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Rabble-rousing Caroline Coon, Eric The Tramp and the Oz obscenity trial

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Photographer Joe Stevens has dug deep into his archive for these three gems from his time with the underground press in London in the early 70s.

Activist/artist Caroline Coon leads protests outside the Central Criminal Court during the Oz trial, summer 1971. Photo: Joe Stevens. No reproduction without permission

Activist/artist Caroline Coon leads protests outside the Central Criminal Court during the Oz trial, summer 1971. Photo: Joe Stevens. No reproduction without permission

 

 

Oz editors (from left) Jim Anderson, Richard Neville and the late Felix Dennis in serious discussion during the trial, 1971. Photo: Joe Stevens. No reproduction without permission

Oz editors (from left) Jim Anderson, Richard Neville and the late Felix Dennis in serious discussion during the trial, 1971. Photo: Joe Stevens. No reproduction without permission

 

New Yorker Stevens had already made a name for himself at radical weekly The East Village Other before pitching up in London and contributing to International Times, Oz and Friends (which changed into Frendz in 1971). Later Stevens moved on to the music press and in particular New Musical Express, where he was often partnered with the likes of Charles Shaar Murray (ex-Oz) and Nick Kent (ex-Frendz).

 

Oz staff, summer 1972, clockwise around Eric The Tramp, from left: Reviews editor Dick Pountain, ad salesman Howard Tait, unidentified, contributor/co-founder Louise Ferrier, editors Jim Anderson and Richard Neville, art director Richard Adams, typesetter Geoff Marsh, designer David Wills. Photo: Joe Stevens. No reproduction without permission

Oz staff, summer 1972, clockwise around Eric The Tramp, from left: Reviews editor Dick Pountain, ad salesman Howard Tait, unidentified, contributor/co-founder Louise Ferrier, editors Jim Anderson and Richard Neville, art director Richard Adams, typesetter Geoff Marsh, designer David Wills. Photo: Joe Stevens. No reproduction without permission

 

These photos date from the period around the trial of Oz editors Jim Anderson, Felix Dennis and Richard Neville for obscenity over their publication of the School Kids Oz issue in May 1970.

Caroline Coon is captured at her rabble-rousing best outside the court where the case was heard from May to August 1971, while a grim-faced conflab between the three editors denotes the seriousness of their situation (although the conspiracy case did not stick they were threatened with imprisonment when found guilty of lesser charges. This was overturned on appeal after the judge, Justice Michael Argyll, was found to have grossly misdirected the jury).

An altogether jollier outlook is on display in the depiction of the magazine staff in their offices in Princedale Road, Notting Hill with the local character known as Eric The Tramp, who was taken up by the underground community and fetched teas from the Mountain Grill cafe in exchange for the odd joint.

The presence of the poster for Roxy Music’s debut LP on the office wall dates this image to summer 1972 when the magazine’s impact was on the wane. The final issue of UK Oz was published in November the following year.

Thanks to Joe for sending these and to Richard Adams, Jeff Dexter and Charles Shaar Murray for their help in identifying individuals in the last photo. If you know the identity of the female with Howard Tait – or in fact are her – please make contact so I can set the record straight.

  • Rob Baker

    Is the woman with the missing name Debbie Knight the receptionist?