Psychedelic flags of freedom

Michael Horovitz on free speech, free love and the wizardry of Oz; HIPPIE, HIPPIE SHAKE Richard Neville Bloomsbury £18.99

This memoir racily recalls Richard Neville's life and times from January 1959 in Sydney to his 30th birthday in London at the end of 1971 - "the end of my youth". In 1963 with his best mate, the prolific artist- cartoonist Martin Sharp, he founded Oz, juxtaposing iconoclastic student contemporaries with their heroes Lenny Bruce and Bertrand Russell. In Australia, as elsewhere, the times were a-changing. But in 1966, having achieved a circulation of 40,000 for the magazine and survived several obscenity trials, Neville and Sharp headed for Britain.

The new poetry, songs, music, anti-war movement, communal use of drugs and the spending power of the young were drawing together a less competitive, more humane and consciously global tribe. Swinging London turned out to be even wider open than the duo had imagined for the "feverish grab-bag of rebel attitudes and breathless trend-spotting" to which Neville likens his editorial brain. For the first UK Oz he swiftly commissioned "In bed with the English" by Germaine Greer, Colin MacInnes on the growth of black activism, and Alex Cockburn and David Widgery to lambast Paul Johnson and Private Eye for cosy revisionism.

Sharp contributed, among other items, a gatefold caricature of Lyndon Johnson, his head rayed with rifles, cradling the puppet Saigon General Ky as a baby in Nazi uniform, calling it "The Madonna of the Napalm." The blazing visual opportunism of each successive issue (there were 47 in all) projected the wildly unbuttoned and subversive content perfectly. Oz gradually surpassed International Times (IT) to become the most popular organ of the emergent counter-culture - as well as the magazine most hated and hounded by the authoritarian establishment.

Hippie Hippie Shake comes emblazoned with Martin Sharp graphics, colour covers, collages and nostalgic photographs, and is, as much of Oz was, extremely funny. Neville brings back particularly well the broad humour of culture clash, as when his sweetheart from Down Under is buttonholed by John Mortimer at a publishing party: "As the famous silk chatted about the bizarre sexual proclivities of Melbourne, it took Louise a while to realise that his subject was a Victorian Prime Minister, not the capital of Victoria."

Neville also excels, where many a more sophisticated writer has failed, at conveying his first experiences of marijuana and hallucinogens: "Suddenly, my teeth felt itchy. Sharp read, 'No matter how many arrests the police make, there can be no final bust, because the revolution has taken place in the minds of the young.' 'Wow.' Why was I saying wow? His hair shimmered in the sunlight, he was Moses reading from the tablets. . . Giggles floated from the bed. . . Why did he look like a chimp? I felt a chump. Sharp handed me IT, pointing to a para, the words springing to life as a singing telegram: 'The new thing is people just coming together and grooving.' My heart was racing. I muttered, 'Strawberry Fields Forever.' The walls of the studio started to breathe, inflate, shrink, along with the pop-surrealist artworks. Everything roared."

Neville's unstoned, wilfully naive, tabloid-pulpy, summer-of-love manifesto is less convincing: "no money, no clocks, no Wimpyburgers, where the grey skies are strobe-lit, Nirvana is up for grabs, and the wizardry of Oz fuels the engine of Utopia."

But his weakness for such PR guff gets jettisoned, for most of the chronicle, in favour of the erratic bumps and grinds of his sex life, poignant and hilarious by turns; of the more exacting challenges of the London and worldwide intelligentsia who provided the best of his copy ("In the alternative future who's going to build the hospitals?" - Ken Tynan); of having to engage with the harsher realities that ensued in Paris, Berlin, Chicago, Kent State University, South East Asia, et al, and, eventually, with the bullish agencies of law and old-world order for whom Oz's psychedelic flags of freedom flashing were red rags from hell.

Early in 1970, with the new age in mind, Oz advertised for schoolkids interested in guest-editing and producing a special issue reflecting their lives, provoking a dozen or so to straggle into Richard and Louise's Notting Hill basement: "Eddie said that the only way to run a society was by a process of non-pyramidal mutual co-operation. 'Nonsense' said Trudi: 'without a boss, people aren't capable of organising a raffle.' 'What about the international postal service?' put in Chris. 'That's an example of all countries, of all sizes, co-operating for mutual benefit'. . .'' Neville's reconstruction of the way these teenagers talked and worked together makes current Parliamentary debate and operations seem retarded. Charles Shaar Murray, then a sixth former, said later, "I was fumbling around in a darkened room trying to find a light switch: Oz was it." More's the pity that this enlightenment seems to have serviced only the brave new nothing-very- much-thank-you of Mrs Thatcher's legacy. Murray now languishes atop the consumerist pyramid, babbling indistinguishably narcissistic Torygraph Spectatorese alongside such similarly fossilised ex-punky pets as Tony Parsons and Julie Burchill.

That the generously conceived anti-paternalistic schoolkids Oz led to the mag's demise and not to a Duke of Edinburgh Award is something hippie- bashers could do a lot worse than ponder in depth. Enabling the issue represented Neville's true coming of age. As he said, defending it at the Old Bailey in 1971 against the hypocritical charge of depraving and corrupting public morals: "The alternative society has become more practical and political. Sometimes we're so busy trying to survive as comfortably as possible in a frenzied and confusing world, we find it difficult to care about people we cannot see or hear. You don't have to be black to understand the evils of racial discrimination, but it does require an involvement. When you see longhairs or black people or women marching in demonstrations, they don't want to destroy everything you believe in; they want to rebuild and redistribute it so that everyone receives a fair share. . . That is what Oz, or the community of which Oz is a part, tries to do. To redefine love, to broaden it, extend it, revitalise it.''

There's no doubt that Oz "helped free things up,'' as Neville suggests at the close of this admirably forthright, self-critical and clear-eyed retrospect; nor, to my mind, that our whole planet has as much or more need today of that courageous and caring spirit.

A signal Underground episode not recorded in this book concerns the gaggle of German beatniks whose car went phut in the middle of Hyde Park Corner at rush hour. Fortunately a police car pulled up behind, whose astonished occupants the relieved German driver leapt out to embrace with great joy, shouting: "Halloo! Ve are on a Trip, und ve haff run out off LSD: please help us." There it all woz - as every good schoolchild knows, international times need mutual co-operation.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Arts and Entertainment
Nicholas says that he still feels lucky to be able to do what he loves, but that there is much about being in a band he hates
musicThere is much about being in a band that he hates, but his debut album is suffused with regret
Arts and Entertainment
The singer, who herself is openly bisexual, praised the 19-year-old sportsman before launching into a tirade about the upcoming Winter Olympics

books
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher in the eleventh season of Two and a Half Men

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

film
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman as Doctor Who and Clara behind the scenes

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cheery but half-baked canine caper: 'Pudsey the dog: The movie'

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
    Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

    Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

    They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
    The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

    20 best days out for the summer holidays

    From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
    Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

    All the wood’s a stage

    Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
    Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

    Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

    Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
    Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

    Self-preservation society

    Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
    Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

    Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

    We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor