Few Explicit Records Labeled; Further Action Possible, Officials Say
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Many record companies began labeling new albums containing references to sex, violence or drugs in February, but the issue of explicit lyrics has not been settled.
Maryland’s lawmakers defeated a proposed ban on sales of records with pornographic lyrics to minors last month, although the sponsor of the measure says she anticipates it is a matter of time before other jurisdictions take up the cause.
Rock star Frank Zappa, who testified before the Maryland legislature and Congress against censorship of records, says he has no immediate plans to speak to any other state lawmakers.
″The Maryland bill was so soundly defeated, I hope it sends a message to other states considering similar legislation,″ Zappa said in a recent interview. ″I hope I won’t have to make any more appearances.″
In November, the Recording Industry Association of America reached an agreement with the Parents Music Resource Center, a group led by the wives of Sen. Albert Gore Jr., D-Tenn., and U.S. Treasury Secretary James Baker.
The agreement, which went into effect Feb. 1, calls for companies represented by RIAA, which claims 85 percent of the recording industry as members, to place inscriptions such as ″Explicit Lyrics - Parental Advisory″ on records containing lyrics that may be offensive.
No one, either in the recording industry or in the parents group, is counting the number of records labeled for explicit content, although some record companies say comedy albums with profanity and drug references surely will be tagged, as they were before the agreement.
″The number of records that contain explicit lyrics is still and always has been miniscule,″ said RIAA spokeswoman Trish Heimers.
Despite voluntarily labeling, there remains a bitter rift between the two sides.
Susan Baker and Tipper Gore, co-founders of the parents group, lobbied hard to force the record industry to accept labeling. But at second glance, the accord doesn’t go far enough, they say.
Mrs. Baker, 48, said after her group’s initial review of the labeling system: ″We have seen some things that have been disturbing to us. It’s not as complete as we hoped it would be.″
The agreement does not affect artists with creative control over their material or independent record labels distributed by RIAA members, officials said. Mrs. Baker said her group has opened discussions for labeling agreements with independent record labels.
And if RIAA members don’t comply with the accord, ″we are going to fight like bulldogs. We are going to stand on the issue and it’s not going to go away,″ she pledged.
Recording industry executives, meanwhile, say the program could backfire on the parents group because some rock stars want the labels on their albums on the theory they could boost sales.
″One rock musician, whom I won’t name, asked me, ’What do I have to do to get it?‴ said Bob Merlis, a spokesman for Warner Bros. Records. ″It shows a snotty attitude.″
Sue Satriano, national director of media and artists relations for Capitol Records, said the labels may indeed entice some buyers.
″Sometimes people like that stuff,″ said Ms. Satriano. ″When they rate movies X and R, sometimes people flock to it.″
Mrs. Gore, the mother of four children ranging from ages 3 to 12, said musicians who believe the labeling will enhance sales underestimate the intelligence of most young people.
″There’ll be a few people attracted to it because it’s raunchy,″ she said. ″But I give teens more credit, that they won’t go running down to the record stores to buy more albums because they’re raunchy.″
And Zappa said artists who push to have their records labeled may prompt further action against explicit lyrics.
″If they do that, they’re taking an ignorant attitude,″ he said.
Mrs. Gore contends violence in music lyrics instigates violence in teen- agers.
″Many teen males who like hard rock are angry because their mothers are working and are not at home any more,″ said Mrs. Gore, adding that some women work not because they have to but ″because they’re selfish and hedonistic.″
But Zappa, 45, dismisses claims that lyrics lead to deviant behavior.
″Look at all the normal kids who live with it every day and are not committing suicide and don’t commit murder, and in some cases, grow up to be legislators,″ said Zappa.
″Ask yourself this question: What happened when all those peace songs were played in the ’60s?,″ he said. ″I wrote a song about dental floss, but did anyone’s teeth get cleaner?″