The mid-1980s was a weird time. America was in the grip of a ‘Satanic Panic’, seeing the devil’s hand in everything from Dungeons & Dragons to backwards masking on albums.
The moral majority were on the attack, led by infamous lobbying group the Parents Music Resource Centre (PMRC), who had created the so-called ‘Filthy Fifteen’ – a list of songs they deemed offensive, from Mötley Crüe’s Bastard to Sheena Easton’s Sugar Walls.
One person staunchly manning the barricades against the wave of unwanted puritanism was the Layne Staley. Back in 1985, the future Alice In Chains frontman was a singer with Seattle glam rockers Sleze, with the teased hair and blue shades to prove it.
That year, the 19-year-old Staley made a brief appearance on local Seattle TV news show Town Hall, on an episode debating the merits – or not – of the PMRC. The organisation was pushing to put movie-style age ratings on albums to warn innocent-minded teens that they might have a few naughty words on them.
Young Layne, sporting an interesting just-got-back-from-auditioning-for-Poison hairstyle/sensible sweater combo, was having none of it. When the microphone was passed to him, he launched into a passionate defence of his artistic freedom.
“I play for a rock band called Sleze, and I mean, there’s enough controversy on our name more less than our songs,” he told the host. “We just signed with a local record company, I don’t feel there’s anything objectionable about any of our songs..
“But, I don’t feel anyone else has the right to rate our songs. I mean, I’m the only one that the right to rate my album – you don’t have it.”
And that was it. A short but punchy shot across the bows from a future superstar. It didn’t exactly bring down the moral majority, who continued to blow furious steam out of the ears for the rest of the decade. Nor did it put Sleze themselves on the map – they changed their name to Alice N’ Chainz the following year, before splitting up in 1987.
Of course, that wasn’t the last the world heard of Layne Staley. His campaign against the PMRC might not have achieved much, but his brief appearance on local TV was the first step on the path to superstardom.
Check out footage of his (brief) appearance below.