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Zappa Defends Obscene Lyrics

Debates Parents Group

By Teresa L. Johnson

Clad in unusually conservative attire, offbeat rock musician Frank Zappa last night attacked a parents group which is fighting obscenity in popular music.

Zappa, before more than 500 at the Kennedy School of Government, spoke out against the recent agreement between the Record Industry Association of America and an influential parents group to label offensive records with warning stickers or to print the lyrics on the album jacket.

He called the parents movement a "hysteria campaign," and said that record companies, not the parents group, would determine what is obscene. Zappa said the labels would not prevent anyone from buying the records.

His opponent, Sally Nevius, founder of the Parents' Music Resource Center (PMRC), argued that listening to obscene lyrics can be "extremely damaging to adolescents in the formative years," because many teenagers view rock musicians as role models. She also said that "parents need a tool" in determining what their children should and should not listen to.

Under the terms of the compromise with the PMRC, which includes several Congressional wives, one-half of the record industry's 44 companies agreed to either place a parental advisory warning label on records with lyrics describing "explicit sex, violence, or substance abuse" or to print the lyrics on the album jacket.

The issue of music censorship received national attention following a series of circus-like Senate hearings that pitted the likes of Sen. Paula Hawkins (R-Fla.) and Sen. Albert Gore (D-Tenn.) against Zappa and Dee Snyder of the heavy metal faves Twisted Sister.

The Student Advisory Committee (SAC) of the Institute of Politics, which sponsored last night's debate, had to turn away hundreds from the panel discussion, which was entitled "Caution: Rock Music May Be Hazardous to Your Health." The discussion drew the largest crowd of any SAC event this year, according to David C. Michael '87, vice president of the Committee.

Woo Woo

Also participating in the panel discussion was Arnie "Woo-Woo" Ginsberg, Boston radio guru and current general manager of V-66, a local music video channel. Thomas Radecki, a psychiatrist and founder of the National Coalition on Television Violence, was scheduled to participate but was unable to attend at the last minute.

Ginsberg, who has been a Boston radio disc jockey since 1956, likened the current uproar over obscenity in rock music lyrics to previous public outcries which occurred with Elvis "the Pelvis" Presley and the long-haired Beatles.

Nevius said the average teenager listens to four-to-six hours of rock music per day, and 11,000 cumulative hours of sound from grades seven to 12. The average child spends the same amount of time in classroom instruction between grades one and 12.

Her presentation led many students to take her side. "I think Nevius won," said Glenn McDonald '89. "She accomplished her objective." He added that he didn't think "putting labels on records is a form of censorship."

But some students said that Zappa may have profited from his unusual appearance at this venue for hardcore politics.

"I think Frank Zappa won in that he gained popularity for his new album," said Theodore J.F. Lubke '89. The album, which will be coming out later this month, is entitled, "Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention." The forthcoming record will feature live testimony from the PMRC in a 12 minute song called "Porn Wars.

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