Since the dawn of time, Ibiza’s never been as good as it used to be. It’s a place where nothing ever changes, but nothing ever stays the same. Is Ibiza over? No, it’s stronger than ever!
Legend has it, two Roman soldiers were chilling to DJ Alfredus outside an island tavern. As the lyre music peaked and the sun dipped, one turned to the other and said: “You should have been here last year”.
Every year headlines proclaim, ‘For Ibiza, the party’s over’. Or there’s a ‘New Ibiza’ in Croatia, Ayia Napa, Mykonos, Dubai or wherever. But, you can’t recreate paradise, neither can you destroy it, despite the best efforts of politicians, building regulations, police-enforced season-long club closures, economic crises and the vagaries of fashion.
Throw adversity at the island and it not only survives, but thrives, adapting and reinventing itself. Simultaneously timeless and new, it’s the ultimate geographic proof that love and a good tune will conquer all. Music’s always been Ibiza’s beating heart. Every deejay, performer and producer knows if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.
There are other beautiful Mediterranean islands, but none possesses Ibiza’s unique fusion of history, people and mystical energy, which, some say, comes from the island’s bedrock of crystal. Or maybe it’s mysterious Es Vedra, allegedly the third most magnetic spot in the world.
It brought the gods here to party. Ibiza even takes its name from one, Bes, always depicted with an erection. He was worshipped with Tanit the warrior goddess of dance and fertility.
With them came the legendary tolerance of Ibicencos, providing a place of escape, for Jews fleeing the Inquisition, with the first bar where men “danced with men”, for black jazz performers freed from segregated America, later joined by hippies, US draft dodgers and refugees from South American dictatorships.
A galaxy of Hollywood stars discovered sanctuary from the paparazzi’s glare followed by rock and pop royalty from the Rolling Stones to Led Zepplin, Pink Floyd, Queen, the Bee Gees and Spandau Ballet. Each left their cultural mark and worried about the next wave of friendly invaders.
The 1970s brought a deluge of tourism. But, instead of destruction, the package-holiday hordes provided the surprising foundations for the world capital of dance.
The mix was already there. Hippies had brought freedom, gay culture added flamboyance, party spirit and boystown music, the religious Bhagwan Rajneesh cult introduced the ecstasy, and an Argentinian exile, Alfredo, created the sound.
It came together in temples of the night which, when I first came to the island in 1979, were filled with rich Eurotrash and has-been pop stars, not that I ever visited Pacha, Amnesia or Ku. Ibiza was never cheap. Even then, it was about £15 to get into Amnesia. As a rookie journalist in London I earned less than £80 a week.
The dance music hordes didn’t drive the wealthy from their temples, which were expensive, but never exclusive. The bliss of dancing under the stars was on offer to anybody from the millionaire to the resourceful plumber, and you couldn’t tell them apart.
It couldn’t last. Not for the first time Ibiza became a victim of its own success. With the money flowing into the clubs came new, more powerful, sound systems. The authorities clamped down, insisting on roofs to protect the neighbours from noise. Dance was dead. Allegedly.
Ku went bust, but the music didn’t miss a beat. The new owners of the world’s biggest club just renamed it Privilege. Structural changes to clubs just provided more crazy possibilities for Manumission and other circuses of the insane.
But, the authorities didn’t stop at the roof. Opening times were squeezed until eventually the freedom to party 24-hours-a-day was outlawed. Still, the island kept getting busier.
Tastes were changing. Not every visitor wanted to dance all day and night in a drug-fuelled daze. From seaside kiosks, chiringuitos, beach clubs were born. They swapped Coke, beer and plastic-wrapped bocadillos for glamorous sunbeds, Champagne and gourmet cuisine.
That last concept would have been totally alien to Ibiza little more than a decade ago. Even the best local restaurants offered little more than rubbery stews of fish or pork, more Michelin rubber than Michelin star. Now the island’s a foodie heaven with world leading chefs.
Tired package holiday blocks have been reborn as dozens of luxury five-star hotels. It’s hard to imagine that little more than a decade ago there was just one, the Hacienda Na Ximena.
They’ve helped Ibiza to keep up with the move from traditional fortnight on the beach to bite-sized city breaks. Now visitors want to return from their short trip refreshed, not in need of another holiday.
Ibiza’s always combined all-out hedonism with clean air, mountains and forests. Now they’re locations for tranquil retreats to refresh the soul. It’s simply a continuation of the spiritual journey Ibiza’s followed from the mists of time.
Ibiza never changes and it never stays the same.