If you were near a Chelsea flat in the late sixties you may have heard a squeaky winching sound and a strange hollow grind. Then, for sure, you would have heard "an ominous schlurp and the sound of bubbling." This was the sound of Joe Mellen removing a piece of his skull.
Joe wasn't sure though and in the spring of 1970 he had a go with an electric drill and this time knew he had succeeded in the ancient art of trepanning himself, that is, drilling a hole in his skull to expose his brain. He achieved a state of freedom and serenity which "has been with him ever since."
Joe's reasons were complicated and maybe a little LSD-addled but the kernel of them is this: as soon as our ancestors stood upright our brains became starved of oxygen and sugar. The best way to get oxygen to our poor, asphyxiating brains, and feel well again, is to cut a hole into one's skull
Joe's then partner, Amanda Feilding, followed him by drilling her own skull. Once she had broken thorough and the blood has stopped spurting she advanced on Joe smiling. He had filmed her operation, later releasing it as the film 'Heartbeat in the Brain'
Their experiments did not leave them as scatter-brained as you might expect: they married, had two children and ran the Pigeon Hole art gallery on Langton Street, off the King's Road.
Amanda stood for parliament demanding trepanation should be available free on the NHS. Joe survived an interview on Channel 4's new lad era breakfast show The Big Breakfast.
They split up in the in the 90s and Amanda has since married a Lord and founded the Beckley Foundation, a charitable trust carrying out "research into the practices used to alter our conscious states". She's keeping it unreal.
Joe is in Clapham and on the web, airing his thoughts on drugs and trepanation thirty years since he first aired his brain. They have survived and thrived after embracing alternative ideas on health that would make the most ardent homeopath or acupuncturist run away and cry.
By Scott Wood