W.A.S.P.’s Blackie Lawless Recalls Receiving Death Threats After PMRC Dispute
In the mid-1980s, a list was published under the name ‘The Filthy Fifteen.’ The Parents’ Music Resource Center demanded that the songs of a list featuring mainly metal music figures get banned, including W.A.S.P. As he revealed in a Q&A session before one of their recent concerts, the frontman Lawless received death threats following the campaign, and it was a life-changing experience for him.
“It changed my life if that’s what you mean,” replied the frontman when he was asked about the incident. “It made me more of a recluse. Yeah, a couple of thousand death threats and bomb scares and getting shot at a couple of times usually has a tendency to alter your outlook on life a little.”
He continued, “But also, we were exposed to extreme fame very early, and fame is kind of like this — if this table is a smorgasbord, it’s like an evil genie stands down at the end of the smorgasbord and [says], ‘You can take anything you want, but if you take one thing, you take it all.”
For him, this event had been a life-altering experience. “You do not get to pick and choose. So all the good stuff that you like in the smorgasbord, that’s wonderful, but you’ve gotta take the bad stuff too.’ So it ends up being a life-altering experience, one I don’t think you can ever really go back from — at least I haven’t been able to.”
The 1980s were the revival years of rock music; the metal scene was more fertile than ever before. However, this bothered some. With slogans like ‘Stop Rock,’ ‘Rock Music Destroys Kids,’ and ‘It’s Gone Too Far,’ PMRC wanted to expose the so-called harms of this revival. They even suggested that albums be rated in a content-based way, according to features such as sexually explicit, occult references, lyrics about drugs and alcohol, and violent content, and have stickers affixed to albums.
In addition to these demands, they also made a playlist titled ‘The Filthy Fifteen.’ In the list, there were 15 songs that they wanted to be banned because they included the above-mentioned themes in their lyrical content. Besides the stars of that time, such as Prince and Madonna, the songs of bands such as Judas Priest, Mötley Crüe, W.A.S.P., Def Leppard, and Black Sabbath were also included in this list.
In August of 1985, 19 record companies agreed to put a sticker on the albums dubbed ‘Parental Guidance: Explicit Lyrics.’ This was met with a great reaction in the rock world. Some bands like Metallica have even parodied these stickers and put warning signs on their albums to ridicule them. The W.A.S.P. members also made a song called ‘Harder, Faster’ in response. As it turns out, the committee’s proposal did not stop them. However, judging by Lawless’s speech, it increased the pressure on them a lot, even to the point of death threats.