"My mission is to put you lot out of business."
"What's all this hostility?" asked Felix. "We're just a bunch of long- hairs trying to bring out a magazine."
"It's disgraceful. Most obscene!"
Taciturn types in nylon jackets swept paperwork off the desk and began clearing out the files. Jim stood scowling, his arms folded. "What about you?" Luff asked." Aren't you ashamed?"
"It's a good issue. I'm proud of it."
"Me too," said Felix.
"It's the worst yet - aimed at children."
"You're wrong there," Jim said. "It was done by children."
Three days later, Luff raided our production office. Wheezing on roll- your-owns, his men lugged away cabinets, correspondence, artwork, mailing lists, editorial matter and the last remaining copies of Schoolkids Oz.
When Jim and Felix recounted the raid, they seemed amused. Police harassment was part of the game. At Oz, we just "keep on trucking". Sure, but that month's elections replaced the Labour government of Harold Wilson with the Conservative government of Edward Heath.
Scotland Yard stepped up the pressure. Warnings were issued to newsagents, to our distributors and to our latest printer, Sid Spellman, whose reaction was witnessed by Felix. Two detectives visited his premises in Lamb's Conduit Street.
"Haven't I seen you lot before?" asked Sid.
"Take it easy, Mr Spellman, this is not an official visit. Just some friendly advice." The pair warned Sid that Oz was "dirty hippie rubbish. Not worth the trouble it's bound to cause you - and your family."
"Yes, I'm certain I've seen you before,'"repeated Sid.
"I don't think so."
"Yes! Dusseldorf," Sid continued, raising his voice. "You bastards - Dusseldorf!"
"You're certainly mistaken, Mr Spellman," the younger cop said. "I've never been to Germany in my life."
"Yes! Yes! I was only 11 years old. You wore long leather coats, you bastards. You had an Alsatian. My dad was running the shop and you came round and popped him, you filthy, fucking..." The balding printer screamed and shouted, his staff rushed to his support brandishing broom handles, and the Fuzz backed up the stairs.
Sid Spellman gave Felix a wink. "Scotland Yard never went back," reported Felix. "Too much of a nutter."
At the end of June, I met with Frederick Luff at the Oz offices. Felix and Jim had warned me, but the cordiality and facial pudginess were disarming. "While this issue was being put together," Luff said, leafing through the Schoolkids Oz, "we understand you were in Spain."
"So technically, you're not responsible."
"I suppose not."
There was a moment or two of silence. I asked Luff whether he planned to proceed.
"Children are involved," he said, his face going a shiny red. "We have had several complaints. The point is this, Mr Neville: are you one of the editors of Schoolkids Oz?"
Yes, that was the point. I hadn't been there for crucial decisions, but I had set the whole idea in motion.
"Oz is my magazine. My responsibility."
And so it went. Prosecution seemed inevitable. My main worry was the impact on my mother of another obscenity trial.
Much to everyone's surprise, Robert Hughes accepted an offer to become the art editor of Time magazine. Bob fled his rented mansion in Hanover Square in the dead of night, inviting everyone to help themselves to whatever he couldn't fit in his trunks. His Aussie mates turned into looters overnight - marble tiles, a water heater, velvet curtains, architraves, chandeliers. As a farewell gesture, the mansion's walls were daubed with graffiti - ripped off by the park road pig fuckers - Bob's last burst of purple prose before crossing the Atlantic.
Germaine Greer thumped in and out with her copy for C*** Power Oz. Other contributions took the form of cuddly fashion garments, knitted by her own fair hand. The Greer bikini top, for example, featured bright, erect nipples, meticulously rendered, a motif which could be applied, she wrote, to tired undies, black dresses or bridal gowns, "worked with metallic threads and sequins". The needlework for the briefs was challenging, although Germaine's advice was unstinted:
"The basis for the c***-thatch is worked in a chain stitch to provide a solid ground for crocheted fronds..." The labia minora required a satin stitch, diminishing into the collar of the clitoris, which imposed finicky demands on the liberated seamstress. "Once over for the plinth, and once more in a darker colour for the bud." At Germaine's insistence, I adorned myself with her hand-knitted, multi-striped cock-sock, plus scrotum pouch, and posed for a flattering photo.
