being ahead of their time. All heavy metal Satanic music gothic groups owe homage to the Coven . Peace🙏🏿

  17. Vox. P. S. Coven album title Witchcraft destroys minds and reaps souls . That is the first album to record Satanic Rites and other groups must pay homage to Jynx and her band, (1969)

  18. "What ho said the t'ing with the three 'bonce', do not meddle with things you don't understand…" burp — Nicko McBrain

  19. These are awesome! I definitely take the Parental Advisory sticker for granted. Gives more credence to that conservative anti-KISS madness in Detroit Rock City.

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