‘Consider Bes … this naughty Egyptian Pan-like figure with a huge cock. He’s a curious one because he was even on the island’s Roman coins. Ibiza couldn’t ask for more.’
PRODUCER AND DJ LENNY IBIZARRE
The overnight ferry from Barcelona pulls into the port of Ibiza at sunrise, as it has done for decades, and the approaching horizon cries out centuries of adventure in misty waves. Within walking distance of the dock, itself lined with bars and cafés that evoke the confidently international feel of the island, it’s all there, on the other side of the obelisk that greets arriving ships with its motto Ibiza a sus corsarios (‘Ibiza to her pirates’): the ancient burial grounds, a fortress settlement, giant headless Roman statues, a working town and tell-tale signs of legendary parties past and present.
Though the roots of the Ibiza hippie scene can be traced back to the first wave of travellers in the early twentieth century, the international bohemian community really took root in the late 1950s, when young beatniks first reached Ibiza. The island became a lotus-eaters’ paradise, drawing a community of European artists and members of the Spanish counterculture, with its cheap living costs and an accommodating and laid-back local population. As well as the action in the portside bars, a small but notable Dutch community grew in Figueretes, and was eventually joined by hippies, fugitives, escapees from one situation or another, and Vietnam draft-dodgers.
Bob Dylan was rumoured to have stayed in Formentera, and Joni Mitchell’s track ‘California’ contained lyrics said to have been written in Ibiza. The new music and drugs had arrived with jazz and then The Beatles, and with them the next era of island hedonism, when the freaks, and later hippies established themselves as the new avant-garde. These peluts swiftly put Ibiza on the international freak map and the island was now being talked about thousands of miles beyond its tiny borders. All- night parties on the beach or at countryside fincas were so popular that they eventually paved the way for the first nightclubs. When Pacha, Ku (later to become Privilege) and Amnesia first opened, it was completely in the spirit of the hippie scenes being lived out at these island parties that the character of the clubs was formed.
Ibiza soon became an important stop-off point on ‘the hippie trail’ that stretched from London to Kathmandu, Goa and Bangkok, via Morocco, Istanbul, Tehran and Kabul. Hippies would travel overland either by bus or train, or hitchhike, and take ferries where necessary, all the while touching base with known freak-friendly café cultures and communities en route. The trail only fell apart in 1979, with the revolution in Iran and with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Huge numbers of ‘trailers’ always dropped in on Ibiza to or from their travels east, and they brought with them all sorts of new music, instruments and dance rituals. And vast quantities of high-grade drugs.
Kitted up with the spoils of the hippie trail, beach parties on the island became more elaborate, and sitars or African drums became popular, as did Western sound systems, albeit fairly primitive ones at the time. The sunset was integrated as an important moment in the party, as the soft waves of the non-tidal Mediterranean slowly changed colour under the striped pastel layers in the twilight sky, adding to the atmosphere. With the effect of nature on the surrounding horizon during events the chill-out session was born.
Within a few years, word of this free-living and non-judgmental lifestyle had spread, and all sorts of outlaws and curious non-tabloid- friendly individuals had clocked in. Parties were not only held outdoors, however. The countryside fincas—to this day, the best after-parties are away from town and deep in the campo—would be filled with an often implausible and compelling mix of individuals all seeking freedom from the nursery-like patterns of standard Western daily living. They believed they’d finally found a place that not only represented this but which seemed to magically draw like-minded creatures from everywhere, all seeking the same freedoms of expression and desire to party. There’s a great saying amongst Ibiza’s now heavily decreased freak community that ‘no one cares where you’re from, it’s where you’re at that counts’, and this was certainly true of the party crowds back then.
The hippies arrived on an Ibiza that already held a lively, if small international community of interesting artists. Architect Erwin Broner, who arrived in 1933 to escape the Nazis, had founded the avant-garde Ibiza ’59. The group, which counted German artists Hans Laabs, Egon Neubauer and Erwin Bechtold among its members, lasted until 1964. Its members would gather at El Corsario and the newly opened Ivan Spence gallery up in Dalt Vila. Broner’s distinctive houses fused the traditional Ibicencan finca style with the modern. His house in Sa Penya, an old cobbled area behind the port, is still there today.
