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Oz (magazine)

Oz (magazine)

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Oz was first published as a satirical humour magazine between 1963 and 1969 in Sydney
Sydney is the most populous city in Australia and the state capital of New South Wales. Sydney is located on Australia's south-east coast of the Tasman Sea. As of June 2010, the greater metropolitan area had an approximate population of 4.6 million people...

, Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 and, in its second and better known incarnation, became a "psychedelic hippy" magazine from 1967 to 1973 in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

. Strongly identified as part of the underground press
Underground press
The underground press were the independently published and distributed underground papers associated with the counterculture of the late 1960s and early 1970s in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and other western nations....

, it was the subject of two celebrated obscenity
An obscenity is any statement or act which strongly offends the prevalent morality of the time, is a profanity, or is otherwise taboo, indecent, abhorrent, or disgusting, or is especially inauspicious...

 trials, one in Australia in 1964 and the other in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 in 1971. On both occasions the magazine's editors were acquitted on appeal
An appeal is a petition for review of a case that has been decided by a court of law. The petition is made to a higher court for the purpose of overturning the lower court's decision....

 after initially being found guilty and sentenced to harsh jail terms.

The central editor throughout the magazine's life was Richard Neville
Richard Neville (writer)
Richard Neville is an Australian author and self-described "futurist", who came to fame as a co-editor of the counterculture magazine Oz in Australia and the United Kingdom in the 1960s and early 1970s...

. Co-editors of the Sydney version were Richard Walsh and Martin Sharp
Martin Sharp
Martin Sharp is an Australian artist, underground cartoonist, songwriter and film-maker. Sharp has made contributions to Australian and international culture since the early 60s, and is hailed as Australia's foremost pop artist...

. Co-editors of the London version were Jim Anderson
Jim Anderson (editor)
Jim Anderson edited Oz Magazine and later wrote the book Billarooby.Jim Anderson was born in Haverhill, Suffolk, but his family emigrated to Australia when he was a year old. This was due to his father having a dispute with his own father with whom he never reconciled...

 and, later, Felix Dennis
Felix Dennis
Felix Dennis is a British magazine publisher, poet, and philanthropist. His privately owned company, Dennis Publishing, pioneered computer and hobbyist magazine publishing in the United Kingdom...


Oz was parodied in the short-lived 1999 UK television series Hippies
Hippies (TV series)
Hippies is a six-part British television comedy series broadcast from 12 November to 17 December 1999. It was created by Arthur Mathews and Graham Linehan, the writing partnership most famous for Father Ted, but the scripts were written by Mathews alone.It starred Simon Pegg, Sally Phillips, Julian...

. Hippie Hippie Shake, a film based on Neville's memoir with Cillian Murphy
Cillian Murphy
Cillian Murphy is an Irish film and theatre actor. He is often noted by critics for his chameleonic performances in diverse roles and distinctive blue eyes and general sex appeal....

 in the lead role, will be released in 2011.

Oz in Australia

The original Australian editorial team included university students Neville, Walsh and Sharp and Daily Mirror cadet journalist Peter Grose. Other early contributors included future Time magazine critic and art historian Robert Hughes, student and future author Bob Ellis
Bob Ellis
Bob Ellis is an Australian writer, journalist, film-maker and political commentator. He was a student at the University of Sydney at the same time as other notable Australians including Clive James, Germaine Greer, Les Murray, John Bell, Ken Horler, and Mungo McCallum...

. Neville, Walsh and Sharp had each been involved in student papers at their respective Sydney tertiary campuses—Neville had edited the UNSW student magazine Tharunka
Tharunka is a student newspaper published at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. Established in 1953 at the then New South Wales University of Technology, Tharunka has been published in a variety of forms by various student organisations...

, Walsh edited its University of Sydney
University of Sydney
The University of Sydney is a public university located in Sydney, New South Wales. The main campus spreads across the suburbs of Camperdown and Darlington on the southwestern outskirts of the Sydney CBD. Founded in 1850, it is the oldest university in Australia and Oceania...

 counterpart Honi Soit
Honi Soit
Honi Soit is the student newspaper of the University of Sydney, first published in 1929 and produced by an elected editorial team as part of the activities of the Students' Representative Council...

and Sharp had contributed to the short-lived student magazine The Arty Wild Oat while studying at the National Art School in East Sydney. Influenced by the satirical style of Britain's New Statesman
New Statesman
New Statesman is a British centre-left political and cultural magazine published weekly in London. Founded in 1913, and connected with leading members of the Fabian Society, the magazine reached a circulation peak in the late 1960s....

and Private Eye
Private Eye
Private Eye is a fortnightly British satirical and current affairs magazine, edited by Ian Hislop.Since its first publication in 1961, Private Eye has been a prominent critic and lampooner of public figures and entities that it deemed guilty of any of the sins of incompetence, inefficiency,...

and the radical comedy of Lenny Bruce
Lenny Bruce
Leonard Alfred Schneider , better known by the stage name Lenny Bruce, was a Jewish-American comedian, social critic and satirist...