The cover was one of Oz's most apt - a pop-art box of soap powder: oz! drives out stains with female energy. By some bizarre logic, Felix and Jim were both convinced that, with Oz already busted, this was a time when we could publish with impunity. C*** Power Oz appeared with some our most provocative erotica ever. "Porn Lite," joked Jim. The print run was 50,000.
Oz also carried a warning that the next issue would be late, as the staff were "taking a rest to prepare for another venture, Ink, a new weekly newspaper". Ink would replace IT [International Times], now sinking under its own weight, be ballsier and more committed than Rolling Stone, service the pleasure-seekers better than Time Out, scintillate the armchair yippies with prose sharper than New Society's, smarter than New Statesman's... yakety, yakety, yak. I became enmeshed in wild schemes to "hit the rich for bread", and succumbed to hallucinations about media empires - "We'll rig up a global telex network of freaks". The core of the illusion was a gang of four - Ed Victor, Andrew Fisher, Felix Dennis and me.
Ink's gestation triggered mood swings. During the highs, I could talk myself into anything, and just about anyone else. Over a lingering Goodge Street lunch with Ed Victor, I raved about the potential of a new paper to service the ever-expanding Underground. The Daily Mirror had just launched a pop weekly, and bombed. "Wrong wavelength," I assured Ed, who was fired up from working on Jerry Rubin's book Do It. As he topped my glass and polished off a large, cherry-topped chocolate dessert, I remarked, "Ed, you know you're really just a fat cat. Wallowing in everyone else's discontent, making a buck. All the buzz without the Fuzz..."
Ed laughed. It was one of those two-bottle lunches. When I reached the basement, he was on the phone. "I've decided to resign," he said, "and work full time on Ink."
"Ed, are you sure about this?"
Ed was sure.
In September, as a rehearsal for Ink, and for fun, Oz joined forces with IT and another local paper, Friends (shortly to be radicalised into Frendz), to produce FREEk, a daily news-sheet for the Isle of Wight Music Festival. Set in the rolling fields of East Afton Farm, this event boasted one of the biggest line-ups of global superstars to be seen in Europe.
In a marquee, I settled at the trestle table with the Olivetti, sorting through scribbled dispatches from stoned scribes, including two schoolkids. Marsha Rowe fed the Gestetner and ground out copies in their hundreds, her hands grimy with ink. FREEk kept a running tally of drug busts, and alerted readers with updates of plainclothes fashions: fuzz dressed as freaks.
As arrests soared, Release [set up to support victims of drug raids] launched a bail fund. One of the collectors was a pushy young Aussie fresh off the boat, Stan Demidjuk, who smart-talked his way backstage to solicit from stars. Stan was short, but his heels were high and his chestnut hair tumbled down to his thighs. "Rip-off merchants," he reported, fluttering a solitary ten-pound note. "Not one of them coughed up, the bastards, except Jim Morrison."
Thousands of youngsters squatted on Desolation Row, the out-of-bounds hillside overlooking the stage, and defied incitements to move. "The landowners will take an injunction," wailed the promoters on the PA. Attempts to knock up a "news tower" in the VIP enclosure were targeted with such a ferocious hail of Coke cans that the chic inhabitants covered their heads and quaked. The project was abandoned.
Mick Farren, former lead singer of the Social Deviants, now a White Panther, stormed into the marquee and demanded that all food stocks be distributed to the masses. "The people are angry and hungry," Mick warned, pacing our muddy tent-floor in metal-studded, thigh-high, platform-heeled boots. "Those shits on stage are only there because of the proletariat, but they project their act towards a tiny elite at the front - basically, a bunch of rich honkies." He demanded that Pepsi and Birds Eye donate their on- site warehouse to the crowds in return for a favourable mention in his next speech. He scrawled out a statement "from the White Panthers", calling for insurrection.
