Dave Swindells Captures the Hedonism of Ibiza’s Dancefloors in This Book
The hedonism of Ibiza’s nightlife and club scene has, over the decades, been mythologised and reminisced over. However, few capture its spirit better than photographer Dave Swindells, formerly the Nightlife Editor of Time Out from 1986 to 2009, and author of the book Ibiza ’89.
The cultural identity of the island has morphed and moved through various movements during different decades. In the 60s, hippie counterculture swept through the island and aspects of its bohemian spirit remain rooted in Ibiza to this day. Its famous superclubs – namely, Amnesia and Pacha – first opened in the 70s, later followed by institutions like Pikes Hotel and Space Ibiza in the 80s. While the club culture of the White Isle has transitioned through various phases, what connects the dots between each decade is its hedonistic qualities and its eclecticism. Its island location lends itself to a sense of seclusion and exploration; a unique world of its own, mythologised for its reputation for being home to the Balearic beat. Celebrities, fashion icons and musical darlings have passed through its clubs, cementing the island as a place of glamour and excess.
The photo book Ibiza ‘89 has been released under two iterations and both editions have been sold out and sought after. Today (10 May), Swindells partners with IDEA to release the third edition of his book, which is available now at Dover Street Market’s e-shop. Captured over one week in 1989, the book features analogue images of Ibiza’s party-goers. It’s a visual time machine back to standout moments at venues such as Amnesia, Ku, Pacha and Café del Marl. It’s also a look back to fashion’s past, of dancers sweating in leopard print, cinch belts and leather jackets.
We caught up with Dave to talk about the book’s latest edition. Below, he looks back at the characters he met on Ibiza’s dancefloors and why 1989, in particular, marked a pivotal moment for the island.
‘89 was your first time on the island, what was your calling to the island?
As the Nightlife Editor at Time Out in London I’d heard so much about Ibiza and the amazing music that was played on its dancefloors from DJs like Paul Oakenfold and Danny Rampling who’d holidayed there – and came back to transform London clubbing with their mix of Balearic beats and acid house in 1988. What really drew me (and writer Alix Sharkey) to the island was that 1989 was to be the final year to experience open-air clubbing at Amnesia and Ku, and we wanted to record what the island felt like that summer.
What were your first impressions of Ibiza and what keeps you coming back?
By chance we met Boy George when we arrived at the airport and that gave us a good idea of what to expect at the Amnesia launch party. We loved Ibiza Town (where we were staying) and really didn’t like the West End in San Antonio, so maybe we were a bit snobbish. DC10, the club right next to the airport runway, first drew me back and I kept on returning to report on the nightlife trends and, whenever possible, to experience the beaches.
Why was 1989 such a pivotal year for Ibiza?
The people who lived in the centre of Ibiza really hoped that they’d be able to get some sleep once the big clubs had proper roofs in 1990! But ‘89 was also pivotal because it was clear that so many British club promoters and DJs wanted to be involved in the ongoing evolution in Ibizan nightlife, and it signalled the start of a British invasion in the 1990s.
Ibiza is a place where both hedonism and spirituality meet in the middle, how would you describe the energy of the island during the year of ‘89?
The hedonism was fuelled by ecstasy and other party drugs (just as it had been in London) and the spirituality came from the music and the location, especially the intensely emotional meeting of music with beautiful sunsets at Café del Mar and gorgeous sunrises glowing golden across the dancefloors. What was not to love, with the beaches to chill out on during the day?
Many people glorify the days when the island was more free and you didn’t need to have excessive amounts of money to enjoy yourself. How do you think the island has evolved since you captured it in 1989?
It was easier to find free tickets to get into the clubs – especially at the start of the season – in ‘89, but the bar prices were still expensive [and] then there was also a shorter season in which to make money. Perhaps it’s more significant that Amnesia did not have a VIP area back then, now it has four. The exclusivity is real!
The range of people you meet in Ibiza has always been eclectic. On the same dancefloor you could find yourself dancing next to royalty, an artist and a drug dealer. Who’s your most memorable encounter?
I loved meeting Marco [Pagano], one of the managers of Pacha, as he changed into a straitjacket to dance like a madman! (Page 22) Alix spoke Spanish and chatted to all kinds of characters to get their stories. Oddly, my most memorable encounters came many years later, meeting people I photographed but hardly exchanged a word with at the time, and hearing their tales of how they jumped over walls or dodged security to get into clubs gratis, or fell deeply in love.
A third of the photos of the book were captured at the opening night of Amnesia, which lasted until 8am. Can you share a highlight from that night?
Firstly, it was hearing DJ Alfredo play the theme music from Hill Street Blues as the sun peeped over the horizon. It was such a properly Balearic moment, playing a tune that you’d hardly ever hear anywhere else. An hour later, snapping Jon Banham and his Italian dreamgirl dancing reflected in the mirrored pyramid (page 132-33) was special because I knew that image somehow expressed it all. But that whole morning was magical.
Ibiza has always been a place of expression, unique to any other place in the world. ‘80s fashion mixed with Balearic style are caught in your photos. What was the most iconic outfit you caught on camera?
Well, apart from the Wine Me Dine Me 89 Me T-shirt, you mean? It’s a tough call. The gold-tasselled shiny black shorts combo (page 70) was pretty unique, but I’m going to go for the drama of the one-legged leather trousers (page 110).
What’s your wildest or most cherished story from your collection of photos? Where were you, who were you with and what happened?
It was a lucky chance that we happened to be in Ibiza at the same time as ‘journalists’ from The Sun. Alix and I stopped to pick up some Marlboro in a kiosk, and spotted the Peril of Drug Isle Kids headline. It was too good an opportunity to miss, so we picked up a copy and Mark ‘Spit’ Fenton and his partner Megs Osler kindly consented to read it while I snapped them on the beach outside the Café del Mar (page 144).
What is one place you would recommend to someone visiting the island today?
Only one? It would have to be Dalt Vila, the medieval fortress in Ibiza Town, which is wonderful to walk about at any hour of the day or night.
What’s one bit of advice on how not to be a shit tourist in Ibiza?
If you’re staying six floors above the pool, don’t bloody jump in!
You can buy his book Ibiza '89 here.