, Neville and friends decided to found a "magazine of dissent".

The 16-page first edition, published on April Fools' Day
April Fools' Day
April Fools' Day is celebrated in different countries around the world on April 1 every year. Sometimes referred to as All Fools' Day, April 1 is not a national holiday, but is widely recognized and celebrated as a day when many people play all kinds of jokes and foolishness...

 1963, caused a sensation, selling 6000 copies by lunchtime of publication day. It parodied The Sydney Morning Herald
The Sydney Morning Herald
The Sydney Morning Herald is a daily broadsheet newspaper published by Fairfax Media in Sydney, Australia. Founded in 1831 as the Sydney Herald, the SMH is the oldest continuously published newspaper in Australia. The newspaper is published six days a week. The newspaper's Sunday counterpart, The...

(and was even printed on The Herald's own presses, adding to its credibility) and led with a front-page hoax about the collapse of the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Sydney Harbour Bridge
The Sydney Harbour Bridge is a steel through arch bridge across Sydney Harbour that carries rail, vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic between the Sydney central business district and the North Shore. The dramatic view of the bridge, the harbour, and the nearby Sydney Opera House is an iconic...

. It also featured a centre spread on the history of the chastity belt
Chastity belt
A chastity belt is a locking item of clothing designed to prevent sexual intercourse. They may be used to protect the wearer from rape or temptation. Some devices have been designed with additional features to prevent masturbation...

 and a story on abortion (then still illegal in NSW) based on Neville's own experience of having to arrange a termination for a girlfriend, but these stories would soon rebound on the editors, leading to the magazine's first round of obscenity charges. There were also more immediate consequences—as a result of the controversy generated by the abortion story, the Maritime Services Board
NSW Maritime
NSW Maritime was an agency in the Government of New South Wales, Australia. NSW Maritime was the State Government Authority responsible for marine safety, regulation of commercial and recreational boating and oversight of port operations...

 evicted Oz from their office in The Rocks
The Rocks, New South Wales
The Rocks is an urban locality, tourist precinct and historic area of Sydney's city centre, in the state of New South Wales, Australia. It is located on the southern shore of Sydney Harbour, immediately north-west of the Sydney central business district...

, the Sydney Daily Mirror newspaper cancelled its advertising contract and they also threatened to sack Peter Grose from his cadet-ship unless he resigned from Oz.

In succeeding issues (and in its later London version) Oz gave pioneering coverage to contentious issues such as censorship
thumb|[[Book burning]] following the [[1973 Chilean coup d'état|1973 coup]] that installed the [[Military government of Chile |Pinochet regime]] in Chile...

, homosexuality
Homosexuality is romantic or sexual attraction or behavior between members of the same sex or gender. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions" primarily or exclusively to people of the same...

, police brutality
Police brutality
Police brutality is the intentional use of excessive force, usually physical, but potentially also in the form of verbal attacks and psychological intimidation, by a police officer....

, the Australian government's racist
Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...

 White Australia Policy
White Australia policy
The White Australia policy comprises various historical policies that intentionally restricted "non-white" immigration to Australia. From origins at Federation in 1901, the polices were progressively dismantled between 1949-1973....

 and Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War
Military history of Australia during the Vietnam War
Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War began as a small commitment of 30 men in 1962, and increased over the following decade to a peak of 7,672 Australians deployed in South Vietnam or in support of Australian forces there. The Vietnam War was the longest and most controversial war Australia...

, as well as regularly satirising public figures, up to and including Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies
Robert Menzies
Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, , Australian politician, was the 12th and longest-serving Prime Minister of Australia....


In mid-1963, shortly after the publication of Issue 3, Neville, Walsh and Grose were summonsed on charges of distributing an obscene publication; the shock of the charges caused Walsh's deeply religious father to suffer a serious heart attack, so their family solicitor arranged for the case to be adjourned until September 1964 but he advised the trio that, as first offenders, they could avoid having their conviction recorded if they plead guilty. Word soon went around the publishing trade; after their current printers pulled Issue 4 from the presses Neville shopped around for a new printer but he was turned down by a dozen other companies until, on Sharp's advice, he approached maverick writer-publisher Francis James
Francis James
Alfred Francis James was an eccentric Australian publisher known for being imprisoned in China as a spy.-Early life:...