The insurrection erupted at 10am, led by two French anarchists with a battering ram. "Zeeze kids are being toe- tally controlled by zooperpigs," one of them yelled, thumping at the sheets of iron. The voice was familiar. I had first heard it on a cassette recorded at the Paris barricades and played to a fund-raising meeting in the basement. "Ex-source-sted, wretchyard, sleeping in zee pissoirs...", thump, crash, ram. It was Jean-Jacques Lebel, famous for storm-ing the Paris Odon in '68. "Zeeze kids are worse than zeee Jews," he screamed. "At least zeee fuck'n Jews didn't pay to go to Auschwitz..." Crash. The corrugated iron caved in. Two Angels, a Panther and a Young Liberal squeezed into the arena, where, to their astonishment, the oppressed masses joined the security guys and their Alsatians in chucking them out and repairing the breach.
"It's the corruption of money," lamented Mick Farren, limping back to Desolation Row, "and I suppose it's only logical that the kids will protect what they paid for."
As the eighth issue of FREEk spun through the Gestetner, I thought it time to vacate the marquee and soak up some of the ambience. And she feeds you tea and oranges, that come all the way from China, Leonard Cohen was singing as I wandered over to where Caroline Coon stood at a large metal cash box, counting money. "They're still busting people," she said, "and we need the bread to carry on."I kissed her. She was amazing. To fund Release, she spent half her time begging people for cash. She scooped handfuls of silver and pound-notes into a canvas bank-bag, donated by festival goers, a kind of Underground community levy. In an antique velvet dress with a plunging bodice, attended by a sea of wispy-bearded youths in tattered clothes, she looked like Maid Marion at a Sherwood Forest hide-out. Caroline took me to visit the Release trip tent.
A Civil Aid operative edged through the tent-flap, his arm around the waist of a mud-caked woman with the eyes of a cornered rabbit. He guided her to a mattress. "Tineke," he said. "Dutch." Tineke had been having a wonderful trip, soaring through galaxies, riding on moonbeams. Until Leonard Cohen started to sing.
Later, I followed the aid worker back to his tent. "These festivals are good training for us," he said, heating soup in a can, "like a rehearsal for World War Three." Mass exhaustion, bummers, ODs, cold nights, minimal amenities. He produced a folder. "I call this my pornography collection." He flipped through candid snaps of latrines at various rock festivals. With a shudder, I recognised scenes from the previous year's Isle of Wight. "That's nothing," he continued, turning a page. "Look at this..." A man staggered inside, tried to click his heels and missed. "I am having a trip, " he said in a thick German accent, "and I demand to be taken off it!"
I continued my rounds. It was way past midnight, cold and misty, with searchlights criss-crossing the crumpled crowd. Roadies scurried across the stage, making final adjustments to the sound system, piling up extra amplification. There was an expectant hush. A familiar figure shambled on stage. He stood. A little burst came from the guitar. People sat up. Silence. The tangle-head mumbled apologies, looking confused and frustrated. His fingers rattled again across the strings. "Hell, I just ain't came yet," Jimi Hendrix muttered. It was sad and eerily moving. People were crying. I saw flames lick at his frizz, but it was a trick of the lighting. "Hell, I just ain't came, yet..."
Charles Shaar Murray, the older-than-his-years, know-all Oz schoolkid, rushed up and shook my shoulders. He was raving, tears streaming down his cheeks. "The end, the end... we've come to the end," he wept. "It's all over now. Gone, gone..." Yes, baby blue, I felt it, too. Farewell to the joy of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, farewell to the fun at the fair, "Everything I ever believed in is kaput. Jimi failed because we all failed. We gouge each other's faces with Coke cans - we've created nothing, nothing..." Charles melted into the darkness.
By now, thousands in the audience were holding up torches and candles. Hendrix finally found his fuse and erupted: Hey Joe, where, you going with that gun in your hand?
Eighteen days later, Jimi was found dead in a flat at Notting Hill, choked on his own vomit.
On the morning of 1 October, 1970, Felix, Jim and I donned school blazers, striped ties and short pants, hired from a theatrical costumier's, and made our way to Marylebone Magistrates' Court, where we faced a preliminary hearing into the obscene charge. Scribes from the Underground press crowded the footpath, bitter at being banned from the press section.
