Island Stories #32 – Juan, El Capitain & The 2CV

It is the 20th of September 1990. I am drinking in a bar (possibly Irish) on the infamous strip in the West End of San Antonio Abad, Ibiza, Balearic islands it is around 00:48. 

As the saying goes; three’s a crowd.  Well it certainly seemed to be for me in this instance.  I was the tender age of just seventeen and had gone away on my first holiday abroad (without parents) with two close pals to follow the pilgrimage to this white island in the sun that everyone back home was raving about.

Our two week tarriance was drawing to a close and in true teenage form I had virtually spent my entire holiday fund with more than a few days to go.  My two friends were, at this point considerably more flush than me and had buggered off to one of the clubs leaving me sitting on the exceptionally squeaky bed in the hot, sweaty confines of our rather tired, shabby little room at the hotel Florida in San Antonio, just up from The Egg.



Sitting there alone, sipping warm San Miguel and smoking cheap Spanish cigarettes I grew quickly bored and decided to take some of my last remaining pesata’s and investigate some of the cheaper bars in the West End. 

It was heaving as usual and I ended up wandering into a random bar and ordering a grande cerveza.  After a while a slight, flamboyant Spanish bloke approached me at the bar and we started chatting.  His name was un-stereotypically Juan and as it turns out was a purveyor of various illicit substances which he attempted unsuccessfully to sell me.  I informed him of my current plight and he was shocked;  ‘We cant have this!” he announced loudly in very broken English and with a brotherly arm tight around my shoulder he told me that he was going to Amnesia that night and I was to accompany him.  He was waiting for a “friend” who would be able to get us into the club and get us free drinks all night (evidently).

At first I was extremely reluctant to join this virtual stranger on a trip to a club in the middle of the island with no money and no way of getting back home.  But then came the realisation that my pesetas were running exceptionally low, and the thought of returning to that humid, Turkish bath of a room was becoming less and less appealing by the moment.  After a few seconds of careful, deliberate thought I agreed to  join him.

His “friend” arrived loudly half an hour or so later in an ageing Citroen 2CV, thickly covered in chalky island dust, honking his horn loudly and repeatedly outside the bar.  Juan ran out and greeted him warmly.  As he stepped out of the ageing vehicle I realised to my horror that he was wearing a blue local police uniform.

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Juan walked back over to me in the bar, obviously concerned I asked Juan worriedly about the fact that his friend was the law and he merely winked and smiled at me;  “dont worry, he is the chief of police.” tapping his nose. 

I was readily introduced but due to my abject terror of the situation that was rapidly unfolding before my very eyes, I have absolutely no recollection at all of his name. 

I was hurriedly bundled into the back of the car and soon found myself hurtling down the side alleys of San Antonio at break neck speed whilst my two new found amigos engaged in loud, passionate Spanish conversation, gesticulating wildly, potentially killing all three of us at every turn of the wheel.

Here I was,  absolutely bricking it, sitting in the back of a yellow, beaten up 2CV, being driven by the supposed local Chief of Police and his drug dealer friend, speeding towards an island nightclub.

Not only did we get in, but ended up having quite the night,  copious amounts of free booze courtesy of El Capitain and plenty of “the other” from Juan.  In typical island fashion Im not quite sure what became of my two newly acquired friends, or even how I ended stumbling back into the foyer of the Florida, bleary eyed the next morning, but the one thing I do remember was that the night was an exceptionally good one.

Only in Ibiza….


Damien Enright – The Three Kings Clerkenwell 20th February 2016

As most of my close friends know, I’m a little bit partial to a small island off the southern coast of Spain called Ibiza, some may even say obsessed.

From my very first visit back in 1990 to every subsequent yearly summer sojourn my obsession with the island and everything to do with that early heady balearic period only intensifies.

I have always had a habit of collecting any and every old piece of memorabilia (Ibiza tat) I can lay my hands on; old posters pulled from the walls of Amnesia, a wealth of pictures from Facebook groups such as Ku – Ibiza Best Years, postcards by Luis Amor of his detailed artistic interpretation of the indigenous Ibizencos, maps, flags you name it and of course books, lots and lots of books.

Last year I came across one such book by author Damien Enright – Dope In The Age Of Innocence.

Its a tale of a young man and his family arriving on the island in the early sixties when it was a haven for the hedonistic hippie cultural rejects of society.  It’s a captivating read and paints a picture of what the island was like before the gratuitous explosion of consumerism and the frankly obscene displays of wealth from the influx of Russian oligarch money and property developers such as the Candy brothers that the island sadly now suffers from.