The eccentric English writer and forger William Donaldson, aka Henry Root, came to Ibiza and promptly blew his inheritance on a glass-bottomed boat—one whose license had in fact already expired. The ex-GI ‘Bad’ Jack Hand (later busted for murder) set up a jazz-lovers community in Ibiza, importing friends and musicians who’d played at his club in Barcelona. In 1956, the New Zealander Janet Frame sailed to Europe after winning a literary scholarship. When she got to Ibiza she discovered sex, losing her virginity at the age of thirty-two to an American bohemian.
Thoughts of hedonism, music and tribal union also brought groups looking for areas to meditate, and others wanting to express their sexual preferences more openly, or just get involved in a thriving new European arts scene. When the port was cleaned up in 1973 for the arrival of Spanish prince Juan Carlos, he famously asked Ibiza’s mayor, ‘What have you done with my hippies?’ For Aristotle Onassis, Prince Rainier and Princess Grace, sailing into Ibiza meant embarking on an island whose hippie community was at the leading edge of Mediterranean style. Later, Formula One driver Niki Lauda, actress Ursula Andress and director Roman Polanski came to build houses, inspired by the new scene.
But Ibiza had also become a central point for drug smuggling, and the darker side of the community housed shady and violent drug dealers and thieves, pimps and exploited sex workers. The other side of beatnik. From the regular tourist’s point of view, Ibiza was still a bit run down in the 1960s and 70s, and in some ways, despite the charming hippie elements, it was seen as an ‘isla non grata’ while neighbouring Mallorca was now being developed for tourism. In September 1963, Ibiza’s daily newspaper, the Diario, described the community as ‘this slovenly and amoral flock … pure social trash, pure dregs and misfits … dirty, dishonest, contemptible rabble’.
Monica Gerlach, a long-term Ibiza resident, is Dutch, although she grew up in Angola, ‘in the sticks, totally wild and running around half-naked’. She married Richard Brooke-Edwards, a writer and the illegitimate son of English royalty, but like many other expats, when he got to Ibiza, he couldn’t settle. ‘They’d all be sitting in the bars all day drinking, telling stories, playing backgammon and chess. He became an alcoholic and died quite young.’ But despite the drug experimentation that was starting to creep in at parties, Monica remembers the 60s and 70s as quite an innocent time. ‘It was very natural. People danced and drank a bit, smoked a bit of pot but there weren’t the hard drugs everywhere … yet.’
The bar Anfora had opened in Sa Penya. Now a world-famous gay club, it was then one of the first live music bars in town. ‘We’d either go there, or to Lola’s, another place that’s now a gay bar,’ Gerlach continues, ‘and that’s where we’d all meet after dinner, have a few drinks, smoke, fall in love. We were all in our twenties and from all over the world. And Ibiza in those days was a bit like the scene in Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. The town was full of foreign artists, all of them poor.’
By now the island had attracted many musicians from across Europe who had come there to live and compose, sucked in by the beauty, the free-spirited people and the hedonistic lifestyle. While peasant women walked around in traditional dress, covering themselves up, hippie musicians would play guitars on the beach and bathe naked at Figueretes beach (near Ibiza Town) whenever they could shy from the censorious eyes of the police. The two communities watched and over time grew to accept each other, slowly but surely. This coexistence has never really gone away.
Platja d’en Bossa, the long golden strand of beach on the east coast just along from Figueretes, was where the small Dutch community lived. Beat poet Simon Vinkenoog was the master of ceremonies at an experimental happening known as The Big Kick, which involved ingestion of psychedelic delirium-inducing datura weed. Writer Cees Nooteboom lived in the community in the 50s, as did actress Ingrid Valerius. Another of the Dutch crowd was the counterculture writer Jan Cremer, who would stomp around in his leather jacket and biker boots from bar to bar in the full sunshine. He lived in Ibiza from 1961 to 1963 and also managed to hook up with the Grupo ’59, before writing his bestselling semi-fictional memoir, I, Jan Cremer, on the island.
Another curious Dutch couple were Bart and Barbara Huges. By the 1960s, Bart had discovered, through practising headstands with an Ibiza freak called Titi, that there was a link between the volume of blood in the brain and the ability to maintain a state of being high, which in turn led to him opening up his ‘third eye’ permanently by boring a hole in his head. This, he said, helped maintain a childlike level of unrestricted brain blood volume for the rest of your life, which in turn enhanced a wider consciousness. On learning of this, John Lennon considered trepanation himself for a while.
