Remembering Richard Neville and the Swinging Sixties

THE death this week of Australian writer Richard Neville will sadden pre-Boomers and older Baby Boomers around the world. As founder of the satirical magazine Oz and later London Oz, Neville and his co-editors were the forerunners of the Baby Boomer anti-Establishment revolution which spawned Beyond The Fringe, That Was The Week That Was, the Monty Python era and others which still bring a smile to my face after half a century.

Together with the music of the Sixties – John Lennon wrote and recorded God Save Oz in defence of Neville’s brush with the law – the satire of Oz magazine reflected the mood of my contemporaries throwing off the shackles of early post-war conservatism.

True, recreational drugs were sometimes involved but the hard stuff was frowned upon. For the most part, it was an intellectual discussion which was also driven by a host of Australian expatriats in London at the time: Clive James, Robert Hughes, Germaine Greer, and Neville’s artist collaborator Martin Sharp.

Neville, Sharp and Richard Walsh founded Oz in 1963, describing it as a “magazine of dissent”. They were charged twice with producing an obscene publication and again when they took the concept to Swinging London of the late Sixties.

It was 1971 when an issue of Schoolkids Oz depicted Rupert Bear with a penis, resulting in a conviction for Neville and fellow editors after a long and turbulent obscenity trial. Writer and lawyer John Mortimer was joined by Australian war crimes lawyer Geoffrey Robertson in successfully appealing the conviction and John Lennon and Yoko Ono led protest marches outside the Old Bailey.

Contemporaries like myself joke that if you can remember the Sixties, you obviously weren’t enjoying them. But it was magazines like Oz which chronicled those years so that we can remember them and mourn the passing of a man who epitomised a revolutionary era. It was indeed a Brave New Morning.

Len Horne

Photo credit: Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4723896.

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