At Ku, Ibiza 1984.

July 2018


Recently there has been some interest in a set of photographs I took on the Balearic Island of Ibiza in the summer of 1984.

As a photo-journalist, one obviously can't afford be late with a story but, in this case, I found out that one couldn't afford to be too early either.

Back in 1983, when my family and I holidayed in Ibiza, I was shocked, if that's not putting it too strongly, when I saw the colourful and extremely vibrant nightlife in the island’s capital.

Although much of the rest of the island was colonised by young British holiday makers, Ibiza Town and the beaches and bars in it's immediate vicinity were completely different. It seemed more upscale and more multi-European, and at night the streets and bars around the harbour transformed into a hot and heady version of what was happening in London at places like the Camden Palace, The Batcave, Heaven and The Wag .  It was all extremely photogenic.

A couple of miles out of the city itself was a huge nightclub called Ku, which stayed open until dawn. With it's central swimming pool and dragon's shaped waterslide, it was more like an elaborate Hollywood film set than a club (eventually the club became Manumission but I'm getting ahead of myself. In 1984 there were very few Brits going to Ku).

When my family went back to Ibiza the following year, I didn't think any of the many magazines I worked for at the time had picked up on what was going on and so I decided to take a camera and shoot some pictures.

When I got home, I printed the best of them and took them into The Face magazine.  I tried to persuade them that there was a decent story there.

They weren't convinced.

Paul Rambali, the features editor at that time, said to me "Why would our readers be interested in what's happening in Ibiza?"

Those were his exact words and I remember them clearly.

I was very disappointed that they couldn't see what I could see.  I was also convinced that it was perfect for The Face demographic.  In truth, I probably wasn't persuasive enough.  And, of course, my photographs should have done all the talking for me.  I guess they really needed to have been better.

At the time, The Face magazine had developed a worldwide reputation as trend spotters and style setters which was mostly deserved.  They weren't always the first to spot a trend but they were usually the most visible in doing so.

For instance, back in the early days of The Face magazine, in 1980, when it was still predominantly a music magazine, they famously ran six pages of my photographs of the Blitz Kids (they called it 'The Cult With No Name').

This was six months after a similar article, also using my photographs, had run in The Sunday Times Magazine. Even The Daily Mail had run an article which predated The Face.

But it's 'The Cult With No Name' article, written by Robert Elms, which everyone seems to remember.

But in 1984, my idea for The Face running an article on the scene in Ibiza was rejected and not one of the photographs I took back then was ever published - until today.

But there there certainly was a story there.  Eventually other Face contributors must, I suppose, have confirmed this because the following year The Face ran it as an eight page cover story (in the September 1985 issue).

In the article, Don Macpherson wrote "Ibiza is fast becoming the decadent playground of everybody's imagination..."

Unfortunately, for me, it wasn't quite fast enough.

Once people in the UK started to realise that Ibiza was cool - and had it confirmed by The Face magazine - everything changed.  In 1987, 4 top London club DJ's went out to work in Ibiza and when they returned, they imported the sounds and styles of Ibithan summer nights to the UK.

The rest is history.

The kind of after hours dance culture which first kicked off in Ibiza - balearic beats, ecstasy, superclubs and the rave scene -became just about the biggest youth culture story of the late eighties.

And it may well be that my photographs will also now get their day in the sun.  There's even talk of a show.

As soon as I hear anything, I'll post it here.