The public gallery was packed - the result of gilt-edged invitations sent to Oz subscribers and sympathisers, announcing the first in a series of "obscene court room dramas - fancy dress optional - RSVP Scotland Yard". The young prosecutor, Nigel Lumley, produced a folio of statements from newsagents, schoolteachers and others, 11 in all.
Cyril Pyle, the headmaster of South East London Secondary School for Boys, stated that Oz was produced by "sick minds". Should the magazine fall into the hands of any of his pupils, he opined, it could not fail to corrupt them. The most "nauseating" item was the "illustration of coloured girls on the cover involved in homosexual practices".
David Offenbach, our solicitor, dark-haired and spidery in a Bermuda jacket and knife-edged Daks, made a spirited plea for the case to be dropped: "The prosecution has failed to produced a single witness depraved by the magazine." Frederick Luff took the stand. He had been promoted from Detective Sergeant to Detective Inspector and moved from the Obscenity Squad to ill-defined duties at Notting Hill police station.
"Having now read the magazine several times, is your mind a seething cauldron of depravity?"
The chubby-chops crusader fidgeted and mumbled. "Speaking as a mature man - I don't know."
"What are the worst bits?"
"The masturbating teacher," he said, referring to a full-page illustration of a pipe-smoking military type fingering himself and a schoolboy. "And the advertisement for Suck newspaper" - three inches of text, describing a fancy version of fellatio.
"Has that corrupted you?"
"Perhaps. It had a tendency to make me think about sucking penis." The gallery hooted. The magistrate ruled that a jury would have no difficulty in finding Oz obscene, and sent the matter to be heard at the Central Criminal Court.
Luff opposed the application for bail.
"Why?" asked Phipps, the magistrate. None of us had previous convictions.
"They will continue to spread their filth."
Bail was set at £100 each. We thanked David Offenbach, who reasoned the case would go before a judge at the Old Bailey within six months. Satchels slung over our shoulders, caps still set jauntily on billowing hair, we returned to the Oz office and shared a joint.
Jerry Rubin and his bodyguards, Stu and Brian, moved into the back room of the basement and on to my phone line. His New York office urgently needed to be informed of his interrogation at Heathrow, where immigration officials had granted the yippies a week's stay and wished them a happy holiday. "They'll be sorry," he barked.
Stu and Brian had just returned from Algiers, where Timothy Leary was staying with Eldridge Cleaver and other Black Panthers, all recipients of political asylum on that stretch of the sunny south Mediterranean coast. Jerry was breathlessly debriefed. Tim had been presented with a gun at his 50th birthday party. The Weatherwomen had turned up for weapons training. Tim and Eldridge were going on an inspection tour of Palestinian guerrilla camps. Wow!
Media reps crowded the basement for interviews. One woman asked Rubin if there was anything written in Do It which he regretted. "Yeah, the sexism," he said, updating his street-credo with enviable speed.
I was torn by his presence. Rubin was a street-smart prankster, whose war-painted pantomimes had knocked the stuffing out of HUAC, the McCarthy- immortalised House UnAmerican Activities Committee. His zest for rebellion reminded me of another redhead - a comic book hero from childhood, Ginger Meggs. Still on bail from a five-year stretch for disrupting the Democratic Convention in Chicago, Rubin delighted in taunting authority wherever he went. Having already won the Academy Award of Protest, he was now scrambling to script the sequel. "Becoming a revolutionary", he told me, "is like falling in love."
"Yes," Louise [Neville's girlfriend] silent-mouthed from the kitchen, "with yourself."
The obscenity trial was looming, there was a need to drum up Movement support, and, perhaps at the expense of any critical perspective, I found myself absurdly eager to forge an alliance between Oz and the yippie star.
Rubin was invited to appear on the David Frost Show. "Great," he said. "We can use TV to destroy TV."
"Why?" Louise asked from the bed. Her current pastime was to lie about, stoned, watching Bette Davis re-runs.