, editor of the Anglican Press, who agreed to take it on. When Neville, Walsh and Grose appeared in court on 3 September 1964 the Walsh's solicitor plead guilty on their behalf; each was fined ₤20 and their convictions were recorded, an outcome that was to have serious repercussions in their second trial.

With end-of-year exams looming, Oz #5 was postponed until the Christmas break. When eventually issued, it included a scathing satire on the ongoing police harassment of homosexuals. "The Stiff Arm of the Law" (which became a regular feature on police misconduct) featured a parody of a police report in which incriminating sections of a supposed account of an officer's real actions in a gay-bashing incident were crossed out and replaced with far more anodyne language, e.g. in the line "I was at Philip St Station in my homo hunting togs", the words "homo hunting togs" were crossed out and replaced with the handwritten words "plain clothes", "this little bastard" with "a youth", and "I myself punched him several times" was amended to read "I was punched several times", and so on. As a result of this perceived slight on their integrity, police seized 140 copies of Oz from a Kings Cross newsagent and took them to a magistrate, who ordered them to be burned.
Two other items in these early issues incurred the wrath of the NSW police. One was Martin Sharp's ribald satirical poem about youths gatecrashing a party, entitled "The Word Flashed Around The Arms"; the other was the now famous Oz #6 cover photograph (pictured at right), which depicted Neville and others pretending to urinate into a wall fountain created by sculptor Tom Bass
Tom Bass
Thomas Dwyer Bass AM, was a renowned Australian sculptor. Born in Lithgow, New South Wales on 6 June 1916, he studied at the Dattilo Rubbo Art School and the National Art School and established the Tom Bass Sculpture School in Sydney in 1974. In 1988 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia...

, which was mounted in the street facade of the Sydney offices of the P&O
Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company
The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, which is usually known as P&O, is a British shipping and logistics company which dated from the early 19th century. Following its sale in March 2006 to Dubai Ports World for £3.9 billion, it became a subsidiary of DP World; however, the P&O...

 shipping line and which had recently been unveiled by Prime Minister Menzies.

In April 1964 the Neville, Walsh and Sharp were again charged with obscenity, but this time the situation was greatly complicated by the fact that they had already plead guilty on the first charge and this previous conviction would count heavily against them in sentencing if they were found guilty on the new charges. As soon as the case began they were confronted by the blatant bias and hostility of the magistrate hearing the case, Mr Gerald Locke, SM. To the dismay of the Oz team and their friends and family, Locke decided to make an example of them, sentencing the three to six months in prison with hard labour, but they were released on bail pending an appeal. Their supporters decided to raise money for the defence fund with a benefit concert, which was held at the Sydney University Theatre on 15 November 1964, featuring legendary Sydney garage-punk band The Missing Links, members of the popular satirical TV sketch series The Mavis Bramston Show
The Mavis Bramston Show
The Mavis Bramston Show was a popular and award-winning Australian TV satirical sketch comedy series of the mid-1960s.-Introduction:The tremendous impact that The Mavis Bramston Show had in Australia in the mid-1960s was heightened because of its unique place in the history of the Australian TV...

and actor Leonard Teale
Leonard Teale
Leonard Teale AO , born Leonard George Thiele in Brisbane, was a well-known Australian actor of radio, television and films....

 (then starring in the popular TV police drama Homicide), who recited a 'surfie' parody of Clancy of the Overflow
Clancy of the Overflow
"Clancy of The Overflow" is a poem by Banjo Paterson, first published in The Bulletin, an Australian news magazine, on 21 December 1889. The poem is typical of Paterson, offering a romantic view of rural life, and is one of his best-known works.-History:...


The case created a storm of controversy, but the convictions were overturned on appeal mainly because, like their subsequent British trial, the appeal judge found that Locke had misdirected the jury and made remarks that were found to have been prejudicial to the defence's case.

In subsequent issues Sydney Oz made several investigations into the murky realms of Sydney's underworld. One celebrated feature delved into the illegal abortion rackets which were then flourishing in Sydney (and around Australia), because at that time abortion was still illegal for all but the most exceptional cases, and corrupt police were widely believed to be running lucrative protection rackets that netted them substantial sums.

In 1965 Oz editor Richard Neville had a close encounter with Sydney's alleged "Mr Big" of organised crime, Lennie McPherson
Lenny McPherson
Leonard Arthur McPherson was one of the most notorious and powerful Australian career criminals of the late 20th century...

