Watch Jello Biafra and Ice-T take on Tipper Gore over record labeling in 1990

Originally published at:


Related: I highly recommend tracking down this film, which details the insane and awesome (but true) story about how John Denver, Frank Zappa and Dee Snider joined forces to smack down the PMRC in congress:

(I had to torrent it, I don’t think you can even buy this film)


Glad that Al divorced her. Sad that it took so long due to political optics. Being married to her was an inconvenient truth.


I’m so glad the nanny state Democrats aren’t popular anymore.

“Progressive legislation? No, we just don’t want kids to hear a rapper say the naughty words that their parents say all the time!”


At the same time all of this was happening, the rest of the “liberal” political landscape was lurching hard right with “three strikes” legislation that culminated in the Crime Bill that, to this day is largely responsible for the explosion of prison populations, especially POC. Fuck your culture and fuck your freedom.

Fuck Tipper.


The PMRC hearings are, to date, the only congressional transcript I ever ordered. My tax dollars at work.


Okay, I know nothing about that Tipper Gore lady, other than that she was the wife of Al Gore, but what I get from her “think of the children” performance here, is that she isn´t (wasn´t?) the brightest candle on the christmas tree.


As many folks here probably know (and I recently learned), a lot of shopping malls in America at the time had a a “no pornography” clause in their lease contracts. Shopping malls wanted parents to feel like they could let their mall rats roam. Since pornography is difficult to contractually define, they settled on “anything with a warning label”.

Fast-forward to the PMRC “compromise” that the music not be banned, but have a warning label. This effectively put that music in the “pornography” category in those malls. It was a de facto ban without ever saying the word “ban”. Sneaky buggers.


Think final boss level Karen, wife of a rising politician, and a soccer mom who convinced Xtian evangelical leaders and a few famous second-wave feminist public intellectuals to support her racist, classist puritanical WASP censorship policy initiatives.


I still love wandering around shopping malls. Reminds me of those heady days of youth, having some independence, and looking at all the cool video game shops, and those shops which sold D&D books, crystal/pewter miniatures, swords and incense. But still, an activity that my whole giant family did together.

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Biafra talked about being on the Oprah show in his spoken word album I Blow Minds For A Living, I remember him saying that he couldn’t get a word in edgewise against Ice-T, but in the video it sounded like he was able to get his points across pretty well.

here’s the track they collaborated on mentioned in the video:

Ice T was largely edited out of this particular upload of this Oprah show, but he had some choice words for his detractors and antagonists on the album he released after that appearance, including Gore:


Jello! I underestimated you!


Tipper Gore and her lot did, too. The same went for Frank Zappa. It was so satisfying watching her and the anchors taken aback by the calm, reasoned, and informed performance of what I’m sure they assumed would be wild, drug-crazed, and ignorant rock stars.


All this because of some “parental advisory” labels? Surely it had nothing to do with Biafra being known as a colossal asshole.

I never, ever had an issue finding CDs with a parental advisory label at mall record stores. That’s simply absurd. Using that logic, these stores wouldn’t sell R rated movies, either.

I guess I never saw what the huge deal was about labeling explicit content on principle (although the “parental advisory” labels were pretty much worthless in their implementation). In my experience it was never any actually barrier to finding and buying the music I wanted to get, even as a teenager.


I grew up in a part of the country that didn’t really have record stores other than walmart. So this label and Walmart’s practice of releasing edited versions of albums were pretty much what kept me unaware of a lot of music growing up. You’d have to be from a part of the country that really believed this stuff to have it affect you, but it definitely was a big deal. I remember once a friend of mine got paddled at school because he listed punk as a type of music he liked, and then had his locker contents burned by the principal.

This was in the mid 90s.

So yeah. The labels sucked a lot of ass.


Walmart likely wouldn’t carry those albums even without a label. Walmart has a lot of leverage and can do things like demand “clean” versions.

They’d carry them but edit them / have them edited. There was a big kerfluffle about them doing it and not marking the cds as edited. In some cases, especially in North Arkansas near the walmart HQ, they’d even do it without permission, and sometimes the edits were so, so bad. They’d just have some old white guy saying “expletive” over half the album.


“… Tipper Gore was holding it(the cuttlefish) for a while, but they made her give it back” 7:20.


I’m not saying this didn’t happen, but this really feels apocryphal to me.

Lots of mainstream recording artists will re-record “clean” versions of songs, or the label will make an official “clean” mix. Just going in and changing the original product in an unauthorized manner seems like a clear copyright violation.

While you don’t mess with Wal-Mart, you also don’t mess with the RIAA.