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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Judas Priest,
Judas Priest, circa mid-Eighties. Paul Natkin/WireImage/Getty15/15

Judas Priest, "Eat Me Alive"

Proposed PMRC Rating: Profane or sexually explicit

Explicit Lyrics: "Groan in the pleasure zone/Gasping from the heat ... /I'm gonna force you at gunpoint/To eat me alive ... /Squealing in passion as the rod steel injects."

Judas Priest Then: By 1984, the heavy-metal trailblazers, who pioneered headbangers' leather biker look, were at their peak. Since the release of their 1974 debut, Rocka Rolla, they'd issued one genre-defining album after another, earning gold records for 1980's British Steel and 1984's Defenders of the Faith, which contained the charging BDSM-themed "Eat Me Alive," and a platinum plaque for 1982's Screaming for Vengeance. They'd even scored a rare spot on the Hot 100 in 1982 with "You've Got Another Thing Comin'." With Black Sabbath in a fractured state at the time and Led Zeppelin over, by 1984 Judas Priest had become metal's most prominent elder statesmen.

What They Said Then: "We agree that certain guidelines are important, I don't really feel that we as a band have done anything that can be misconstrued as harmful or damaging," frontman Rob Halford said in 1986. "God forbid, we should ever want to do that. That would end our career overnight."

After the PMRC: The group's 1986 album, Turbo, featured a tune called "Parental Guidance," which contained the lyrics "Don't you remember what it's like to lose control?/Put on my jacket before you get too old ... /We don't need no parental guidance."

What They Say Now: "I love 'Eat Me Alive,'" Halford tells Rolling Stone. "We did that song on the Metal Masters tour in 2008. It's a great song. For me it was a fun S&M, rock, sex song. But the PMRC twisted it into some kind of snuff song, which is ridiculous. The PMRC's suggestion of giving people some guidance was OK to me. It was just common sense from my perspective for young kids at the time. But the fact that there was this scary political screaming and yelling and shouting at the forefront was smothering the whole message. It was like, 'God this is just so stupid.' The heart of the message is a valuable idea, but all of the other extraneous screaming and yelling — 'Bands are out to kill your kids' — and the telethon Christians, adding that extremism in the mix with crazy people. Crazy people diluted the message.

"We wrote 'Parental Guidance' and 'Private Property' after all of that. Priest has never been that kind of a band, but they kind of forced our hand in that respect, you know? 'We don't need no parental guidance.' What we were saying was just what the younger fans were saying: 'Your mom and your dad don't like your music; they never have and they never will.' We're on your side as it was then and I think to some extent how it is now."