We all owe the University of Wollongong a great debt, because they are hosting the only repository on the internet that features every single page of OZ, the influential psychedelic underground newspaper that was published in London between 1967 and 1973 after several years of an Australian version that was equally mind-blowing.
The newspaper featured an impressive roster of contributors, including Germaine Greer, Lillian Roxon, Barney Bubbles, David Widgery, Clive James, Edward de Bono, Richard Meltzer, Clay Wilson, Colin MacInnes, Anthony Haden-Guest, and Raymond Durgnat. Interview subjects included Pete Townshend, Timothy Leary, Jimmy Page, and Andy Warhol.
OZ magazine was edited by Richard Neville. Both in Australia and in the UK, OZ had to weather several serious legal challenges over obscenity. The May 1970 issue was called the “Schoolkids” issue; it featured a filthy comic strip in which Vivian Berger adapted a R. Crumb cartoon to place the beloved Rupert Bear cartoon character in an explicitly sexual situation (PDF link here). They were defended in court by John Mortimer, later the author of the highly successful “Rumpole” series of British legal novels. A few years earlier Mortimer had defended Hubert Selby for the Last Exit in Brooklyn trial, and in 1977 Mortimer also successfully defended the right of the Sex Pistols to use the word “bollocks” in an advertising display. However, Mortimer’s luck with OZ was not quite as good, and Neville, along with editors Felix Dennis and Jim Anderson, were sentenced to up to 15 months imprisonment, although the ruling was later overturned on appeal.
Issue No. 28, the “Schoolkids” issue
The art director of OZ was Martin Sharp, who was one of the true artistic geniuses of the psychedelic movement. He had been with the publication since its Australian period, and his many meticulously wrought, daring, and colorful covers and internal illustrations guaranteed that OZ would stand out from a visual perspective. Sharp also did the cover art for Cream’s albums Disraeli Gears and Wheels of Fire, if you’re wondering why his style looks so familiar.
OZ used to do this thing where they would transcribe the lyrics of new songs, so for instance, the September 1968 issue features the lyrics to “Street Fighting Man” and “Jigsaw Puzzle” which were credited as being “from the unreleased album Beggars Banquet.” The album was released in December of the same year.
Note: The first version of this post neglected to thank the Exile on Moan Street blog for the tip.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Martin Sharp’s psychedelic tarot cards from 1967