, a notorious criminal who was at that time well on his way to becoming Sydney's most powerful underworld figure, thanks in part to a systematic program of public assassinations of his rivals. Late in the year, Oz published a feature called "The Oz Guide to Sydney's Underworld", which was based on information from two local journalists, and which included a "top 20" list of Sydney major criminals. The list deliberately left the #1 spot blank, but at #2 was the name "Len" (i.e. McPherson) who was described as a "fence" and a "fizz-gig" (police informant). Soon after the list was published, McPherson made a visit to Neville's house in Paddington; ostensibly he wanted to find out whether the Oz editors were part of a rival gang, but he also made it clear to Neville that he objected to being described as a "fizz".

The Top 20 list also reportedly played a part in the death of Sydney criminal Jacky Steele, who was shot in Woollahara in November 1965. Steele — who had been trying to take over protection rackets controlled by McPherson — survived for almost a month before dying from his wounds, but before he died he told police that McPherson had ordered his execution because Steele had bought multiple copies of Oz and had made great play of the fact that McPherson was not #1. Oz revealed this in a subsequent issue, which contained extracts from the minutes of a confidential meeting of Sydney detectives, held on 1 December 1965, which had been leaked to the magazine by an underworld source.

Sharp and Neville left for London in 1966, while Walsh returned to his studies, although he subsequently revived and published a reduced edition of Sydney Oz, which ran until 1969. In the 1970s he edited POL magazine
POL magazine
POL Magazine was a monthly magazine published by Gareth Powell Publishing in Australia in the late 1960s. It is considered to have played an important role in raising awareness of the status of women, and established new standards in terms of content, design and photography.In March-May 2003, the...

 and the Nation Review
Nation Review
Nation Reviewwas an Australian Sunday newspaper, which ceased publication in 1981. It was launched in 1970 after independent publisher Gordon Barton bought out Tom Fitzgerald's Nation publication and merged it with his own Sunday Review journal...

and later became managing director of leading Australian media company Australian Consolidated Press, owned by Kerry Packer
Kerry Packer
Kerry Francis Bullmore Packer, AC was an Australian media tycoon. The son of Sir Frank Packer and Gretel Bullmore, the Packer family company owned controlling interest in both the Nine television network and leading Australian publishing company Australian Consolidated Press, which were later...


Oz moves to the UK

In late 1966 Neville and Sharp moved to the UK and in early 1967, with fellow Australian Jim Anderson
Jim Anderson (editor)
Jim Anderson edited Oz Magazine and later wrote the book Billarooby.Jim Anderson was born in Haverhill, Suffolk, but his family emigrated to Australia when he was a year old. This was due to his father having a dispute with his own father with whom he never reconciled...

, they founded the London Oz. Contributors included Germaine Greer
Germaine Greer
Germaine Greer is an Australian writer, academic, journalist and scholar of early modern English literature, widely regarded as one of the most significant feminist voices of the later 20th century....

, artist and filmmaker Philippe Mora
Philippe Mora
Philippe Mora is a French-born Australian film director. Born in 1949 to a German Jewish father and a French Jewish mother, he began making films while still a child.- Career :...

, photographer Robert Whitaker
Robert Whitaker (photographer)
Robert Whitaker was a renowned British photographer, best known internationally for his many photographs of The Beatles, taken between 1964 and 1966, and for his photographs of the rock group Cream, which were used in the Martin Sharp-designed collage on the cover of their 1967 LP Disraeli...

, journalist Lillian Roxon
Lillian Roxon
Lillian Roxon was a noted Australian journalist and author, best known for Lillian Roxon's Rock Encyclopedia . Her niece Nicola Roxon, the Australian politician, is currently the federal Minister for Health....

, cartoonist Michael Leunig
Michael Leunig
Michael Leunig , typically referred to as Leunig, is an Australian poet, cartoonist and cultural commentator. His best known works include The Adventures of Vasco Pyjama and the Curly Flats series...

, Angelo Quattrocchi, Barney Bubbles
Barney Bubbles
Colin Fulcher aka Barney Bubbles was a radical English graphic artist, whose work primarily encompassed the disciplines of graphic design, painting and music video direction. He is most renowned for his distinctive contribution to the graphic design associated with the British independent music...

 and David Widgery
David Widgery
David Widgery was a British Trotskyist writer, journalist, polemicist, physician, and activist.Widgery was born in Barnet and grew up in Maidenhead, Berkshire...


