Governor Booth Gardner recently declared Washington a ”state of Nirvana” after that Seattle band’s sweet success. But the groovy mood passed rather quickly when Gardner signed a bill last month making Washington the first state in the country to outlaw the sale of recorded music that ”appeals to the prurient interest of minors in sex” and that is ”utterly without redeeming social value.”
Under the so-called erotic law, if a superior court deems that recorded material is ”erotic,” an ”adults only” label must be affixed to its front cover. Selling stickered merchandise to minors is a misdemeanor with penalties up to a $500 fine or six months in jail. Similar bills are pending in five other states.
”Gardner obviously bowed to some internal pressure to do something so ridiculous,” says Nirvana bass player Chris Novoselic, who tried to dissuade the governor from signing the bill into law. While state Rep. Richard King (D), the bill’s sponsor, admits the term ”erotic” might be ”confusing to a layman,” he says, ”I don’t think it’s censorship.” But Jonathan Poneman, co- owner of Seattle’s Sub Pop Records, whose label boasts alternative Northwesterners like Sprinkler and Afghan Wigs, disagrees. ”For some people,” he says, ”Lawrence Welk is erotic.”