WASHINGTON — Washington. -- The government of Singapore has banned the new double album by the American hard-rock band, Guns N'Roses, called ''Use Your Illusion I and II.'' I've never been to Singapore, but it appears they know something there that we in the United States have forgotten. They know obscenity when they see it and are not afraid to try to stem its flow.
David Geffen, president of the label that records Guns N'Roses, said of the advance sale of more than 4 million copies, ''When you give the people what they want, they'll show up in droves.'' A fine epitaph for a generation: Give them what they want, not what they need. The social problems that confront us are a result of too many wants fulfilled and too many needs unmet.
The album is so full of profanities and vulgarities that the band requested a parental advisory label to be affixed to the cover. The warning label could use a warning label. It says, ''This album contains language some listeners may find objectionable. They can [deleted] off and buy something from the New Age section.''
If there is entertainment for the damned in Hell, Guns N'Roses will be vying for lead billing. Axl Rose, the foul-mouthed lead ''singer'' even calls his mother by a sexual epithet that only pornographic magazines and Rolling Stone would print.
In its review of the albums, Rolling Stone (which prints more than a few of the recorded epithets) sees beyond the band's ''thousand points of spite'' to a core political message which, we are told, ''however indefensible at times, is emblematic of a greater adolescent cancer: an almost total loss of hope compounded by blind, impotent rage and the perverted Reagan-Bush morality in which the actual cloth of the Stars and Stripes is deemed more holy than the freedom and humanity for which it stands.''
That's quite a political load to lay on teen-agers. Why do so many young people listen to this swill? Why aren't they listening to something more uplifting? Al Menconi, a music critic, thinks the reason is the separation many children feel from their parents. He says rock stars like Guns N'Roses meet three of children's basic needs.
First, rock stars provide unlimited time. They never tell teens to come back when they're not busy. They never say they're too tired to sing. They never make young people feel unimportant.
Second, says Mr. Menconi, rock stars offer complete, unqualified acceptance. They never criticize the teen-ager. They never embarrass him in front of his friends. They never require him to pick up his clothes, sit up straight, do his homework, etc. They accept him just as he is.
Third, rock stars understand. Typically, says Mr. Menconi, rock stars tell our children, ''You are a sexual being. You need to explore your sexuality. Your parents are out of touch, they don't understand your problems like I do.''
The reason kids listen to these lies is that rock stars have built up a lifetime of trust among teen-agers. Too many of us are too busy or put other interests first. Just as Axl Rose once said, ''Rock music was my best friend when I was growing up.''
How bad is Gun N'Roses? Ask its former drummer, Steven Adler. He filed a lawsuit last July claiming he was fired from the band because he stopped using heroin.
Banning a record, as Singapore has done, is a short-term solution to a more far-reaching problem. It does nothing to address the alienation many young people feel from their parents and from their culture. We parents can try our own censorship game, but we would be more effective if we spent more time trying to understand and communicate with our children. If we don't, it's obvious someone else is ready and willing to do the job for us.
Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist.