Frank Zappa

H.R. 2911

Song Review by

"H.R. 2911" can be seen as a postlude to "Porn Wars," even though originally the two tracks did not appear on the same album: "H.R. 2911" was added to the "Porn Wars"-deprived European version of Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention (the 1995 Rykodisc reissue reunited them for the first time). There is nothing esoteric about the title: It is the official title of the Blank Tape Tax bill, a proposition the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) tried to push in 1985. It would have granted it extra revenues from the sale of blank cassettes to compensate the record companies for the profit losses generated by illegal home copying.

Why title an instrumental piece "H.R. 2911"? Frank Zappa believed (and he was probably right) the RIAA gave its approval to the Parents' Music Resource Center (PMRC) proposition to put a warning sticker on rock albums containing explicit lyrics because of the lobby's ties with the government, especially with some senators sitting on the committees who were to study H.R. 2911. In brief, according to Zappa, the RIAA sold the musicians' freedom of speech hoping it would help it get its Blank Tape Tax law (it didn't work that way). That explains the title, but also the appearance in the piece of elements recalling "Porn Wars": mostly Lumpy Gravy-era snorks and wheezes, and bleak Synclavier music. The drum programming sounds like a deconstructed military march (perfect for Reagan-era politics) and the juxtaposition of a somber atmosphere and ludicrous grunts express Zappa's discontent toward the issue. It mocks the PMRC and the government, while promising dark days for the musicians' freedom.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention 1985 Ryko Distribution 3:35