Should CDs come with age limits?

After any high-profile murder case there are the predictable calls for the banning of something or other, and the murder of Jodi Jones is no exception: The Sunday Times reports that politicians are calling for a ban on sales of some CDs to under-18s. After all, most other media such as games, DVDs, movies and so on have age restrictions, and that more or less solves the conflict between protecting people from offensive/disturbing content and allowing artists freedom of speech.

I’ll cheerfully admit to loving the idea of shops being prosecuted for selling singles such as Eamon’s “fuck it”, but while such a classification system is ideal in theory it’s almost entirely unenforceable. If kids can’t buy Marilyn Manson, Eminem or whoever, they’ll download it or get a CD-R of it instead.

That said, it might still be worth pursuing: it would still hit the record industry in the pocket because if the kids are copying music rather than buying it, there won’t be much money in some of the more unpleasant aspects of rap, rock and R&B. If under-18s were unable to buy Eamon’s single, it almost certainly would have languished in the lower reaches of the chart rather than annoying me every time I turn on the TV. Presumably any restrictions would also apply to music TV and radio, too, so we’d be spared the sight of gurning chimps clearly enunciating expletives on The Box.

The problem, of course, is deciding what should and shouldn’t be classified. The obvious targets – Eminem, Manson, explicit and/or thuggish rap – would no doubt end up in the “not for kids” category, but what about less clear-cut issues? For example, if it’s wrong for kids to hear the word “fuck” in music, what about songs celebrating the joys of sex, drugs and rock and roll? Plenty of music is misogynist, or homophobic, or racist, or seditious, or irresponsible. Should they be classified too? Should songs about drinking have the same age limits as the drinks they celebrate?

A few random selections from the current Top 75 demonstrate the problem. Iron Maiden’s Number of the Beast – on the face of it, a clear candidate for adults-only listening, but in reality the sort of pantomime “woo! the devil!” nonsense that nobody over the age of 12 would take seriously. Kasabian’s Cutt Off has LSD and gun references. It also has monkeys, although I don’t think monkey references are really a big problem for society. Elsewhere in the chart Scissor Sisters are tripping on acid, Client are singing about pornography, Snoop’s wibbling on about guns and weed (as ever), Gwen Stefani calls herself a “stupid ho”, Kings of Leon sings about switchblades, House of Pain will be “slappin’ the ho” if the “bitch steps up” and so on. In fact, pretty much the entire chart could be deemed offensive to somebody – and offending grown-ups is pretty much the raison d’etre of most pop and rock music.

So, it’s a dumb idea – but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. Thanks to teenagers’ and tweenagers’ listening habits we’ve had to endure some bloody awful pop music over the years, so this is a big opportunity for revenge. And just think of the power you could wield if you were on the classification committee:

“Right, Mr Marshall. Next up we’ve got the new single from Ronan Keating.”
“Over 18. Definitely.”
“Er, why?”
“Well, he definitely mutters ‘fuck’ at the end of the first verse, and halfway through the middle eight.”
“Yes. Really. And I’m pretty sure the backing vocals sing ‘Satan Is Lord’ in the coda.”
“My god, that’s terrible.”
“I know. Next!”