"My generation was reared on hamburgers and Walter Cronkite," Jerry replied, "so I know what a fucking powerful mother's tit it is."
"Right on," I said, weakly, as Louise dustpanned the roaches.
"We need to take TV away from the control freaks," he lectured. "To humiliate the frontmen."
Jerry recounted a yippie stunt on the Merv Griffin Show, when Abbie Hoffman had worn a shirt made from an American flag, violating state laws. "The pigs from CBS blacked out his figure," he said. "Merv Griffin was shown talking to a half black screen." Scary. "The pigs censored his body, man. It was electronic fascism."
The plan was to storm the stage. Frost's producers had allotted its yippie guests a dozen audience tickets, and the rest of us would slither into the studio via the Green Room. Mick Farren stood at the back, behind bumblebee shades, and fingered a smoke bomb. Felix Dennis brandished a green, plastic water pistol. Warren Hague, a gay activist from Toronto and one of the best orators the Gay Liberation Front had in those days, said he planned to use the show to come out of the closet. "Again?" asked Jim Anderson.
I sat in the audience feeling uneasy. Caroline Coon was nearby, decked out like Rita Hayworth, but looking like she'd rather be on duty in the trip tent. The rest of the saboteurs had made it inside. The ease of our admittance was curious. The White Panthers, now double in size, were still holed up in the Green Room. Mick Farren and a comrade liberated the contents of the vodka cabinet and discussed nuances of party doctrine with a clutch of comely researchers.
David Frost welcomed the audience and introduced his three American guests, all exuding an air of punchy sullenness. Ill-at-ease, Frost fumbled with his clipboard, trying to pin down Rubin's erratic rhetoric.
"You're just a plastic man," Rubin said. "Why stick to prepared questions?"
Frost ignored this, asking him to explain...
"Don't you have a mind of your own?" Rubin asked. "Don't you want to get to the truth?"
Frost looked dazed. Stu Albert extracted a theatrical joint and lit up. "Pot is part of the revolution," he said. "Here - try it?"
This was the cue for our stampede. In this moment of truth, someone said, "We're either with them or against them." On stage, no one knew what to do. Suddenly, Warren Hague, his tiara askew, flung his arms around the host and planted a wet kiss on his cheek. "Sweetheart, greetings from Gay Lib."
Frost leapt into the aisle and pondered his clipboard. A London yippie with a Super 8 disguised as a video camera panned across the bedlam. An IT typesetter sprinkled the host with pink petals. Someone yelled, "David Frost is dead." Another, "We are all David Frost." Cheers, jeers. A piercing yell: "Fuck the media."
From the aisle, Frost turned to his next guest, Robert Ardrey, an anthropologist who had just published The Territorial Imperative, in which he claimed that humans could never shake off the programmed aggression of ancestral apes. "This proves my theory," he said.
"Fuck you!" the yippies chanted.
A man in a suit stood up at the back - it was the eve of Remembrance Sunday. "How often have you lot ever laid a wreath at a cenotaph?"
Frost's fury whitened his make-up. Louise and I shrank back to the wings, avoiding his eyes, both knowing how fairly he had treated me and my friends in the past. Caroline Coon stretched herself on the floor between front stalls and stage, chin resting on palms like a moody poet. Frost opened his mouth to try one more time and Felix rushed forward with his plastic pistol, screaming, "Die...die" and squirted him in the face. Louise and I were horrified - both wanting to die, die, there and then.
Frost called for a commercial break. He and Ardrey disappeared. We milled around, our focus gone. After a few minutes, we suspected a trap, the enactment of a contingency plan. Could the cops be far away? As we ran from the ITV complex, sirens pierced the night. Frost began transmitting from a stand-by studio. "What you have just seen," he said, "is a powerful commercial in favour of law and order."
It was headlines in all the Sunday papers, to the delight of the key players: yippie riot; invasion of the pot men; the frost freak out. The Independent Television Authority announced an enquiry. Harold Soref, Conservative MP for Ormskirk, said it was monstrous for TV to encourage exhibitions of public depravity. The Sun called it a "disgrace that David Frost should be gunned off TV screens by a hippy with a water pistol". The Daily Mail longed to see "courageous Frost punch a hippie on the nose".
