Frank Zappa Testifies Before the US Senate Commerce, Technology, and Transportation Committee, Attacking the PMRC

The PMRC proposal is an ill-conceived piece of nonsense which fails to deliver any real benefits to children, infringes the civil liberties of people who are not children, and promises to keep the courts busy for years dealing with the interpretational and enforcemental problems inherent in the proposal's design. It is my understanding that, in law, First Amendment issues are decided with a preference for the least restrictive alternative. In this context, the PMRC's demands are the equivalent of treating dandruff by decapitation ... The establishment of a rating system, voluntary or otherwise, opens the door to an endless parade of moral quality control programs based on things certain Christians do not like. What if the next bunch of Washington wives demands a large yellow "J" on all material written or performed by Jews, in order to save helpless children from exposure to concealed Zionist doctrine?”

— Frank Zappa

On September 19, 1985, Zappa testified before the US Senate Commerce, Technology, and Transportation committee, attacking the Parents Music Resource Center or PMRC, a music organization, co-founded by then-Senator Al Gore's wife Tipper Gore. The PMRC consisted of many wives of politicians, including the wives of five members of the committee, and was founded to address the issue of song lyrics with sexual or satanic content. Zappa saw their activities as on a path towards censorship, and called their proposal for voluntary labelling of records with explicit content "extortion" of the music industry.

Zappa set excerpts from the PMRC hearings to Synclavier music in his composition "Porn Wars" on the 1985 album Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention. Zappa is heard interacting with Senators Fritz Hollings, Slade Gorton, Al Gore (who admitted to being a Zappa fan), and in an exchange with Florida Senator Paula Hawkins over what toys Zappa's children played with. Zappa went on to argue with PMRC representatives on CNN's Crossfire in 1986 and 1987. Zappa's passion for American politics was becoming a bigger part of his life. He had always encouraged his fans to register to vote on album covers, and throughout 1988 he had registration booths at his concerts. He even considered running for President of the United States.

Zappa later expanded on his television appearances in a non-musical role. He was actor or voice artist in episodes of Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre, Miami Vice and The Ren and Stimpy Show. A voice part in The Simpsons never materialized, to creator Matt Groening's disappointment.