Memory of my time working on Oz magazine is hazy. I figure if I start to write then the telling will prime the punk.
SPEED KILLS was written in white, 2-feet tall caps on a brick wall in Ladbroke Grove just around a few corners from the Oz offices in 1969. It was a warning from the acid people. A few weeks before when driving through with my aging parents, mum declared it shocking.
On a sunny dusty day in the remains of what was once a thriving hideaway community of the, mostly, retired by then burglar families of the Portobello Road market fencing operations that fed the populace, I was offered my first taste of opium. A muddy small marble sized black lump in a small metal pipe offered by a smiling writer name of Mike Worthington, no – it was Dick Pountain (or similar, most names I remember will be wrong). He was a wiry new addition to the crew, maybe on Ink, no he worked on Oz first with Felix. Ink was the new newsweekly.
Oz had studios all over the place at various times. In 1969 we had a studio on the second floor of a former two-up two-down row-house with what had been a grocer’s shop out front. Sitting on the curb outside amongst the demolition sites one day, we puffed furtively at the wispy oily smoke and discussed the effects, not noticeably different to the monstrous hashish and tobacco joints we routinely smoked at the work bench.
We put together the pages in a process called ‘paste-up’ using Cow Gum, a lethal petroleum derivative glue used to stick down the freshly typed words. Then painstakingly hand corrected the text with Xacto knife.
We raided any source for art. Carelessly tearing out copyrighted material for use in whatever way we felt apt. The editors, especially Jim Anderson with whom I often worked, were literate people who came to visual ideas with an enthusiastic but word centric bias – and an ingrained thing about ‘wasted’ white space, the resulting pages were crammed and brightly coloured. In contrast to the precise world of advertising art I’d come from. I enjoyed the low quality type of Oz and its easy slapdash graphic ways.
(I am happy to say that my first taste of opium did not lead to a bad habit, although i have occasionally applied the sticky white sap from a sliced poppy head onto a freshly rolled Californian joint of best bud.)