Lot of stuff in the News recently around ‘top shelf’ magazine campaigns, amidst my son staying with me with its inevitable associations back to ones own twenties. Musing on this takes me back to the sixties and a previous Janma.
One of my ‘callings’ in this era, amidst my search for an outer meaningful identity that also paid the fees for staying in Hotel Earth, was to become a National distributer to Newsagents in the UK for the burgeoning ‘Underground Press’ with its alternative, anarchic and radical publications arising out of the sixties ‘Counterculture’ movement.
At the time there was no way that conventional magazine wholesalers would go near this stuff, even though happy to distribute dubious content in other areas.
Some of these underground titles such as Rolling Stone prospered by becoming more like Rolling Moss as mainstream overground priorities determined its marketing strategies.
Others such as OZ, Friends, International Times (Renamed IT after the Times lawyers did their thing) were like Comets in the night sky, arising as part of the Movement of the time remaining true to the principle of the time, that purpose was greater than profit.
A thought that perhaps many in the Yoga world could do well to reflect on in todays increasingly commercially driven ‘bottom shelf’ (excuse Yoga butt pun) priorities.
Anyway in the Britain of the sixties with its stiff upper lip and tight anal sphincter priorities (you Yogis watch out with all your Jihva Bandha and Mūla Bandha!) and socially austere attitudes meant that:
“Police harassment of the British underground in general became commonplace, to the point that in 1967 the police seemed to focus in particular on the apparent source of agitation: the underground press.”
– Wikipedia ‘Underground Press’
Furthermore this harassment was led by the Obscene Publications Squad (note further irony) with its two primary objectives. One was the targeting of the editors and publishers such as many raids on offices and culminating in the 1971 OZ magazine obscenity trial over its ‘Schoolkids OZ 28’.
“This term was widely misunderstood to mean that it was intended for school children, whereas it was a statement that it had been created by them.”
– Wikipedia ‘Oz’
Worth reading re the trial to appreciate the prejudice and conniving at the highest level and the positive outcome in spite of the ‘1984’ish’ attitudes and a further irony of the trial Judge and the Spectator Magazine being found liable for libel some decades later around repeating the comments made during the trial within the public domain.
The second area of the Obscene Fuzz (excuse longstanding naked art pun) Squad was to target the distributer’s, aka c’est moi. A co-incidental, if not targeted, factor at the time was the two-month national postal workers strike early in 1970.
The strike meant that all deliveries during this time had to be manual drops. So the Obscene Fuzz’s strategy during this time was to visit Newsagents that had been willing or supportive in displaying underground publications for sale and tell them firstly, that if they stocked these obscene/anarchic publications they would bust them for all ‘Top Shelf’ Porn they stock. Yet another irony of perception around what was seen as obscene and by whom.
Secondly, they were to phone them as soon as we visited so they could hassle and try to bust us. Luckily we were warned by a sympathetic newsagent and had to hit the road fast.
However the combined outcome of the long postal strike and the targeting of retail outlets, all of which had various levels of ‘top shelf’ on display and the bottom line priorities of what will make most profit, succeeded in killing the trade we had built up.
This was also embedded within the wider Pariṇāma of the time in the UK around the transition into the 1970’s with its much bleaker/realistic counterculture scene of Punk and then Goth (almost a 70’s counterculture re-action to the 60’s counterculture re-action).
For me this meant a ‘career’ move into another Janma, that of being a roadie for a Jazz band led by a Japanese Classical percussionist, the Evelyn Glennie of the day. However the birth of Sita in 1972 coincided with the touring expanding beyond the UK to the US and Canada. Time to transform from being an on-the-road hippie towards being an on-the-land hippie.
So we moved from the Southern commuter belts to the Eastern farming flatlands and brought a smallholding to keep Goats and grow Soya beans.
But thats another Janma ……