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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Mercyful Fate,
King Diamond, circa mid-Eighties. Mark "Weissguy" Weiss10/15

Mercyful Fate, "Into the Coven"

Proposed PMRC Rating: Occult

Explicit Lyrics: "Come, come into my coven/And become Lucifer's child"

Mercyful Fate Then: If W.A.S.P. were the United States' heavy-metal answer to the shock-rock void, Mercyful Fate were Denmark's. To accompany frontman King Diamond's helium-pitched vocals about Satan and the band's muscular riffing, they used human bones as props onstage and blew up a nun dummy as part of their concerts. Moreover, King Diamond's satanic dogma would inspire legions of extreme-metal bands to flirt with demonic imagery on both sides of the Atlantic. They issued two highly influential albums in the Eighties, their 1983 debut Melissa, which contained the heavy "Into the Coven," and 1984's Don't Break the Oath. Metallica would later record a medley of their songs for their covers album Garage Inc.

What They Said Then: "I know people like to be scared just a little bit and they like that because they go watching all the horror movies," he said circa 1987. "People don't like our lyrics because it says Satan on it, but they go and watch Halloween, so why don't they just accept our lyrics? ... Just take it as horror stories, that's all."

After the PMRC: The group disbanded of its own accord in 1985, as Diamond, guitarist Michael Denner and bassist Timi Hansen formed a solo band under the name King Diamond. Although those sidemen would later leave, King Diamond enjoyed a fruitful career as a cult artist, releasing albums that charted decently in the Billboard 200 through the rest of the Eighties. Mercyful Fate re-formed in 1992 and recorded a handful of albums before King Diamond decided to focus on his solo career again in 1999. Mercyful Fate guitarists Michael Denner and Hank Shermann are releasing their first collaborative album, Satan's Tomb, on October 2nd. King Diamond will be embarking on a fall tour, on which he'll be playing his solo album Abigail, around Halloween.

What They Say Now: "It's seems funny, because today what people are writing about makes those times seem so quaint," King Diamond tells Rolling Stone. "Even back then, we didn't think what we were writing about was very 'extreme.' I think we were on tour in '85, and we saw an article with us listed in USA Today and we were all like, 'Whoa, wow, someone is writing about us — we can't believe it. We barely set foot in the U.S., and we're already that big.' Then we realized it was a sort of shit list, and the whole thing was just pathetic. We thought they must be really bored to have time for this. How they saw those songs said more about them than it did about us — they had some really perverted minds. It was funny, ridiculous, surprising. Thanks for the promotion, Tipper!

"The 'Parental Advisory' sticker never served as a warning, but more as a stamp of approval that kids ended up looking for in record stores," he continues. "I remember with Abigail, we didn't know much about how things worked in the U.S., and we jokingly gave the finger on a picture on the inside of the sleeve of the vinyl, and it got rejected and we had to redo it with a new picture. That kind of thing mattered, because you risked not getting picked up by a distributor."

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