David De Sola

Layne Staley vs. the PMRC

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A few months ago, I wrote about the thirtieth anniversary of the PMRC hearing, as well as Layne Staley’s public comment on a local television program in opposition to any kind of censorship.  I’m revisiting the subject today because someone found an image of Layne on that show and posted it on an Alice in Chains Facebook group. (I’ve confirmed the authenticity of the image with Layne’s close friend and former bandmate Johnny Bacolas, who attended the taping with him.)

Here are the two paragraphs I wrote about it in my book:

During this time, much of the attention among musicians was on the Parents Music Resource Center. Cofounded by Tipper Gore, the PMRC was created to raise awareness about the violent, sexual, or occult content in popular music, which the group argued could have a negative impact on children. The PMRC was lobbying for the creation of a voluntary ratings system for explicit content. Their efforts culminated in the famous hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on September 19, 1985, which featured testimony from the PMRC on one side and, as a counterpoint, the musicians Frank Zappa, John Denver, and Dee Snider. In retrospect, two years later, Tipper Gore told the New York Times that the hearings were a mistake. “The hearings gave the misperception that there was censorship involved.”
A few weeks after the hearing, KOMO’s television talk show Town Meeting did an episode about the controversy. Layne and Bacolas were in the audience. The Seattle Times did a write-up on the episode and noted Layne’s comments, writing, “Layne Staley, a Lynnwood teen who plays in a heavy-metal group called ‘Sleze,’ says, ‘Our lyrics are all positive—“we don’t use bad language or sing about drugs and sex—but I just want the freedom to write about what I want.’” This is likely the first time he appeared on television, and the first time he was quoted in a newspaper.

 

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