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Random Things of The '80s Rock Legend Dee Snider Sounded Off Against Censorship In A Speech To Congress

  • Thumb of Snider Showed Up To Testify In A Cut Up T-Shirt And Jeans video

    (#1) Snider Showed Up To Testify In A Cut Up T-Shirt And Jeans

    The other musicians who appeared before the Senate subcommittee in 1985 wore suits. While John Denver and Frank Zappa both sported professional attire, Dee Snider sat down to address the group in a stereotypical hair-metal look. Snider had on a black t-shirt cut off into a tank top and jeans. He didn't try to hide his wild rock and roll hair either. Snider's characteristic bleach-blond, wavy hair bounced around as he spoke to a captivated audience. 

    All three musicians delivered articulate speeches but, given his appearance, Snider's well-presented and meticulous response was a surprise, proving that neither the PMRC nor the committee should have expected an easy debate. He also pointed out he didn't drink, smoke, or do drugs of any kind.

  • Snider Implied Tipper Gore Had A Dirty Mind on Random Things of The '80s Rock Legend Dee Snider Sounded Off Against Censorship In A Speech To Congress

    (#2) Snider Implied Tipper Gore Had A Dirty Mind

    In his testimony before the Senate, Snider directly addressed Tipper Gore's contention that Twisted Sister's song "Under the Blade" was sadomasochistic and about bondage. The song, according to Snider, was written for the band's guitar player, Eddie Ojeda, who was having surgery. Tipper Gore, however, claimed there was a sexual message in the lyrics

    Your hands are tied, your legs are strapped, a light shines in your eyes
    You faintly see a razor's edge, you open your mouth to cry

    Snider told the Committee "Ms. Gore was looking for sadomasochism and bondage and she found it," indicating the bondage was a metaphor for fear. Snider later wrote for the Huffington Post that he enjoyed the "raw hatred I saw in Al Gore's eyes when I said Tipper Gore had a dirty mind." Al Gore was also on the Senate subcommittee. 

    Snider later got Senator Gore to admit to liking John Denver and Frank Zappa, although he wasn't a Twisted Sister fan. 

  • Thumb of Snider Said The "We're Not Gonna Take It" Video Was Based On Cartoons video

    (#3) Snider Said The "We're Not Gonna Take It" Video Was Based On Cartoons

    Twisted Sister's song "We're Not Gonna Take It" received a lot of attention from the PMRC, but, in a bit of a twist, the actions found in it – or at least in the video – mimicked cartoons. In his opening remarks to the Senate subcommittee, Snider stated the video was "simply meant to be a cartoon with human actors playing variations on the Roadrunner/Wile E. Coyote theme. Each stunt was selected from my extensive personal collection of cartoons."

    Snider questioned whether the PMRC confused the lyrics with the video when it came to the intent of the song, pointing out that there was no actual violence mentioned.

  • He Told The Committee Tipper Gore Lied About Twisted Sister's Merchandise on Random Things of The '80s Rock Legend Dee Snider Sounded Off Against Censorship In A Speech To Congress

    (#4) He Told The Committee Tipper Gore Lied About Twisted Sister's Merchandise

    Snider highlighted a statement from Tipper Gore where she accused Twisted Sister of selling twisted t-shirts, saying, "You look at even the t-shirts that kids wear and you see Twisted Sister and a woman in handcuffs sort of spread-eagled. "

    Snider called her accusation an "outright lie" in his testimony, telling the committee Twisted Sister "never sold a shirt of this type; we have always taken great pains to steer clear of sexism in our merchandise, records, stage show, and personal lives. Furthermore, we have always promoted the belief that rock and roll should not be sexist, but should cater to males and females equally."

    He challenged Tipper Gore to produce such a shirt and when asked about it again by Senator Al Gore, Gore clarified for the record that "the word 't-shirts' was in plural, and one of them referred to Twisted Sister and the other referred to a woman in handcuffs." Snider stuck to his guns insisting Tipper was referring to Twisted Sister before Senator Gore changed the subject.

     

  • The PMRC's "Filthy 15" Demonstrated Problematic Music on Random Things of The '80s Rock Legend Dee Snider Sounded Off Against Censorship In A Speech To Congress

    (#5) The PMRC's "Filthy 15" Demonstrated Problematic Music

    The song that kicked off Tipper Gore's music crusade was Prince's "Darling Nikki" from the album Purple Rain. Gore's 11-year-old daughter was listening to the song when Gore heard lyrics that referred to masturbation.

    By the time the PMRC appeared before Congress in 1985, they had selected a list of songs dubbed the "Filthy 15," which the group said demonstrated how dangerous music could be. Songs on the list included "Darling Nikki" as well as Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It," Madonna's "Dress You Up," Cyndi Lauper's "She Bop," Venom's "Possessed," and others. 

