EXCLUSIVE: Having rallied in recent months against censorship-advocating Republican politicians and the loss of abortion rights in America, Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider is going back to the past to spotlight our potential future.
The heavy metal lead singer has teamed with Magilla Entertainment for a documentary series about the efforts of Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Center 37 years ago to excise so-called obscene music. Confounding all expectations, Snider appeared with Frank Zappa and John Denver before a Senate committee in 1985 and proved a compelling and insightful advocate for freedom of expression and creative license.
“To be in the crosshairs of this bipartisan attack on free speech caught me completely off guard,” Snider told Deadline. “All of my rock and roll dreams were finally coming true, and the PMRC was trying to shut me up,” the “We’re Not Gonna Take It” singer added of the heyday of hair metal. “Some of my peers thought we should just ignore them, but I couldn’t. To quote a brilliant man, ‘This is our life, this is our song!’ Someone had to fight back… and I fought hard!”
Seeking to shock the nation with a self-described “Filthy Fifteen” list that included Twisted Sister’s chart-topping anthem, Prince’s “Darling Nikki,” Judas Priest’s “Eat Me Alive,” Madonna’s “Dress You Up” and W.A.S.P.’s “Animal (F*ck Like a Beast),” future Second Lady Gore and then-Treasury Secretary James Baker’s spouse Susan and a bipartisan Beltway troop sought to cut off kids’ access to the raunchy rock ’n’ roll that was all over the radio and MTV.
Although tripped up by Snider and others on live TV for its authoritarian tendencies and ill-considered solutions, the PMRC was successful in getting parental-advisory stickers slapped on albums deemed offensive.
As made clear by many a chart topper, the unintended aftermath was that records with the sticker on them often became best-sellers as fans wanted what the adults told them they couldn’t have. In tones and methods similar to book banning and attacks on notions like Critical Race Theory by MAGA pols nowadays, the PMRC’s “Filthy Fifteen” also included relatively innocuous works by the likes of Sheena Easton and Cyndi Lauper as well as AC/DC, Mötley Crüe, Def Leppard, Black Sabbath and the now almost forgotten Mercyful Fate.
With the working title The Filthy Fifteen: Censorship & the War on Dirty Lyrics, the docuseries is packed with never-before-seen footage and sit-downs with the artists and politicians at the center of the Reagan Era controversy. The docuseries will be executive produced by Magilla co-founder Matthew Ostrom, Laura Palumbo Johnson and Jason Fox for Magilla Entertainment, along with Snider and Ron Starrantino. The Moonshiners producers and the Twisted Sister frontman are currently taking Filthy Fifteen out to studios, streamers and networks.
“The PMRC hearings serve as a perfect entry point for conveying the social and political sentiment of an era, and unraveling a heated public debate that seems to be just as timely, if not more so, than it was in 1985,” Ostrom noted. “In taking a closer look at what landed each song on the ‘Filthy Fifteen,’ we’re able to peel back the layers on the song’s actual origins and lyrical intent,” the producer went on to say. “More than thirty-five years later, with fresh perspective and an evolved political climate, a new conversation could yield answers to lingering questions and even establish some common ground between former rivals.”
Established in 2009, Magilla is one of the largest independently owned unscripted production companies in the nation. Besides being behind Moonshiners, Magilla has produced the likes of Long Island Medium for TLC, feature doc Rise Up: The Moment That Changed America for History, and Dirty Mudder Truckers, both for Discovery, among others.
With Twisted Sister having retired for good after a 2016 farewell tour, Snider continues to fight the good fight, as well as put out solo albums like last year’s Leave a Scar, and appear on America’s Got Talent, other unscripted shows and commercials. After shifting gears on former pal Donald Trump during the 2016 election, the social media active Snider has repeatedly had to tell GOPers like Paul Ryan and current Arizona gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake not to use his songs for their campaigns — among other critiques.