Amanda Feilding, the Countess of Wemyss and March, runs the drug policy organisation and charitable trust the Beckley Foundation from her ancestral home at Beckley Park in the UK. She self-trepanned after seeing the positive effects it had on both Bart Huges and her then partner Joe Mellen (author of Bore Hole, himself influenced by Bart in Ibiza to self-trepan). Feilding appeared as a guest speaker at Ibiza’s groundbreaking 2014 World Ayahuasca Conference, and she is actively engaged in worldwide drug policy reform. According to Feilding, Shiva, the Hindu god of altered consciousness, was trepanned. (Evidence of trepanning was also found in one third of the 120 skulls that were excavated at a French burial site dated circa 6500 BC.)
Ibiza was now becoming the unofficially acknowledged Mediterranean centre for drug experimentation. Huges hid his newly bored ‘third eye’ under his hair. He was also one of the first people to reveal that the American CIA was using LSD in controlled brainwashing experiments. He brought acid from Amsterdam and advised those taking it to dip sugar lumps into lemons and eat those first. He was insistent that maintaining an intake of sugar at intervals throughout the trip would keep it from turning into a bad one.
According to Joe Mellen, in Bore Hole:
It was obvious to anyone who met Bart that he was someone who knew what he was talking about. He came from a family of doctors and had a thorough knowledge of medical science. He never blustered or tried to blind one with scientific jargon. Ask him a question and he answered it in the simplest way he could. What more could one want from a teacher? … It is a fact that with low blood sugar a person is highly suggestible, so the words of the guru are lent added power in such a situation. Thereafter he will be revered by his sheep. With sugar-taking none of this is necessary.
‘Domino’s and Clive’s opened, and there were three restaurants near the port that we’d all go to,’ Monica Gerlach continues. ‘One of the bars was owned by an Ibicenco who drove an American limo, which obviously caused quite a stir. We’d all hang out on the beautiful Platja d’en Bossa beach, and nearby was a whole colony of Dutch artists, and writers from everywhere. At that time we were only a hundred foreigners on the island, so when there was a party everybody was invited.’
In 1963, the American writer Irma Kurtz came for a week and stayed for a year, smitten with what she found. She fell in love within an hour of arriving.
The Domino bar was the heart of jazz lovers’ Ibiza. Co-owned by the German Dieter Loerzer, the French-Canadian Alfons Bleau, and the Irish Clive Crocker, the bar kept an incredible collection of jazz records, and foreigners would make the most of the selection while either confronting or ignoring their own relationship infidelities, double-crossings and existential irresponsibility as they sat clustered around tables in the late hours. In Dope In The Age Of Innocence, Damien Enright remembers how on a ‘typical deep winter night, island-itis rages. A kind of “stir- crazy” like inmates get in jail. Through the bar the punters come and go. Few are sober. Some are hyped on Benzedrine, as well. Many haven’t been off the island for a year; they have unpaid bills and no money for a ticket. There have been few newcomers since summer. Most of the couples who arrived then have split up.’ This description matches impressions of winter life amongst foreign residents even today. This could be 2016, but for the fact that, rather then the latest deep house tracks or old school disco, ‘Mingus is on the stereo. Ah-um.’
It was around the period of the hippie trail that Ibiza’s fashionable ‘hippie chic’ look first started. In the mid-70s, a fashion haven called Boutique Azibi was opened up at Cala d’Hort, the beautiful beach facing Es Vedrà, by two young Americans who made their dresses from silk saris. They also stocked handmade silver jewellery and bikinis, and Afghan rugs covered the floors. Boutique Azibi is in fact still there, and continues to operate during the summer season. A hippie commune had also been established at Atlantis beach close by. Similarly, the Paula and Mopitz landmark boutique in Calle de la Vírgen sold stunning dresses that today sell for small fortunes on eBay. Meanwhile, the Serbian ‘Princess’ Smilja Constantinovich, allegedly the lover of King Peter II of Yugoslavia, opened the Adlib fashion boutique in 1971. British Vogue came to the island to report on her refreshingly beautiful new line of clothes, which were all inspired by simple white fabrics and lace. The Adlib label remains a key Ibiza fashion statement even today.
According to some, though, it was the British violinist Malcolm Tillis who opened what was probably the first boutique in Ibiza Town, before he was forced to leave the island after writing an incendiary anti-Franco article. Fleeing with his wife to India to seek his own spiritual path, he later wrote a book of interviews with westerners about finding fulfilment in the east. ‘He made kind of butterfly dresses with batik, and we all wore them,’ Monica Gerlach remembers fondly. ‘He was a real character.’
