Saturday, 17 August 2013

The OZ Trial

This famous obscenity trial took place in 1971 and showed how much the Government, Police, and all types of authority feared the wave of young people actually thinking for themselves, not believing everything the authorities told them, and asking awkward questions.  OZ magazine was started in Australia in 1963 by Richard Neville, Richard Walsh & artist extraordinaire Martin Sharp.  This magazine ran into many problems with the Australian authorities, resulting in a trial.  In 1966, Neville & Sharp moved to London, and with fellow Aussie Jim Anderson, started a London OZ in 1967.  The magazine discussed many subjects that were considered taboo; sex, drugs, homosexuality, torture in oppressive regimes, politics, in which comments went for the jugular.  As in Australia, the authorities hated the magazine and the editors had the usual problems with the Obscene Publications Squad.  In 1969, Martin Sharp withdrew from the magazine and his place was taken by Felix Dennis.   Sharp became famous for designing the covers of two albums by Cream - Disraeli Gears & Wheels of Fire.  After three years, it was felt that the magazine was losing it`s edge, so they advertised for schoolkids to edit an issue for them.

    This resulted in teenage schoolkids producing the now infamous edition.  One of the contributors was future music journalist & author Charles Shaar Murray.  What provoked the initial outcry was the changing of a cartoon by Robert Crumb, which now featured childrens favourite Rupert Bear with an erection.  Neville, Anderson & Dennis were arrested and faced a number of obscenity charges but the really sinister one was "Conspiring to Corrupt Public Morals" which carried an indefinite sentence.  Neville chose to defend himself, whilst Anderson & Dennis were defended by John Mortimer, creator of "Rumpole of The Bailey".  The Judge, Mr Justice Argyle was clearly biased against the three.  They were convicted and jailed but this was overturned on appeal.  OZ petered out a couple of years later.  The trial was recreated by the BBC in which nothing was held back.  The Judge was played by comedy star Leslie Phillips, and defence witness, jazz musician George Melly was played by Alfred Molina.

    What was truly hypocritical was the raids by the Porn Squad, who at that time, ran the most lucrative protection rackets in London.  They had no problem with pornographers peddling the most vile filth but when young people responded with typical schoolboy toilet humour, they were suitably outraged.  OZ magazines now command high prices on ebay, particularly, the schoolkids edition.