BY: JESSICA BEUKER
The University of Wollongong is the only source on the Internet to features every page of the counterculture magazine, OZ—an influential, yet highly controversial psychedelic underground publication that ran in London between 1967 and 1973.
The magazine featured a long list of notable contributors that included, Germaine Greer, a major voice in the second-wave feminist movement, journalist Lillian Roxon, writer and poet Clive James, music critic Richard Meltzer, film critic Raymond Durgnat, and Barney Bubbles, a radical graphic artist. Some of the interview subjects included Pete Townshend of The Who, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, psychonaut Timothy Leary and pop artist Andy Warhol.
Richard Neville, a self-described futurist who rose to fame after the first few magazines printed in Australia, edited OZ. In both Australia and later the UK, the magazine had to battle several serious legal challenges over obscenity, according to Dangerous Minds.
The 16-page first issue was published on April Fools’ Day in 1963. It got quite a response, and sold 6,000 copies by lunchtime. The first issue parodied The Sydney Morning Herald, the front page donning a prank story about the collapse of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The issue also featured a spread on the history of the chastity belt, and a story on abortion, which was illegal at the time. As a result of the abortion story, the magazine lost its advertising contract.
OZ would go on to release many more issues, covering issues such as homosexuality, police brutality, Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War, and fittingly, censorship. They would also satirize well-known public figures.
In 1963, the magazine was slammed with its first set of charges for distributing an obscene publication. They pleaded guilty, and in 1964 had already received a second charge. In 1966, Neville and his co-editor Martin Sharp ended OZ in Australia and left for London. Only a year later, London OZ was born. And this version would not be any less prone to obscenity charges.
OZ’s 1970s “Schoolkids” issue, which was actually created by school children and teens, featured an insanely vulgar comic strip created by 15-year-old Vivian Berger. Berger pasted the head of Rupert Bear onto a character from an X-rated cartoon by R. Crumb—the result being extremely sexual, graphic and unsettling.
The trial that resulted from the issue was the longest obscenity trial in British history at the time. Neville, along with the other two editors at the time, Felix Dennis and Jim Anderson were being charged, not only with obscenity, but also with conspiring to “debauch and corrupt the morals of young children,” according to the British Library.
OZ lost its case and the editors were cleared of the corruption charge, but found guilty under the Obscene Publications Act. In 1971, after being refused bail, kept in prison for seven days and having their long hair cut off, the editors received their prison sentences.
While Neville and Anderson received 15 months, Dennis was only sentenced to nine months of imprisonment because, according to the Independent, Justice Michael Argyle told him that he was “very much less intelligent” than the other two. Dennis got the last laugh though—all convictions were later quashed on appeal, and he went on to become the sole owner of Dennis publishing (up until his death in 2014), which holds over 50 magazine titles including Maxim, the largest selling men’s lifestyle magazine.
This is the first time that all issues of OZ Magazine are available online for public consumption. As noted on the website:
“Please be advised: This collection has been made available due to its historical and research importance. It contains explicit language and images that reflect attitudes of the era in which the material was originally published, and that some viewers may find confronting.”
Photo sources: uow.edu.au