By 1970, the American-Armenian Nancy Mehagian had opened the Double Duck vegetarian restaurant. She was ‘a real hippie’, according to Gerlach: she ‘took a bus with her man through Turkey, the Kurdish regions, Iraq, Iran, India’ and ended up imprisoned on a drugs bust along the way. This is not an atypical story. Damien Enright’s Balearic idyll also turned black when he escaped arrest in Barcelona and went underground in Ibiza. Everyone turned their backs on him and made him feel he was going mad, but for his one remaining friend, Chris, an artist, architect and flautist who helped get him off Ibiza when the entire island had apparently turned hostile to him.
In 1954, a little countryside bar had been opened up near the village of Sant Carles in the northeast of the island by farmer Joan Marí. It was to become the now world famous Las Dalias hippie market and restaurant. Marí’s son Juanito started the market on Valentine’s Day in 1985. It precedent was the very first hippie market, at Punta Arabí on the east coast, which had opened in the 1970s.
‘My mother and I were selling stuff at Punta Arabí that we’d collected in Africa,’ Gerlach continues. ‘Eventually we all started to move over to Las Dalias, where people could also have a drink and eat, and then we’d go on to Bar Anita’s in Sant Carles village, which was full of hippies. They still make this fantastic hierbas from anise and seven of the island’s herbs. They’d cull the herbs from the countryside and bottle it and chill it for a few months which is what makes it turn yellow.’ Hierbas is still the island’s most famous liqueur. Along with absinthe and frígola (which is made with thyme), it can be found in most of the island’s bars.
Sometime in 1960, Clive Crocker, who had arrived on the island one year earlier, met a young striking German woman, the daughter of a neighbour in Platja d’en Bossa. She was an actress (having just had a charmed role in Federico Fellini’s era-defining La Dolce Vita), a model, and a future Warhol associate. Christa Päffgen, aka Nico, would also go on to be the world famous lead singer for The Velvet Underground, and an acclaimed solo artiste. The young Crocker was smitten. In a summer that was defined by nights of jazz, chess and foreign intellectuals and artists, Nico walked into the Domino bar, and the pair began an amorous friendship that lasted for years.
Nico was already taken with some of the jazz musicians who lived in and around the port and she fitted naturally into the Domino scene. Blues legend Victor Brox encouraged her to sing, while the photographer Herbert Tobias named her Nico after his great love (Parisian filmmaker Nico Papatakis) while he sat with her on holiday on the island. Nico’s lifelong love affair with Ibiza had begun. The relationship with Clive Crocker was intense; she once bit him (he still bears the scar) and sent roses to the Domino bar the next day by way of an apology. She gave birth to a son, Ari, by French actor Alain Delon, although Ari’s life was mainly spent either with his grandmother (Delon’s mother) in France, or with Nico’s mother at her Ibiza house in Figueretes.
Graduating downwards over her years of travel and adventure from marijuana to heroin dependency, Nico felt she could always be herself on Ibiza, and would escape back there whenever possible: in between Velvet Underground or solo recordings or tours; with lovers such as French filmmaker Philippe Garrel; with Ari; chasing the light in her Spanish leather boots and flowing dark cape; in the countryside and along the port.
Within a couple of years the Domino partnership had folded, no longer able to sustain itself due to the huge amount of unpaid bar bills its foreign patrons had incurred. Clive Crocker opened El Pórtico (now El Pirata) a few doors away, but once again the establishment ran up huge debts for non-payment of bills. Clive’s next bar was simply called Clive’s.
It went on to become the renowned pre-clubbing bar, the Rock, in the 1990s, although out of respect the name Clive’s still appears on the door. In the early 1960s, Crocker had moved to Dalt Vila and into one of the medieval streets where one of his neighbours was a curious Hungarian character called Elmyr de Hory. In 1961, Elmyr had arrived on the island and moved into La Falaise, a house built by Erwin Broner. De Hory went on to dark glory when Orson Welles made a film, F For Fake, about him. He was one of the most notorious art forgers in history. Despite an eventually tortured existence, thanks to the machinations of his erstwhile friend and partner-in-crime Fernand Legros, who broke into and squatted his house when he was away in Madrid (it was eventually decided that both had a right to live there), de Hory lived the high life for most of his time on Ibiza, and was at the centre of Ibiza Town society. He would hold court at bars such as La Tierra and the Alhambra, his monocle in place, his exotic Hungarian accent the centre of the crowd as he sipped on his Cinzano. He got away with painting forgeries for years. As Erwin Broner himself saw it, de Hory wasn’t talented enough to have done the forgeries, and so for a long time his denials were plausibly accepted. De Hory eventually committed suicide on the island, after a spell in prison and fearing extradition, but his time on Ibiza also established him as a legendary party host, and attracted many socially adept characters to the house up on the cliff.
