Back in 1986, when this heated debate on Crossfire was broadcast, the beginnings of the current era of censorship in popular music were just unfolding (meaning the era that began with the PMRC). In this must-see, 20 minute clip from the CNN show, the late, great self-described 'conservative' Frank Zappa goes head to head with arch conservative John Lofton of the Washington Times. Of course, Zappa had been in the center of this fight against popular music since his career began decades earlier, defending both the music and freedom of speech, but he was most publicly vocal during this mid eighties round which had begun the previous year, 1985, when the PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center), the music censorship organization that was founded by then-Senator Al Gore's wife Tipper Gore and included many other political wives, first came about.The PMRC and Lofton in this debate were most vocal about such songs as Prince's "Darling Nikki," which was accused of promoting incest and videos such as Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher," which is included below. Note that the arrival of the PMRC around the same time as MTV's meteoric early years, with its obvious influence on mainstream America, was no coincidence.
In September 1985 Frank Zappa testified before the US Senate Commerce, Technology, and Transportation committee, attacking the PMRC and making a historic statement that said the PMRC's proposal to ban certain rock music was an "ill-conceived piece of nonsense which fails to deliver any real benefits to children, infringes the civil liberties of people who are not children, and promises to keep the courts busy for years dealing with the interpretational and enforcemental problems inherent in the proposal's design. It is my understanding that, in law, First Amendment issues are decided with a preference for the least restrictive alternative. In this context, the PMRC's demands are the equivalent of treating dandruff by decapitation. (...) The establishment of a rating system, voluntary or otherwise, opens the door to an endless parade of moral quality control programs based on things certain Christians do not like. What if the next bunch of Washington wives demands a large yellow "J" on all material written or performed by Jews, in order to save helpless children from exposure to concealed Zionist doctrine?"