PMRC's 'Filthy 15': Where Are They Now?

Three decades after W.A.S.P., Vanity, Judas Priest, Prince, Madonna and others shocked Tipper Gore and her committee, Rolling Stone takes a critical look at 1985's worst of the worst

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Prince,
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Prince, circa mid-Eighties. Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive/Getty13/15

Prince, "Darling Nikki"

Proposed PMRC Rating: Profane or sexually explicit

Explicit Lyrics: "I knew a girl named Nikki/I guess you could say she was a sex fiend/I met her in a hotel lobby masturbating with a magazine"

Prince Then: At the peak of his purple majesty, Prince was ubiquitous in 1985. He'd scored big hits with a string of albums including Prince, Dirty Mind, Controversy and 1999, and in the summer of 1984, he made his big-screen debut in the box-office smash Purple Rain. In the movie, Prince's character — the Kid — freaks out upon learning that his girlfriend was working with his rival, Morris Day, hits her and writes the overtly sexual song "Darling Nikki" to humiliate her onstage. Out of context, when Tipper Gore's 11-year-old daughter brought the record home, the lyrics prompted the activist to want to inform parents of albums' content, leading her to cofound the PMRC.

What He Said Then: "A lot of people have the idea that I'm a wild sexual person ... To some degree I am, but not 24 hours a day," Prince told Rolling Stone in 1985. "Nobody can be what they are 24 hours a day, no matter what that is."

After the PMRC: Purple Rain became an enduring hit and, as of 1996, was certified 13-times platinum. The singer-songwriter subsequently chalked up nearly two dozen gold and platinum records since then, having recently released Hit n Run. The now infamous "Darling Nikki" has gone on to be covered by Foo Fighters, Rihanna and even comedian Maya Rudolph. Prince said he became a Jehovah's Witness in 2001 and said he would stop using profanities in his lyrics, and he dropped "Darling Nikki" from his set list for a spell. But after reintegrating it back into concerts in 2007, it became a staple of his 2011 tour, and he has been performing it at concerts this year.

What He Says Now: "Times were different back then," Prince told The Washington Post in 2004 about why he wasn't performing "Darling Nikki" at the time or cursing in his songs. "I wouldn't stand out today if I was brand-new and came like that. But see, back then nobody else was doing that, and I knew that would get me over. I didn't dress like anybody, I didn't look like anybody, I didn't sound like anybody. We still try to do that."

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