One of those was the American writer Clifford Irving, who not only wrote a book about de Hory (Fake! The Story Of Elmyr de Hory, The Greatest Art Forger Of Our Time) but also appeared in interview in the Orson Welles film F For Fake. His description of Ibiza in the 1960s in Fake! sums up the social landscape of the time:
There were beatniks, potheads, artists, writers, actors on holiday, escapees from New York advertising agencies, a couple of Canadian ex-con men who had sold shares in a non-existent asbestos factory and beat it from Montreal only one step ahead of the Mounties, longhaired wives with daddyless babies, German land speculators, a few rich men, many more poor ones, and even a reported Nazi war criminal whose bull neck, beady eyes and kindness to children made him a caricature of what he was supposed to be. Life was strictly on a first-name basis. In case of duplication, people received names like Wanted John and Spade John, Pretty Pat and Hairy Pat, Danish George and Fat George, Eduardo’s Karen and Carl’s Karen. Elmyr, of course, was original—‘man, dig that cat!’
In a bizarre twist, Irving went on himself to concoct one of the biggest literary conspiracies of the twentieth century. He claimed, via a series of faked letters, that Howard Hughes had chosen him to write his official memoir, his highly constructed lies proving enough to convince a huge American publisher, McGraw-Hill, to pay him a vast advance. The scam later became a 2006 film, The Hoax, directed by Lasse Hällstrom and starring Richard Gere as Irving.
‘Ibiza was home,’ Irving writes in The Hoax, his own memoir. ‘I had first come there in 1953, settling there to work for a season because it was cheap and old exotic and beautiful.’ Orson Welles became interested in the sensational aspects of the de Hory/Irving stories and, using footage shot in Ibiza by cinematographer François Reichenbach, attempted in F For Fake to tell the story of the forger, the forger’s biographer, and his subsequent fake biography of Howard Hughes. It was the last film Welles completed before he died. When de Hory later committed suicide, Irving even suggested that the act itself was possibly a fake.
Also appearing in Welles’s film is Nina van Pallandt, one half of the famous singing duo Nina & Frederik. Despite being married to, and living on Ibiza with, her husband and collaborator, the Baron Frederik van Pallandt, Nina conducted a long love affair with Irving, whose artist wife Edith Sommer also lived on the island, just to complicate matters. Nina and Frederik held elaborate parties and invited le tout Ibiza. They also set up a benevolent foundation and sponsored Dutch designers Marijke Koger and Simon Posthuma, aka The Fool, who, with the money from the van Pallandts, went off to London and designed clothes for The Beatles and their Apple boutique. In Ibiza, Marijke and Simon had also come to the attention of British photographer Karl Ferris, whose work includes the psychedelic fisheye cover of the US edition of Jimi Hendrix’s album Are You Experienced? (and who now lives in Ibiza).
‘Nina and Frederik had a beautiful house and everybody would go there for parties,’ says Monica Gerlach, who was in the centre of the island’s party scene at the time.
‘We’d all be smoking pot and there were always guitar players there. Not really hippies at first, we were all just bohemians. There were a lot of parties on the beaches that lasted for days, but Ibicencos strangely enough didn’t care very much because we were foreigners. But we girls were told not to go topless. It was the time of the big bikini, you know? Topless was introduced later by the Germans. These parties were just so incredible. It was either Salines or Platja d’en Bossa. They were more like happenings and they just sort of developed. You’d stay as long as you wanted, or go home and come back again, or whatever. They just went on and on for days.’
It was on a trip one day to the famous Cova des Culleram, shrine of the goddess Tanit, with Nina van Pallandt, whom he had just met, that Clifford Irving realised he and the glamorous singer had been struck by cupid’s arrow. ‘If the goddess had visited a curse on those who ravaged her resting place, we were its victims,’ he later wrote.
