John and Yoko march for OZ, August 1971 (via Meet the Beatles for Real)
“I think that everyone should own everything equally and that the people should own part of the factories and they should have some say in who is boss and who does what,” John Lennon announced to Hit Parader during his militant period. When he and Yoko Ono joined a march in London in August ‘71, holding up the latest issue of the Marxist newspaper Red Mole, they were demonstrating in support of both the IRA and the underground magazine OZ, whose editors had just been sent up the river on an obscenity beef.
John and Yoko took up the cause of the “OZ Three.” For their now-famous “school kids issue,” number 28, OZ had solicited and printed contributions from teenage readers, and was alleged thereby to have struck a mighty blow against the morality of English youth. During the ensuing obscenity trial, the defense actually called an expert witness to testify that just seeing the cover illustration was not enough to turn a healthy young person into a lesbian.
Note the “OZ Obscenity Trial” souvenir T-shirt, featuring R. Crumb’s character Honeybunch Kaminski
In the end, the editors got fifteen months in prison, and the hip community rallied to their defense, Jon Wiener reports in Come Together: John Lennon in His Time:
The OZ defense committee announced it would appeal, and John and Yoko joined the fundraising effort. They wrote the songs “God Save Us” and “Do the Oz,” released as a single by Apple in July 1971. John played on both and sang lead on “Do the Oz,” calling the group “the Elastic Oz Band.” Full-age ads appeared in all the British underground and radical newspapers: “Every major country has a screw in its side, in England it’s OZ. OZ is on trial for its life. John and Yoko have written and helped produce this record—the proceeds of which are going to OZ to help pay their legal fees. The entire British underground is in trouble, it needs our help. Please listen—‘God Save Oz.’”
Bill Elliot (later of the Dark Horse band Splinter) sings the A-side of the Elastic Oz Band single, which Lennon originally called “God Save Oz” but retitled “God Save Us.” Both sound the same in a Liverpool accent, I think Lennon is telling Sounds here:
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’.
But the B-side, “Do the Oz,” is the keeper. Mutilating the lick from “Smokestack Lightning” on guitar, John hollers the steps of his modified hokey pokey while Yoko sings the terrifying, beguiling hum of modernity. Backing them are the Plastic Ono Band and, on acoustic guitars, two contributors to the “school kids issue,” future NME contributor Charles Shaar Murray and “Michelle.”
More after the jump…