Tell your children not to hear my words: The PMRC pissing off Danzig resulted in “Mother”

By on August 8, 2019

If you need a little “Metal In Your Face,” we can’t think of a better way to achieve total metalification than watching Night Flight’s “Take Off to Satanic Metal,” which features Danzig’s video for “Mother,” a surprising hit resulting from Glenn Danzig being pissed off at the PMRC lobby group.

You’ll find this vintage half-hour episode from 1988 devoted to heavy metal videos now streaming on Night Flight Plus.

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Ex-Misfits frontman Glenn Danzig had originally written “Mother” in the mid-’80s to record with his gothy post-punk band Samhain.

Danzig has said the lyrics — “Mother, tell your children not to walk my way/Tell your children not to hear my words/What they mean, what they say” — were inspired by hearing former Vice President Al Gore’s wife Tipper Gore, whose lobby group, the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), were pushing for regulations on music they felt was harmful to innocent children.

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In a 2013 interview (“Glenn Danzig: Democrats are fascists disguised as liberals“) for Minneapolis’s City Pages, Danzig — still pretty pissed off his music was being labeled as “offensive” — elaborated on writing “Mother,” but he blamed the former VP instead of his wife:

“Al Gore wanted to tell people what they could listen to and what they couldn’t, what they could record. It was basically coming down to the idea that he wouldn’t let anybody record any music that he didn’t think you should be doing. There was going to be an organization that would tell you what you could and couldn’t record. And certainly if you couldn’t record it, you couldn’t put it out. It was really fascist.”

Record producer Rick Rubin sat in on one of Samhain’s rehearsals — on the advice of Metallica bassist Cliff Burton he’d first seen them perform at the 1986 New Music Seminar — but he didn’t think Glenn’s bandmates were talented enough to get “Mother” tracked properly in the studio.

“I remember Glenn being really excited about the song ‘Mother’ and telling me that, content-wise, it’s one that he’d been wanting to do for years and just never really found the way to do it,” Rubin said in a 1988 Rolling Stone interview.

Danzig then brought in a new drummer — Chuck Biscuits, ex-Black Flag, ex-Circle Jerks, ex-DOA — but it wasn’t sounding any better to Rubin, so Danzig kept auditioning additional musicians, eventually finding guitarist John Christ.

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This new group — Danzig, Biscuits, Christ and bassist Eerie Von — were re-christened Danzig, and now finally ready to record Danzig’s “Mother.”

Rubin: “For him, it was a breakthrough in writing. I remember when we were recording, Glenn had laser-beam focus on all the parts. It was so much fun hearing him sing it. It was a trip. That song has got such a great vibe, and he’s such a great singer.”

“Mother” — Danzig sounds like he’s simultaneously channeling Elvis and the Doors‘ Jim Morrison — was the first single released from their self-titled debut, Danzig, released by Rubin’s Def American label in August of 1988.

The album came with a warning sticker claiming lyrics contained explicit content.

Unfortunately, Danzig only made it to #125 on the Billboard album charts. The single didn’t chart at all, but that’s not the end of the story.

Read more about Danzig’s “Mother” video below.

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When Rick Rubin’s record label sent this original video for “Mother” to MTV, the network demanded severe edits before they would air it.

The black & white video — directed by Rick Menillo — appears to have been inspired by German expressionistic films from the ’30s, but MTV hated it so much they threatened to ban all future Danzig videos as well.

In one shot, Danzig seems to tear a live chicken apart, causing dark blood (actually, chocolate syrup) to splatter everywhere before he smears the blood onto a scantily-clad model lying across an altar.

To this day, that model, Jill Kethel, goes by the name “The Mother Chick” on her Facebook and Youtube social media pages, where you watch her perform exercise routines and tribute dances to heavy metal tunes.

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Despite their objections to the video’s content, MTV ended up airing an unedited version of “Mother” for an entire week before someone caught the mistake.

Rubin ended up getting over a hundred people to call MTV asking for the video where they “sacrifice the chicken,” a stunt that resulted in generating a lot of publicity for Danzig, who could use all the help they could get back then.

MTV eventually replaced the unedited version with the censored version, and in 1993 they eventually replaced that one with a “live” version of the song (it was just an overdubbed concert audience atop the original track, with footage shot at Danzig’s 1992 performance at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheater, with additional footage shot in the UK).

This time “Mother” — included on Danzig’s new The Thrall: Demonsweatlive EP, containing three studio recordings and four “live” songs — benefited from airplay on episodes of “Beavis & Butthead,” and it was added to MTV’s “Buzz Bin.”

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The newly-retitled “Mother ’93,” suddenly began climbing the charts, making it to #43 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 pop charts, #17 on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and peaked at #62 on the UK Singles chart.

Renewed interest in the original version led to the original self-titled Danzig album from 1988 eventually being certified gold.

Watch Danzig’s “Mother” video in Night Flight’s “Take Off to Satanic Metal” — which also features Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden, KISS, Mötley Crüe, King Diamond, and Damien — on Night Flight Plus.

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.