‘She’s a bit tricky, Tanit,’ Gerlach adds, ‘so there’s a kind of curse on Ibiza. They say that if you come to the island and you’re a couple, and you manage to stay together and you’re happy and in love—then it comes from the heart, it’s a real love affair. But if it’s some other kind of setup it won’t take long before you part. It happened to me twice, so … ’
While he continued his charade with his New York publishers, all the while hoping Howard Hughes would never emerge from seclusion to blow the whistle on his false claims of being his biographer, Clifford Irving had his wife Edith don a wig and a false passport and set off to open a bank account in Switzerland in which to deposit the vast publishing advance. It was sheer lunacy. The entire scam was constantly at risk of being bust open, as this passage from The Hoax makes clear:
SCENE: The waiting room at Ibiza airport. Dick [Susskind, Irving’s partner-in-crime] glances at his battered attaché case clamped between his feet. It contains our most precious possession: a thousand pages of transcript worth a minimum of half a million dollars. He peers under the table, says, ‘Where’s your basket?’ I look around puzzled. ‘I must have left it at the newspaper counter.’ With a yelp of agony Dick leaps to his feet. He dashes out the door, and returns a moment later with the straw shopping basket. He is pale. His brown eyes blaze. ‘You’re out of your cotton-picking mind! You’ve got almost ten grand in cash in there, and the checkbook of HR Hughes at the Credit Suisse in Zurich.’ ‘I carry everything that might be incriminating. Suppose someone broke into the studio when I was away.’
Eventually, Hughes did of course blow the whistle, and Clifford, Edith and Dick all served prison sentences for their parts in the conspiracy. Later, Edith returned to Ibiza. Frederik van Pallandt became part of a major drugs syndicate and was shot dead in mysterious circumstances in the Philippines. Elmyr de Hory is immortalised in a line in the song ‘No More Heroes’ by the British band The Stranglers.
Historian Martin Davies met Irving, ‘a couple of times. He was obviously a very good-looking guy in his day, a bit of a fox, and quite rangy! His book Fake! is one of the best ever books about the island. Nina van Pallandt I met a few times too. She was very distinguished- looking, like Clifford, and you could see why they got on. She was obviously smart and intelligent.’
In his seminal counterculture film More, Barbet Schroeder shows a side of the island that was beginning to become increasingly familiar: the grip of drug addiction set within a less glamorous scene full of unpleasant characters. According to Mimsy Farmer, who starred in the film, ‘All I can remember is, at the time, Ibiza was a haven for ex-Nazis. Franco was still around.’
Pink Floyd, who recorded the soundtrack to More, already knew the island. Syd Barrett had been sent to Formentera (where he learned sitar, and wrote the lyrics to ‘Wined And Dined’) to chill out with keyboardist Rick Wright while Roger Waters stopped in Ibiza. Album cover designer Aubrey Powell first visited Formentera in 1968 with the band’s Dave Gilmour, then returned later with Barrett. They’d always land in Ibiza before taking the ferry across to the smaller island, where they found a community similar to Ibiza’s—a band of artists, writers, cosmic astronauts.
Producer and Killing Joke bassist Martin Glover, aka Youth, helped produce the 2014 Pink Floyd album The Endless River.
‘It’s funny, because they’re not psychedelic people, but the music is, and the band is totally associated with Ibiza and Formentera. Those late 1960s albums, Ummagumma and More, really did capture the essence of those times in Ibiza and Formentera, and they were the in-house band of that aesthetic. I think they still create the most sublime psychedelic music ever made, way more so than the Grateful Dead or any of those American bands who accuse Pink Floyd of being cold. I just think their music is absolutely sublime, and they seem just right there on that totally instinctual edge. They don’t need to live that lifestyle in order to tap into what it is that makes everybody love it.’
German musician Jaki Liebezeit had been a jazz drummer with Chet Baker in Barcelona before heading from there down to Ibiza. Experiencing a period of intense melancholia while on the island, he tried to end his life by jumping off the steep end of Tagomago, a small private island off the east coast. Later, his band, Can, created an album called Tago Mago.
British author Jenny Fabian’s book A Chemical Romance includes long descriptions of the time she spent in the expat hippie community in Ibiza. She wrote it after the phenomenal success of her first book, Groupie, which became a bestseller in the UK and Germany. She told me she was ‘looking for a change of scene, because the pressure of being the author of the scandalous Groupie was getting to me’:
‘Fame and fortune don’t necessarily bring health and happiness. The circuitous daily grind of waking up with either a druggy hangover or a random rock musician, sometimes both, was losing its appeal. The trek to the hairdresser’s, the banal interviews, the listless afternoons spent getting spaced out on cushions listening to the latest formless riffs of spaced out musos, deliberating whether to drop acid to liven up the evening which usually ended up going down the Speakeasy … and so on. There must be more to life, thought I somewhere in the ultimate curlicues of my mind.