With access to new print stocks, including metallic foils, new fluorescent inks and the freedom of layout offered by the offset printing
Offset printing
Offset printing is a commonly used printing technique in which the inked image is transferred from a plate to a rubber blanket, then to the printing surface...

 system, Sharp's artistic skills came to the fore and Oz quickly won renown as one of the most visually exciting publications of its time. Several editions of Oz included dazzling psychedelic wrap-around or pull-out posters by Sharp, London design duo Hapshash and the Coloured Coat
Hapshash and the Coloured Coat
Hapshash and the Coloured Coat is the name of an influential British graphic design and avant-garde musical partnership between Michael English and Nigel Waymouth, producing psychedelic posters and two albums of underground music...

 and others; these instantly became sought-after collectors' items and now command high prices; another innovation was the cover of Oz #11, which included a collection of detachable adhesive labels, printed in either red, yellow or green. The all-graphic "Magic Theatre" edition (Oz #16, Nov. 1968), overseen by Sharp and Mora, has been described by British author Jonathon Green
Jonathon Green
Jonathon Green is a British lexicographer of slang and writer on the history of alternative cultures...

 as "arguably the greatest achievement of the entire British underground press." During this period Sharp also created the two famous psychedelic album covers for the group Cream
Cream (band)
Cream were a 1960s British rock supergroup consisting of bassist/vocalist Jack Bruce, guitarist/vocalist Eric Clapton, and drummer Ginger Baker...

, Disraeli Gears and Wheels Of Fire.

Sharp's involvement gradually decreased during 1968-69 and the "Magic Theatre" edition was one of his last major contributions to the magazine. In his place, young Londoner Felix Dennis
Felix Dennis
Felix Dennis is a British magazine publisher, poet, and philanthropist. His privately owned company, Dennis Publishing, pioneered computer and hobbyist magazine publishing in the United Kingdom...

, who had been selling issues on the street, was eventually brought in as Neville and Anderson's new partner. The magazine regularly enraged the British Establishment with a range of left-field stories including heavy critical coverage of the Vietnam War and the anti-war movement, discussions of drugs, sex and alternative lifestyles, and contentious political stories, such as the magazine's revelations about the torture of citizens under the rule of the military junta in Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....


UK obscenity trials

In 1970, reacting to criticism that Oz had lost touch with youth, the editors put a notice in the magazine inviting "school kids" to edit an issue. The opportunity was taken up by around 20 secondary school students (including Charles Shaar Murray
Charles Shaar Murray
Charles Shaar Murray is an English music journalist. His first experience in journalism came 1970 when he was asked to contribute to the satirical magazine Oz...

 and Deyan Sudjic
Deyan Sudjic
Deyan Sudjic is director of the Design Museum, London, England.Before moving to his post at the Design Museum, he contributed to Schoolkids OZ, was the design and architecture critic for The Observer, the Dean of the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture at Kingston University and Co-Chair of the...

), who were let loose on Oz #28 (May 1970), known as "Schoolkids OZ
Schoolkids OZ
Schoolkids OZ was issue 28 of the Oz magazine, famous for being the subject of a high-profile obscenity case in the United Kingdom in June 1971. The OZ trial ended on 5 August 1971.-History:...

". This term was widely misunderstood to mean that it was intended for school children, whereas it was a statement that it had been created by them.

One of the resulting articles was a highly sexualised Rupert Bear
Rupert Bear
Rupert Bear is a children's comic strip character, who features in a series of books based around his adventures. The character was created by the English artist Mary Tourtel and first appeared in the Daily Express on 8 November 1920. Rupert's initial purpose was to win sales from the rival...

 parody. It was created by 15-year-old schoolboy Vivian Berger by pasting the head of Rupert onto the lead character of an X-rated satirical cartoon by Robert Crumb
Robert Crumb
Robert Dennis Crumb —known as Robert Crumb and R. Crumb—is an American artist, illustrator, and musician recognized for the distinctive style of his drawings and his critical, satirical, subversive view of the American mainstream.Crumb was a founder of the underground comix movement and is regarded...

. The majority of the contributors were from public schools (in the English sense of the term: elite non-state schools); as a result the humour was mostly an extension of the type of material familiar from undergraduate rag mags.

Oz was one of several 'underground' publications targeted by the Obscene Publications Squad, and their offices had already been raided on several occasions, but the conjunction of schoolchildren and what some viewed as "obscene" material set the scene for the Oz obscenity trial of 1971. In one key respect it was a virtual re-run of the second Australian trial—the judicial instruction was clearly aimed at securing a conviction, and like Gerald Locke in Sydney, the judge hearing the London case, Justice Argyle, exhibited clear signs of bias against the defendants. However the British trial was given a far more dangerous edge because the prosecution employed an archaic charge against Neville, Dennis and Anderson—"conspiracy to corrupt public morals"—which, in theory, carried a virtually unlimited penalty.

After being turned down by several leading lawyers, Dennis and Anderson secured the services of lawyer and writer John Mortimer
John Mortimer
Sir John Clifford Mortimer, CBE, QC was a British barrister, dramatist, screenwriter and author.-Early life:...

