I was thumbing through some of my old CDs the other day and came across a little hip-hop emerald from 1991 called We Can't be Stopped by Geto Boys—a Texas gangster-rap trio that was so violent, sexist, racist and indignant that NWA paid them for tips on how to be hard.
As I was gazing upon the CD cover—which was a genuine photo of rapper Bushwick Bill sitting on a hospital gurney bleeding out of the eyeball from a bullet he caught while tussling over a pistol with his girlfriend—my glance fell upon my old pal PAL.
PAL, which stands for Parental Advisory Label, is the warning stamped on album covers to alert parents to overtly violent or sexual content. Oh yes, I remember quite well when Tipper Gore (Al's wife) and her brood of sexually repressed Washington wives founded the Parental Music Resource Center (PMRC) to impose these warning labels on the music industry.
And you darn well know I watched those hearings intently. It was as fascinating as it was frustrating. On one side, you had Frank Zappa, Dee Snider and John Denver testifying against the proposal, which is like having Albert Einstein, Jesus Christ and Henry VIII on the same Over the Line team. On the other side was Tipper and her committee of vaginally welded Washington biddies wincing and fidgeting whenever Denver's lyrics were quoted.
When the biddies spoke, it was all I could do to keep from putting a foot through the TV. They were going to be the death of free expression in the music industry. I mean, really? We're just going to start stamping scarlet letters on albums based on the opinion of a small group of Washington wives who are so prudish that even their orgasms wear burqas?
Well, as it turned out—not so much. As I looked upon the Geto Boys advisory label, it occurred to me that I was wrong. As much as I still despise the PMRC and its real agenda, the labels themselves didn't have any measurable effect on free expression. They certainly didn't hurt W.A.S.P.'s sales none, and they didn't slow down sex and violence in music. All the labels did was inform parents. And looking at Bushwick Bill's bleeding eye socket only cemented my flip-flop. If I had pre-teen kids, ain't no way they'd be getting this CD for Christmas.
The whole trip down memory lane got me thinking: What other issues have arisen over the years about which I have been embarrassingly wrong? And the first that came to mind was the prohibition of cigarettes in nightclubs.
I was a bartender when that initiative was being debated, and all of us in the biz believed it was going to destroy the industry. If smokers couldn't have their beloved butts while enjoying an adult beverage, they were more likely to stay home or patronize bars with smoking patios. The measure scared the shit out of us. It was our Y2K.
I remember the night before the law was to take effect. It was New Year's Eve 1997. The shift was over and I was wiping down a stack of ashtrays with a rag—getting the nasty, black dreck all over my fingers—and thinking, Well, I may be out of work soon, but at least I won't get the hand cancer.
Well, the bars didn't skip a beat. People went outside to smoke, and they rather enjoyed it. Turned out it was a nice break from the cacophony inside. And even smokers admitted to preferring the smoke-free environment. What a difference it made. I didn't realize I was working in a smog chamber until the smog had lifted. I didn't realize I was breathing gallons of soot every night. The residue coated my skin, clothes and hair. I used to wake up in the morning with my sheets smelling like I had a three-way with the Marlboro Man and his horse. Nope. Don't miss those days a bit.
I was wrong about Jim Morrison. Back in the day, I thought he was a masterful poet who tapped into the mysteries of the cosmos. In hindsight, his poetry reads like a quasi-depressed high-school loner who stages suicide attempts for attention, and his infamous onstage antics were not so much anti-establishment as they were petulant tantrums.
I was wrong about John Lennon. Peace, love and respect, my ass. The list of rotten things he did is long and serrated, but, in a nutshell, he was a raging asshole: Lennon ignored his first wife and their son Julian and dropped them both for Yoko. He never made an effort to get Julian back into his life, and in a move that can only be described as "Reaching new heights of assholery," he released "Beautiful Boy" for baby Sean, leaving then-teenage Julian to wonder why his father not only never wrote a song for him, but didn't even invite him over for Thanksgiving.
To top it off, Lennon was physically and verbally abusive to women, friends and family. He threw tantrums and had a bit of a homophobic and anti-Semitic streak in him. I'm not saying he deserved to get shot, but Chapman was right: Lennon was a narcissistic crybaby scumbag poser who doesn't deserve our idolatry.
Lastly, I was wrong about marriage. I'd always sworn to never go down that road. I just wasn't big on the whole one-woman-for-the-rest-of-my-life thing, not to mention that I didn't think any woman would stick around too long if I wasn't going to marry her. Then I met W. and told her she was great but I didn't want to get married, and she said, "I don't want to get married, either!" and I said, "Hey we're perfect for each other—let's get married!" and she said yes, so we did.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Edwin Decker blogs at www.edwindecker.com. Follow him on Twitter @edwindecker or find him on Facebook.
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