Looking around me there seemed to be movement away from the Big Smoke. As rock musicians became rich and starry, they bought places in the countryside. When I returned from a surreal book launch in Germany exhausted by bratwurst and coleslaw I found my flatmates had been casing the scene in Ibiza, and were extolling the advantages of sun, sea and the simple life. Goat bells tinkling on the hillsides, reclaimed shepherds’ huts lit by candles, a kind of prelapsarian existence amongst others of a like persuasion (loads of dope, natch, to enhance the fantasy). Here I could escape the hassles of agents and publishers, the paranoia of walking down the London streets in clothes that said ‘bust me’.’
Fabian dedicated A Chemical Romance to her island lover Neal Phillips, ‘a legendary traveller/doper/scribbler, who died of a drug overdose on a street in Bombay’. Phillips had contributed an article headlined ‘Sex drug over the counter on hippie holiday island’ to the underground magazine Oz in October 1970. While in Formentera he’d been researching the mysterious properties of yohimbina, an elixir extracted from the African yohimbe tree bark that had long been used in African folk medicine. Yohimbina was then available at local Ibiza and Formentera pharmacies, and a few drops a day were noted to gradually increase libido. ‘Never felt anything so strong from a woman perhaps,’ he wrote, ‘and the thing between us is an electric creation which is certain to test all the fuses in our systems. Yohimbina, your name is Ecstasy. Let it happen.’
There are at least two interesting things to note here: that Phillips describing the drug as ‘Ecstasy’, and that a bit of research reveals that this yohimbina elixir was already being advertised in Spanish newspapers as far back as 1903.
‘So, inspired by Dr Sam Hutt [musician Hank Wangford] and Sarah Lee- Barber, who had gone on ahead to find a suitably remote hermitage on a hill, I took off, equipped with shades, a bikini and some Jesus sandals. I flew in, night flights, and Sam met me at the tiny little airport. My memory of the drive to the house is cloudy. Through the darkness I could have been going anywhere, and the shepherd’s hut on the hill was a dark shape without, primitive within, earth floors, whitewashed mud walls, no doors, just low archways leading into different little corners. The next morning, although it remained shadowy inside the hut, outside the sun blazed on a hillside unspoiled and apparently deserted, although goat bells could be heard tinkling in the distance. Nothing like the green and pleasant land I’d left behind, far less lush, dry yet covered with a brittle kind of grass and lots of scrubby bushes. And so bright. It was like stepping into a Biblical landscape without the robed figures, we were the characters in the story now. A new, purer kind of civilisation, simpler values, so I thought. People who had stepped off the acquisitive roundabout with a common purpose, to live a less corrupt kind of life. And the locals, they seemed so friendly, always welcomed us at the bar, smiling benignly, and glad of the trade.
Sam and Sarah introduced me merely as Jenny, their friend. If it came out later, which it sometimes did, that I had written Groupie, it didn’t necessarily carry the same cachet as someone who had just come back from Nepal having gone native with the nomads for several months. Girls with wild eyes who had passed through customs with prophylactics stuffed with nose-powder up their snatches were celebrities on this scene—guys who had suffered time inside for dope-related offences were the heroes. Drugs were of all-consuming importance to our group. Exploits of carrying dope from the Far East were like dispatches from the front line. The sense of danger gave an edge to the idyll. If on first impression Neal looked like a prophet from the mountains, and in one sense he was, he also carried the baggage of having been incarcerated in foreign prisons, the kind of places that leave scars on the body and the soul. And to trip inside one of these prisons hardly bore thinking about, but trip they did. It was what you took and how you handled it that counted in the Ibizan community of freaks, and to shake your reeling head at the smouldering cones being endlessly passed round classed you as an inferior head. Red Bart was one of Neal’s favourite people, he flew in from time to time in his Learjet, never took to the sky without acid in his blood, always laying out lines of coke from his little Chinese box. Rock stars trying to recover from burnout like Syd Barrett, who had made the Ibizan pilgrimage, were regarded sympathetically, but without particular reverence.’