 (creator of the Rumpole of the Bailey
Rumpole of the Bailey
Rumpole of the Bailey is a British television series created and written by the British writer and barrister John Mortimer which starred Leo McKern as Horace Rumpole, an ageing London barrister who defends any and all clients...

series) who was assisted by Australian lawyer Geoffrey Robertson
Geoffrey Robertson
Geoffrey Ronald Robertson QC is an Australian-born human rights lawyer, academic, author and broadcaster. He holds dual Australian and British citizenship....

; Neville chose to represent himself. At the opening of the trial in 1971 Mortimer stated that "... [the] case stands at the crossroads of our liberty, at the boundaries of our freedom to think and draw and write what we please". For the defence, this specifically concerned the treatment of dissent and dissenters, about the control of ideas and suppressing the messages of social resistance communicated by OZ in issue #28. The charges read out in the central criminal court stated "[that the defendants] conspiring with certain other young persons to produce a magazine containing obscene, lewd, indecent and sexually perverted articles, cartoons and drawings with intent to debauch and corrupt the morals of children and other young persons and to arouse and implant in their minds lustful and perverted ideas". According to Mr Brian Leary prosecuting "It dealt with homosexuality, lesbianism, sadism, perverted sexual practices and drug taking".

The trial brought the magazine to the attention of the wider public. John Lennon
John Lennon
John Winston Lennon, MBE was an English musician and singer-songwriter who rose to worldwide fame as one of the founding members of The Beatles, one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music...

 and Yoko Ono
Yoko Ono
is a Japanese artist, musician, author and peace activist, known for her work in avant-garde art, music and filmmaking as well as her marriage to John Lennon...

 joined the protest march against the prosecution and organised the recording of "God Save Us" by the ad hoc group Elastic Oz Band to raise funds and gain publicity. Lennon explained how the song title changed from "God Save Oz" to "God Save Us":

First of all we wrote it as ‘God Save Oz,’ you know, ‘God save Oz from it all,’ but then we decided they wouldn’t really know what we were talking about in America so we changed it back to “Us”.
"God Save Us" was first demoed by John Lennon
John Lennon
John Winston Lennon, MBE was an English musician and singer-songwriter who rose to worldwide fame as one of the founding members of The Beatles, one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music...

, but the lead singer on the recording was Bill Elliot for contractual reasons. "God Save Us"/"Do The Oz" was released on The Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles were an English rock band, active throughout the 1960s and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Formed in Liverpool, by 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon , Paul McCartney , George Harrison and Ringo Starr...

' Apple Records
Apple Records
Apple Records is a record label founded by The Beatles in 1968, as a division of Apple Corps Ltd. It was initially intended as a creative outlet for the Beatles, both as a group and individually, plus a selection of other artists including Mary Hopkin, James Taylor, Badfinger, and Billy Preston...

 label. Lennon's original demo was issued in 1998 on the John Lennon Anthology
John Lennon Anthology
John Lennon Anthology is a box set of home demos, alternative studio outtakes and other unreleased material recorded by John Lennon over the course of his solo career from "Give Peace a Chance" in 1969 up until the 1980 sessions for Double Fantasy and Milk and Honey.The anthology was divided by its...

and again on Wonsaponatime.

The trial was, at the time, the longest obscenity trial in British legal history, and it was the first time that an obscenity charge was combined with the charge of conspiring to corrupt public morals. Defence witnesses included artist Feliks Topolski
Feliks Topolski
Feliks Topolski RA was a Polish-born British expressionist painter and draughtsman.- Life :Felix Topolski was born on 14 August 1907 in Warsaw...

, comedian Marty Feldman
Marty Feldman
Martin Alan "Marty" Feldman was an English comedy writer, comedian and actor who starred in a series of British television comedy shows, including At Last the 1948 Show, and Marty, which won two BAFTA awards and was the first Saturn Award winner for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Young...

, artist and drugs activist Caroline Coon
Caroline Coon
Caroline Coon is an English artist, journalist and political activist. Her artwork, which often explores sexual themes from a feminist standpoint , has been exhibited at many major London galleries, including the Saatchi Gallery and the Tate.Coon was born to a family of Kent landowners and had...

, DJ John Peel
John Peel
John Robert Parker Ravenscroft, OBE , known professionally as John Peel, was an English disc jockey, radio presenter, record producer and journalist. He was the longest-serving of the original BBC Radio 1 DJs, broadcasting regularly from 1967 until his death in 2004...

, musician and writer George Melly
George Melly
Alan George Heywood Melly was an English jazz and blues singer, critic, writer and lecturer. From 1965 to 1973 he was a film and television critic for The Observer and lectured on art history, with an emphasis on surrealism.-Early life and career:He was born in Liverpool and was educated at Stowe...

 and academic Edward de Bono
Edward de Bono
Edward de Bono is a physician, author, inventor, and consultant. He originated the term lateral thinking, wrote a best selling book Six Thinking Hats and is a proponent of the deliberate teaching of thinking as a subject in schools.- Biography :Edward Charles Francis Publius de Bono was born to...