The yippie threesome was triumphant. "Fantastic water action, Felix," said Rubin, back at the basement with a nightcap joint.
In the continuing media rage over the Frost Show, the launch of Do It turned into the launch of the UK Chapter of Yippie. Reporters thronged the hall, radicals flanked the lectern.
"The first public act of British yippie," Rubin proclaimed, "was the disruption of Frost - that's just the beginning." Stu gripped the mike. 'We want to make a revolution and tear down the bureaucracy. Our plan is to liberate all of you, whether you like it or not." As MC, I opened the floor for questions. A man from the Times reminded Rubin his visa expired in 48 hours.
"Everything we ever do is dedicated to the memory of Karl Marx," said Rubin. The three of them had visited his grave at Highgate Cemetery. "A lot can happen in 48 hours."
The next day, the yippies flew off to Belfast. In the House of Commons, 50 MPs supported a motion condemning the yippie invasion of Britain. Mary Whitehouse called for a "widened" enquiry into the Frost outrage.
The front page of the Evening News announced yippie king in secret belfast riot plot, as the Royal Ulster Constabulary zeroed in on his "hide-out". Rubin thundered, "I have come to Ireland to foment a socialist revolution with my brothers and sisters." He discussed riot tactics with the IRA, and invited General Freeland, the leader of British troops in Ulster, to meet him face to face - no holds barred - in a live TV conference. On Friday, 13 November, just in time for the late editions, Rubin was arrested and flown back to New York, where he thanked the British Home Secretary - "the butcher of Belfast" - for his free trip home. As I later remarked to Ed Victor, "Now that's what I call a book launch."
The elastic concept of playpower was overstretched by the yippies' enthusiasm for the IRA. The Weathermen designated themselves my brothers and sisters, but they scared me shitless. Okay, the springing of Timothy Leary was fine, but I hated that birthday gun. All too quickly, Leary had started to shoot off his mouth - "to kill a policeman is a sacred act".
With this heresy swirling in my head, I sat down with a joint on a Saturday night and wrote a state-of-the-nation address for Oz, the state of Woodstock nation: "The flower child that Oz urged readers to plant back in '67 has grown up into a Weatherwoman; for Timothy Leary, happiness has become a warm gun. Charles Manson soars to the top of the pops and everyone hip is making war and loving it..."
On and on it went; a litany of all my doubts since the last page of Playpower. How my best friends, sickened by the malaise of the Underground scene, were cutting their hair, changing their paisley patterns, losing themselves in the front stalls of Nol Coward revivals. While Leary might say that "World War Three was being waged by short-haired robots", those who burnt you with bad dope, bounced their cheques, wrecked your crashpad...were not short-haired. On I raved: how the offices of Rolling Stone were as icily functional as IBM, and how its editor, Jann Wenner, was moved more by mammon than music; how the legitimate new freedoms were being corrupted by selfishness, especially as the gonococcus germ hadn't heard of Women's Lib. In short, how we blithely declared World War Three on our parents while forgetting to look after our friends.
"Feeling old and boring again?" queried Jim Anderson, as he glanced through the copy. "But it's timely enough." He had just the illustration to go with it - an apocalyptic urbanscape by Jim Leon, our druggy eroticist: an egghead angel prophesying doom, a working-class neighbourhood about to be engulfed by holocaust.
This issue came to be known as end of an era oz. For the cover, I borrowed Danton Hughes, aged three, and put him in the hands of Pete Steedman, an Oz worker and ex-bikie from Melbourne, who strutted a rifle. A bare- breasted black woman wielding a semi-automatic smouldered beside him. It was an up-to-the-minute guerrilla nuclear family, with anti-nuclear attitude. The caption: "He drives a Maserati. She's a professional model. The boy is the son of the art editor of Time magazine. Some revolution!"
Yeah, some revolution. But it was too late to stop now.
'Hippie Hippie Shake' by Richard Neville is published by Bloomsbury on 18 May, price £18.99Reuse content