By the end of the 1970s, a lot of darker elements had taken root in the foreign hippie community. Drug deaths had increased dramatically; communes were falling apart. ‘There was always one who had to pay for everything,’ Monica Gerlach adds. ‘One woman always had to do the cleaning. Flower power is all very beautiful, but in the end it’s about doing nothing.’
For the first time, the police had started to realise how much hard drugs trafficking was actually going on. Once they did, arrests became rife. The first person to ever get busted for opiate possession in Spain was the French actress Michèle Breton. She had starred with Mick Jagger and Anita Pallenberg in Donald Cammell’s 1970 film portrayal of London’s late 1960s underworld, Performance, and had had a small role in Godard’s Weekend in 1967. A year after Performance was released, Breton was living in Formentera, in a house ‘in complete disorder, and in a reprehensible physical and mental state’, not to mention in possession of a vast quantity of heroin, according to Spanish newspaper ABC.
By the late 1960s, promoters were starting to arrive or simply evolve on the island, eventually creating one-off events or dedicated weekly parties. At Las Dalias hippie market (which is still there, and relatively unchanged), records and tapes were being exchanged, and regular parties were being held. The Namaste party, one of the longest-standing Eastern- inflected parties on the island (its name a Hindu greeting), was created by the well-travelled residents Merel, Alok and Jean-Michel. It still takes place at Las Dalias today and is a popular and beautifully organised party.
Gradually other small nightclubs started to appear. The Toro Mar at Salines, for example, was an illegal construction later used for after- parties by German techno event Cocoon, and the Ibiza Underground Resistance; the building has recently been bought by Pacha. Another venue, the Festival Club in Sant Josep, originally started life as an amphitheatre-style bullring, and was the venue for flamenco shows. Later, it was used to shoot a German porno film called Gefangene Frauen (1980). It has also been used as the site of illegal raves.
Meanwhile, over at the Can Bufí hippodrome on the Sant Antoni road, Glory’s was one of the first of the disco-type clubs to open in the 1970s. Another small venue, Heaven (later Angel’s, then Penelope, and most recently Booom!), opened in the area across from the port known as Marina Botafoch. ‘The owner of that club when it was Angel’s went to prison—there was some dirty business involved,’ Monica Gerlach remembers. In 1963, the Playboy Club was opened in Sant Antoni by Pepe Roselló, later the much-loved founder of Ibiza superclub Space. Playboy eventually became a new club called Idea, but it didn’t last long.
‘Absolutely nobody gave a shit what anyone’s second name was,’ says Tina Cutler, daughter of flamboyant British politician Sir Horace Cutler. ‘I wouldn’t know what the hell anyone’s surname was because nobody cared.’ Cutler spent childhood summers on the island with her parents before moving there full-time and setting up several successful businesses. Today she works as a vibrational healer, having completed years of intensive training.
‘There was one character at the clubs called Ziggy,’ she continues. ‘He used to be a dancer at Pacha, and then there was Manel, who now runs the Sunset Ashram—well, you always remembered him because of his beautiful blue eyes. Then there was Teresa and her husband who ran the shop Graffiti, and they were well-known party hippies, and my girlfriend Victoria who is still there and runs the Elefante shop. Her
husband is a world expert on tetanus immunisation. There are all sorts of well-known characters who are still there, although a lot are dead now too.’
With the benefit of a lifetime of hindsight and experience of the island—she threw herself relentlessly into the Ibiza party scene for years—Cutler is still enamoured of the island in hugely enthusiastic ways, although she can just as quickly despair of it. This seems to be typical of any long-term resident. Cutler remembers the hippie good times from her childhood, when she was surrounded by all these island characters. But did it truly seem like such an innocent time, and was it really all flower power and sunshine? And who were these Ibiza hippies really?
‘Trustafarians,’ she assures me. ‘They were hanging around Ibiza, and they never worked, and they were hippies only because they could be! Somehow or other they always had money and they always managed to do things. The fact is, Ibiza itself is the black sheep of society. It encourages people who don’t fit in to anything else. But most “hippies” in fact came from very wealthy families.’
Extract from Shadows Across The Moon: Outlaws, Freaks, Shamans and the Making of Ibiza Clubland by Helen Donlon. Published July 14th, 2017 by Jawbone Press. Edited parts of the above text formed the basis for Donlon’s talk on the psychedelic lifestyle continuum in Ibiza, at Breaking Convention, 2017.
Photos by Helen Donlon.
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