. At the conclusion of the trial the "Oz Three" were found not guilty on the conspiracy charge, but were convicted of two lesser offences and sentenced to imprisonment; although Dennis was given a lesser sentence because the judge, Justice Michael Argyle
Michael Argyle (lawyer)
His Honour James Morton Michael Victor Argyle QC MC was a judge at the Central Criminal Court of the United Kingdom from 1970 to 1988...

, considered that Dennis was "very much less intelligent" than Neville and Anderson. Shortly after the verdicts were handed down they were taken to prison and their long hair forcibly cut, an act which caused an even greater stir on top of the already considerable outcry surrounding the trial and verdict.

The best known images of the trial come from the committal hearing, at which Neville, Dennis and Anderson all appeared wearing rented schoolgirl costumes.

At the appeal trial (where the defendants appeared wearing long wigs) it was found that Justice Argyle had grossly misdirected the jury on numerous occasions and the defence also alleged that Berger, who was called as a prosecution witness, had been harassed and assaulted by police. The convictions were overturned. Years later, Felix Dennis told author Jonathon Green that on the night before the appeal was heard, the Oz editors were taken to a secret meeting with the Chief Justice, Lord Widgery
John Widgery, Baron Widgery
John Passmore Widgery, Baron Widgery, OBE, TD, QC, PC was an English judge who served as Lord Chief Justice of England from 1971 to 1980...

, who reportedly said that Argyle had made a "fat mess" of the trial, and informed them that they would be acquitted, but insisted that they had to agree to give up work on Oz. Dennis also stated that, in his opinion, MPs Tony Benn
Tony Benn
Anthony Neil Wedgwood "Tony" Benn, PC is a British Labour Party politician and a former MP and Cabinet Minister.His successful campaign to renounce his hereditary peerage was instrumental in the creation of the Peerage Act 1963...

 and Michael Foot
Michael Foot
Michael Mackintosh Foot, FRSL, PC was a British Labour Party politician, journalist and author, who was a Member of Parliament from 1945 to 1955 and from 1960 until 1992...

 had interceded with Widgery on their behalf.

Despite their supposed undertaking to Lord Widgery, Oz continued after the trial, and thanks to the intense public interest the trial generated, its circulation briefly rose to 80,000. However its popularity faded over the next two years and by the time the last issue (Oz #48) was published in November 1973 Oz Publications was £20,000 in debt and the magazine had "no readership worth the name.


Dennis was stung by personal comments made by the trial judge that he was of limited ability and a dupe of the other defendants; since that time, he has become one of Britain's wealthiest and most prominent independent publishers as owner of Dennis Publishing
Dennis Publishing
Dennis Publishing Ltd. is an independent publisher. It was founded in 1974.As of April 2010 the company publishes 31 magazine or online titles, predominately in the UK....

 (publisher of Maxim
Maxim (magazine)
Maxim is an international men's magazine based in the United Kingdom and known for its pictorials featuring popular actresses, singers, and female models, sometimes pictured dressed, often pictured scantily dressed but not fully nude....

and other magazines), and in 2004 released a book of original poetry. In 1995 Justice Argyle reiterated allegations about Dennis in The Spectator
The Spectator
The Spectator is a weekly British magazine first published on 6 July 1828. It is currently owned by David and Frederick Barclay, who also owns The Daily Telegraph. Its principal subject areas are politics and culture...

magazine. As this was outside court privilege, Dennis was able to successfully sue the magazine, which agreed to pay £10,000 to charity. Dennis refrained from suing Argyle personally: "Oh, I don't want to make him a martyr of the Right: there's no glory to be had in suing an 80-year-old man and taking his house away from him. It was just a totally obvious libel."

Neville eventually returned to Australia, where he has become a successful author, commentator and public speaker, later styling himself as a "futurist". His books include The Life and Crimes of Charles Sobraj (1979), a critically praised account of the life of French/Vietnamese serial killer
Serial killer
A serial killer, as typically defined, is an individual who has murdered three or more people over a period of more than a month, with down time between the murders, and whose motivation for killing is usually based on psychological gratification...

 Charles Sobhraj
Charles Sobhraj
Hatchand Bhaonani Gurumukh Charles Sobhraj , better known as Charles Sobhraj, is a serial killer of Indian and Vietnamese origin, who preyed on Western tourists throughout Southeast Asia during the 1970s. Nicknamed "the Serpent" and "the Bikini killer" for his skill at deception and evasion, he...