    Overall, the list was full of songs the group thought promoted violence, sex, promiscuity, the occult, or drug and alcohol abuse. The group wanted a rating system to reflect this by placing a "D/A" for drugs and alcohol, "O" for occult, "S" for sex, and "V" for violence on albums to warn about problematic lyrics. 

  • Snider Argued Lyrics Weren't The Only Thing About Music That Mattered on Random Things of The '80s Rock Legend Dee Snider Sounded Off Against Censorship In A Speech To Congress

    (#6) Snider Argued Lyrics Weren't The Only Thing About Music That Mattered

    When asked by the committee chairperson, Senator John Danforth of Missouri, if parents know what is on the albums they buy their kids or that kids buy themselves, Snider was blunt when he admitted it didn't matter. Snider stated he didn't know everything on each of the albums he listened to, and even on the albums he knew well, the lyrics didn't make him do bad things.

    According to Snider, "I know that AC/DC, one of my favorite bands, sings a lot of songs glorifying hell and damnation. I am a Christian. I do not believe - I do not want to go to hell and I do not want to be damned for all time. But I do like the feel of the songs. The lyrics have no effect on me."

  • Snider Pointed Out That

    (#7) Snider Pointed Out That "We're Not Gonna Take It" Was Used As Part Of A United Way Campaign

    The song "We're Not Gonna Take It" by Twisted Sister was used for a United Way advertisement in 1985, a promotion that seemed to counter ideas that the song was inherently inappropriate. United Way was creating a program called "Changing American Family," that was divided into different segments of family development.

    The nonprofit wanted to use snippets of the song and the video because they believed, "The clips from the Twisted Sister video would be used to introduce the teenagers segment in the program. We hope that the video's introduction with the demanding father will be a light-hearted way of talking about communication with teenagers."

  • Snider Told Congress There Were Some Very Simple Ways To Figure Out If A Song Was Appropriate - None Of Which Involved Labels on Random Things of The '80s Rock Legend Dee Snider Sounded Off Against Censorship In A Speech To Congress

    (#8) Snider Told Congress There Were Some Very Simple Ways To Figure Out If A Song Was Appropriate - None Of Which Involved Labels

    When asked how he would find out if a song was right for a kid to listen to, Snider gave three options.  First, he'd look at the cover:

    Well, quite simply, as a parent myself and as a rock fan, I know that when I see an album cover with a severed goat's head in the middle of a pentagram between a woman's legs, that is not the kind of album I want my son to be listening to.

    Second, he'd read the song list and lyrics:

    If I read a title on the back of, say, Somebody's Ice Cream Castle, a title called "If the Kid Can't Make You Come," whatever it is, I realize that is a sexually explicit song. By just looking at the cover, looking at the lyrics, looking at, I should say, the titles, that should cover just about all bases. 

    Finally, he'd listen to it:

    The few albums that do not express their intentions on the cover or in the song titles, I think a parent could take it home, listen to it. And I do not think there are too many retail stores that would deny them the ability to return the album for something different.

     

  • Snider Corrected A Committee Member On A Supreme Court Ruling on Random Things of The '80s Rock Legend Dee Snider Sounded Off Against Censorship In A Speech To Congress

    (#9) Snider Corrected A Committee Member On A Supreme Court Ruling

    During Snider's testimony, Senator Ernest Hollings from South Carolina asked him about different perceptions of obscenity and vulgarity. He read part of a Supreme Court verdict in the Pacifica Case involving the Federal Communications Commission (famous for the role George Carlin's "Seven Dirty Words" played in it). In the case, the Supreme Court ruled that "Patently offensive, indecent material presented over the airwaves confronts the citizen not only in public, but also in the privacy of the home. The individual's right to be left alone, plainly outweighs the first amendment rights of an intruder."

    Snider wasn't phased and pointed out he was "talking about the airwaves as opposed to a person going with their money to purchase an album to play in their and room, in their home, on their own time. The airwaves are something different." 

    Frank Zappa used a similar line of thought in his testimony, telling the committee people had a choice when it came to the music they brought into their homes. Zappa's dismissive and mocking tone in his testimony wasn't well-received by Senator Slade Gorton of Washington State, who responded:

    I found your statement to be boorish, incredibly and insensitively insulting to the people that were here previously; that you could manage to give the first amendment of the Constitution of the United States a bad name, if I felt that you had the slightest understanding of it, which I do not. You do not have the slightest understanding of the difference between Government action and private action, and you have certainly destroyed any case you might otherwise have had with this Senator.

  • Dee Snider Wasn't The First Choice To Testify on Random Things of The '80s Rock Legend Dee Snider Sounded Off Against Censorship In A Speech To Congress

    (#10) Dee Snider Wasn't The First Choice To Testify

    Dee Snider later stated he wasn't the ideal candidate to testify in front of Congress - he knew it and they knew it - which is why they originally wanted Mötley Crüe singer Vince Neil. Snider thought this was because "Vince is not very articulate. He actually is a life-styler, so he probably would have been half in the bag going in there. They would have smacked him around, because he's incapable of fighting at the level. As far as going and having an intellectual debate on something, he'd be pretty defenseless."

    Other music industry professionals, aside from Frank Zappa and John Denver, included the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) president Stanley Gortikov and radio DJ Cerphe Colwell, who had been invited by Zappa to appear.

     

  • Snider Rejected The Idea That Profanity And Christianity Were Mutually Exclusive on Random Things of The '80s Rock Legend Dee Snider Sounded Off Against Censorship In A Speech To Congress

    (#11) Snider Rejected The Idea That Profanity And Christianity Were Mutually Exclusive

    Snider identified himself as a Christian when he was speaking to Congress, a fact the committee members jumped on to try to discredit him. Snider's band, Twisted Sister, had a fan group that went by the name "SMF Fans of Twisted Sister." Senator Gore asked Snider about the group and what the acronym SMF meant. Snider replied that it stood for "Sick Mother F*cking" Fans of Twisted Sister, to which Senator Gore replied with a question about whether or not that group was Christian.

    Snider's response was simply "I do not believe profanity has anything to do with Christianity, thank you." Senator Gore went on to say "It is just an interesting choice. I was getting the impression from your presentation that you were a very wholesome kind of performer, and that is an interesting title for your fan club." 

    The Senator's pettiness didn't stop there. Later in his testimony, Snider was accused of "attacking" Tipper Gore.

  • Snider Made It Clear That He Worked Hard And He Shouldn't Be Punished For It on Random Things of The '80s Rock Legend Dee Snider Sounded Off Against Censorship In A Speech To Congress

    (#12) Snider Made It Clear That He Worked Hard And He Shouldn't Be Punished For It

    Dee Snider didn't hold back when it came to being honest with the committee. He told them he believed in his music and that he was an entertainer, just like actors and others. Snider was out to have fun, not to corrupt his audiences. He thought rock bands had a bad reputation, but he also believed wasn't part of the problem; he was working to fight sexism and other negative aspects of the music industry. 

    In the end, Snider's only recommendation for change in the music industry involved some sort of return policy that parents could use to return material they deemed inappropriate. Snider lost that battle, however, when the RIAA caved and agreed to start labeling albums in November 1985.  In 1990, the "Parental Advisory" label became standardized.

     

  • Many Musicians Protested The Label With Reactive Music on Random Things of The '80s Rock Legend Dee Snider Sounded Off Against Censorship In A Speech To Congress

    (#13) Many Musicians Protested The Label With Reactive Music

    After the decision to include Parental Advisory labels, many musicians and artists protested through song. Punk group NOFX released an EP titled, THE P.M.R.C. Can Suck on This in 1987.

    Danzig's 1988 song "Mother" managed to break into mainstream radio and contained lyrics calling out the problems with the PMRC:

    Mother, tell your children not to walk my way.
    Tell your children not to hear my words.
    What they mean, what they say, mother.

    Ice-T's 1989 album The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech... Just Watch What You Say contains several lyrics bashing the PMRC. One song in particular, "Freedom of Speech," is a blatant jab at Tipper Gore:

    Yo, Tip, what's the matter? You ain't gettin' no d*ck?
    You're b*tchin' about rock 'n' roll - that's censorship, dumb b*tch
    The Constitution says we all got a right to speak
    Say what we want, Tip - your argument is weak

    Even decades after the decision, musicians like Eminem still attacked the decision. In his song "White America," the outro includes a direct "f*ck you" to Tipper Gore and the PMRC.

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About This Tool

For rock fans, Dee Snider, the lead singer of Twisted Sister, is definitely one of the most well-known legends. His famous song "We're Not Gonna Take It" was Trump's campaign song during the 2016 U.S. election. He not only achieved great commercial success but also made great contributions to the development of rock music. In the 1980s, PMRC began to the mandatory requirement to promote music censorship and grading, which was strongly opposed by many rock musicians.

As a member of the hearing, Dee Snider publicly expressed his opposition to censorship, his speech shocked everyone, and the video of this hearing is still available online. The random tool lists 13 details about his attitude and speech to fight against censorship.

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