Monday, August 01, 2016

Monday Forum - Richard Neville, Power Play and the continuing impact of nostalgia

An exchange of Facebook caught me. Eldest put up a photo of herself in sunglasses. Her cousin said "Very Eighties". Yes, she said. "Very retro".

Now I know that some readers of this blog, at least will have mixed views about the knowledge that some things from the 1980s can be classified as "Very retro". I know that  I do. Well, just too make us feel better or maybe worse, a shot of me from 1983.

I mention this now only because a friend has lent me Richard Neville's 1970 book (its actually the 1979 edition) Play Power. While a little younger than Clive James, Germaine Greer or Robert Hughes, there were all around two years older, Richard Neville was part of that Australian intellectual push that had such an impact in London in the swinging sixties and later.

Around 1963, Neville then editor of the University of NSW student paper Tharunka teamed up with Richard Walsh editor of the Sydney University equivalent Honi Soit and Martin Sharp to launch Oz magazine.

After two Australian obscenity cases, in late 1966 Neville and Sharp moved to the UK and in early 1967, with fellow Australian Jim Anderson, they founded the London Oz. This was notable (among other things) for the then-longest obscenity trial (1971) in UK history regarding the publication of the Schoolkids OZ (May 1970) issue; leading to the conviction of Neville, Anderson and Felix Dennis, later overturned on appeal.

Before going on,  I was fascinated by a little tag at the back of Play Power. I quote:
"This copy does not contain the Under-ground Almanac poster game "HEADOPOLY" as a Prohibition Notice as been imposed on it by the Commonwealth Department of Customs and Excise. ref file no. C & E N70/650 dated March 26 1970."
It seems that the game was banned because it might encourage drug taking. Ten years later it would probably have been okay. Today it could well be banned again!

The first part of Play Power is interesting because it traces the development of the counter culture movement in the late sixties including the rise of the more overtly anarchist and political wing within Europe.

I will do a proper review here later. For the moment, I want to link back to my opening remarks.

I am a fair bit younger than Richard Neville, but there are overlaps to that world, even if I was more of an outsider looking in, influenced, but coming from a different and far more religious stream and going in a different way in personal and career terms.

 Today I am more interested in the historical significance, very conscious of the way that the events of the seventies would close things down. I am also more cynical. And yet there are sufficient overlaps for me to remember that time and indeed to feel a degree of nostalgia for things past and, indeed, sadness for a degree of lost innocence.  But that's another story.

All this brings me finally to the point of today's Forum, the continuing influence of nostalgia and memory. What were the times that you remember that now hold a special nostalgia for you?


Noric Dilanchian said...

My nostalgia story.

On sitting at Angus & Robertson Publishers in the office of Richard Walsh in 1983 for my first job interview as a law graduate I quickly realised I was in the right place. Richard asked me many philosophical questions about the nature of government and its purpose. While answering the questions I noticed a little side table with bottles of spirits and a sign on a wall that read: "Thank you for not farting."

I did not fart. I got the job.

Unknown said...


I will give you an answer in five years' time when my own memoirs are written. :-)

Leaving Armidale aged 18, I attended Syd Uni 1970-73.

An overlooked book is Donald Horne's Time of Hope (pub 1980): he saw pre 1966 as pre-history; 1966-72 as transition; and from 1972 as the arrival of a new era.
Dennis Altman, whose course in politics i took in 1971 discusses Horne's book about 10 paras into this essay: FYI

Trust you are keeping well.
Michael O'Rourke

Jim Belshaw said...

Good morning. Noric and Michael. I remember you telling me about your experiences with A&R, Noric. The firm itself is an example of the rolling change process which took that Australian icon towards effective oblivion.

That Altman piece was interesting, Michael. I must admit I don't feel nostalgic about the left politics of the period. From my perspective, there were (are) some very strange views. Still, its interesting trying to trace and measure threads and effects.

Anonymous said...

Something to read, and ponder, after a hard day pushing paper from one side of the desk t'other:


Jim Belshaw said...

Interesting, kvd. Just to record the verse before going on:

Salt of the Earth
by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards

Raise your glass to the hard working people
Lets drink to the uncounted heads
Lets think of the wavering millions
Who need leaders but get gamblers instead.

I have read a fair bit of Orwell. Pushing paper is certainly easier than the coal miner's life.

Sue said...

Hi Jim

I'm reading your post sitting in the room where your photo is taken.

It's not very different today. Last year the bookcase was moved to a bedroom and replaced with an old dresser. Ye olde drooping light has been replaced by a cane version and heat now surges through a ducted gas heating vent. The old sea grass matting long ago disappeared.

Amongst other things, I remember your Uncle Jim holding court in this room between his trips to the snow and Sydney. In fact, this room has very happy memories - tripping the light fantastic down memory lane...I am facing the Liberty of London fabric blind masterminded by Madam Chair (aka dear Margaret S.)and that recalls Peter and Jenny, Chris C, Clancy, Ian M and that's just one political strand!

Yes,Jim, gracious living (in the words of Eddy B) still obtains here!

Jim Belshaw said...

Sounds wonderful Sue. Knew that you would remember that shot. Gracious living indeed!