, who preyed on Western tourists travelling on Asia's so-called "hippie trail
Hippie trail
The hippie trail is a term used to describe the journeys taken by hippies and others in the 1960s and 1970s from Europe overland to and from southern Asia, mainly India, Pakistan and Nepal...

" in the 1970s; the book was later adapted for a successful TV mini-series starring Art Malik
Art Malik
Art Malik is a Pakistani-born British actor who achieved international fame in the 1980s through his starring and subsidiary roles in assorted British and Merchant-Ivory television serials and films...

. In the 1990s he published a memoir of his years with Oz, entitled Hippie Hippie Shake. Beeban Kidron
Beeban Kidron
Beeban Kidron is an English Film Director known for her much-lauded adaptation of Jeanette Winterson's autobiographical novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and for directing Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason...

 directed a film adaptation in 2007; which was to be released in 2010. The film stars Cillian Murphy
Cillian Murphy
Cillian Murphy is an Irish film and theatre actor. He is often noted by critics for his chameleonic performances in diverse roles and distinctive blue eyes and general sex appeal....

 as Neville, Chris O'Dowd
Chris O'Dowd
Chris O'Dowd is an Irish comedian and actor. He is best known for playing Roy Trenneman in British sitcom The IT Crowd...

 as Dennis, Max Minghella
Max Minghella
Max Giorgio Choa Minghella is an English actor. The son of film director Anthony Minghella, he has appeared in several dramatic American films, making his feature film debut in 2005's Bee Season and starring in 2006's Art School Confidential...

 as Martin Sharp, Sienna Miller
Sienna Miller
Sienna Rose Diana Miller is a British-American actress, model, and fashion designer, best known for her roles in Layer Cake, Alfie, Factory Girl, The Edge of Love and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. In 2007, the London Film Criticsnamed her British Actress of the Year for Interview...

 as Neville's girlfriend Louise Ferrier and Emma Booth
Emma Booth (actress)
Emma Booth is an Australian model-turned-actress. From Perth in Western Australia, the former teen model and TV star played a significant role in the 2007 film Introducing the Dwights, opposite Brenda Blethyn.-TV and Movies Career :...

 as Germaine Greer (who vehemently repudiated the movie in her Guardian column). As of July 2011, the movie has not been released.

Partly because of its suppression by both Australian and British authorities (many editions of London Oz were banned in Australia), copies of both incarnations of the magazine are now rare and the British issues command high prices among collectors—individual copies of the most sought-after editions are now worth several hundred UK pounds each

Walsh became a magazine editor with Kerry Packer
Kerry Packer
Kerry Francis Bullmore Packer, AC was an Australian media tycoon. The son of Sir Frank Packer and Gretel Bullmore, the Packer family company owned controlling interest in both the Nine television network and leading Australian publishing company Australian Consolidated Press, which were later...

's Australian Consolidated Press organisation and eventually rose to become its senior publisher.

Sharp has long been regarded as Australia's leading pop art
Pop art
Pop art is an art movement that emerged in the mid 1950s in Britain and in the late 1950s in the United States. Pop art challenged tradition by asserting that an artist's use of the mass-produced visual commodities of popular culture is contiguous with the perspective of fine art...

ist and is well known in Australia for his passionate interest in Sydney's Luna Park
Luna Park Sydney
Luna Park Sydney is an amusement park, in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia...

 and in the life and music of Tiny Tim
Tiny Tim (musician)
Tiny Tim , , born in Manhattan, was an American singer and ukulele player. He was most famous for his rendition of "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" sung in a distinctive high falsetto/vibrato voice.-Rise to fame:Born to Lebanese parents in 1932, Khaury displayed musical talent at a very young age...


Further reading

  • Anderson, Jim (2011). Lampoon: An Historical Art Trajectory 1970/2010. Dennis Publishing. ISBN 978-1-74210-217-7.
  • Fountain, Nigel (1988). Underground: The London Alternative Press 1966-74, Commedia/Routledge ISBN 0-415-00727-5 / ISBN 0-415-00728-3 (pb)
  • Palmer, Tony
    Tony Palmer
    Tony Palmer is an American football guard in the National Football League who is currently a free agent. The former University of Missouri guard who was selected by the St. Louis Rams. He was signed by the Green Bay Packers after being cut in the 2006 preseason by St. Louis...

     (1971). The Trials of Oz, Blond & Briggs.
  • Robertson, Geoffrey
    Geoffrey Robertson
    Geoffrey Ronald Robertson QC is an Australian-born human rights lawyer, academic, author and broadcaster. He holds dual Australian and British citizenship....

     (1999). The Justice Game, Vintage, London. ISBN 0-09-958191-4.

External links