GIANT STEPS… Along with former high school classmate Randy Payton, John Woods founded Rock Out Censorship, the anti-censorship organization that blazed a trail across the United States. On August 10, Woods died of a heart attack at age 51.
Rock Out Censorship was founded in the mid-80s in response to Tipper Gore and the right-wing preachers she helped legitimize. ROC and its screaming tabloid newspaper, The ROC, came out of the tiny hamlet of Jewett, Ohio, located in Harrison County in eastern Ohio (the poorest county in the state).
A former coal miner, John lived in desperate poverty with his family after the coal mines closed. Yet he and Randy Payton (joined along the way by Orlando computer whiz/metal maniac Kenny Moore) somehow found ways to travel the country, sounding the censorship alarm and pointing out that music censorship was based in the need of America's elite to keep the poor from communicating with each other. Elbowing their way past the liberals of the music industry (who never gave ROC the time of day), John Woods & Co. went out on tours such as Guns N' Roses/Metallica, Wu Tang/Rage Against the Machine, and Ozzfest, while also hitting every hole in the wall club that would have them. Making their way through blistering heat and New England blizzards, they made incredible sacrifices to carry on this work, often sleeping in their cars.
ROC picked up adherents in dozens of states. It took kids off the street and made them into national columnists in The ROC. ROC led a delegation to the headquarters of the PMRC in the Virginia suburbs and took petitions with 30,000 names protesting warning labels to RIAA headquarters in Washington. The RIAA's response was then as it is now: It called the cops on the fans.
ROC once hosted a National Anti-Censorship War Council at Chicken's Night Club in New Philadelphia, Ohio. People came from all over the country to share experiences and strategize. Bands played. Poets from Chicago and New York threw their words into the air.
ROC worked with all kinds of musicians but especially those who, like ROC, were deemed beneath contempt by the "responsible elements" of the music industry: the grungy underbelly of metal, punk, rap, and noise. Now that ROC's predictions that fans would be put in jail are coming true, it's more important than ever to carry out the ROC strategy. That strategy, developed in the crumbling houses and corner bars of rural Ohio, is to build a movement to transform our country from the fans and bands at the bottom while making links to every level of society.
RRC and Rock Out Censorship came up together, arm in arm. We are very proud to have known John Woods, a man who was also a pioneer in organizing welfare recipients. His legacy endures in the new Rock A Mole film, The Ultimate Song, where, garbed in a Free the Memphis 3 T-shirt, he speaks out for the rural poor. Before the film crew went to Woods's house to film him, they first had to pay his electric bill so the cameras would be able to see him. Please send what you can to John's widow, Vera, to help pay for the funeral and to help keep the family alive. (Vera Woods, 111 E. Main Street, Jewett OH 43986).