Here is a brief synopsis:

Ibiza, 1960: on the beautiful Mediterranean island, the high-rise resorts are still decades away. By chance, Damien Enright, twenty-one-years old and Irish, arrives there with his wife and two children and finds a handful of down-at-heel foreign Bohemians leading wild, hedonistic lives. He and his wife get involved; their marriage quickly breaks down and he spends two heartbroken years in London before returning to Ibiza with a new partner and another child. They take LSD and inspired by dreams of a brave new world, cross to the remote island of Formentera to lead alternative lives.This is a decade before Howard Marks becameMr. Nice: the embryonic drug culture in the west motivated not by profit but by idealism. Sometimes, that early search for freedom ventured not just beyond the mind but beyond the law. To sustain their families on Formentera, Enright and two desperado pals head to London in a beat-up car and do some risky travellers cheque scams. Then, restless and unsure of his love for his partner, he makes a hair-raising trek to Turkey in the depths of winter to find hashish for the group. Things go badly awry and he find himself a fugitive, at the mercy of unreliable friends. Part road story, drug story, love story,Dope in the Age of Innocenceis fundamentally a parable about drug enlightenment, the loss and rediscovery of love and the tempering of innocence.

It’s an absolutely cracking read and held me until the very end, a definite must for those of the Balearic way inclined.

Much to my delight I very recently received news that Mr Phil Mison, Balearic mainstay and resident DJ at The Cafe Del Mar in the early nineties has organised a talk and a Q&A with the author, on all things Ibiza and book related.  The illustrious Mr Enright himself will be holding court on an evening of most excellent music to be held on the 20th of February at The Three Kings in Clerkenwell:

To guarantee entrance on the night email Phil himself on;

The night is also blessed with the musical accompaniment of Colorama and Shawn Lee, a must and not one to be missed for the Balearic faithful.

The Rules Of Engagement – When Did The Dancers Take A Backseat?

Just the other day a good friend of mine sent me a YouTube clip of an “orbital rave” that occurred in 1989:


I am really happy to say that I actually attended this event.  I was sixteen years of age and relishing this new surge of youth culture that was freshly emerging; exciting and heady, a time to be thoroughly enjoyed and that we did.

However looking back on it now I was struck with just one thing.  Throughout the entire ten minutes of the video clip there is not one shot of the DJ.

Not one.

Instead we are treated to a visual feast of the real stars of the show, namely us, the punters.  Sweating and grinning and gyrating insanely and giving themselves up to the music as you really are supposed to.  Feeling the music and actually dancing to it.

For me, this shows us how far we have come, and how far we have lost our way.  At any given venue of late, the crowd can be seen almost praying to the altar of the DJ box, the very worst culprits to be found in one of the places where this music takes its origins; Ibiza. 

The kids now stand in the throngs at Ushuaia, entranced,  doing the obligatory pointy finger dance at yet another relentless breakdown.  iPhones held aloft filming the whole event, or Shazaming the tune, or Uploading pictures to Facebook.  I’m all for the internet and using technology to share the love but have we lost the main reason for the whole thing?

Real clubs with a respect and love for the music are rapidly realising this.  Berghain/Panorama Bar have always enforced a strict no camera policy, and Fabric have recently released the below image:


At the excellent upcoming Black Atlantic event, Mister Sunday at Oval Space on the 9th of November there are even hard and fast rules for the dancefloor;


1. Please don’t take photos.

2. Please don’t text or make calls or any of that stuff.

You can do all these things off of the dancefloor, but when you’re inside the speakers, get down.

This seems to me like the perfect advice, lets go back to our roots and really enjoy the music we’re “supposed” to be listening to!

Trust me we’ll all enjoy it all that much more.

See you down the front on the 9th 🙂

My Ibiza And The Changing Nature Of The Balearic Beat

I stepped out of the door of the plane and walked straight into a heavy wall of heat, instantly the strong stinging scent of salt from the salt flats and the thick heavy aroma of pines hit my nostrils and my stomach was filled with butterflies.  It instantly felt like home.

This was September in 1990 and my first visit to the Island which would take a very special place in mine and my families heart.

Myself and two very close friends were regulars at Charlie Chester’s night, Flying at the Soho Theatre Club behind the Astoria,  and Phil Perry’s Full Circle Parties at The Greyhound in Colnbrook in Slough.  We were avid readers and attenders of the Boys Own fanzine and parties and had heard all the tales of the clubbing paradise that was the white island so we booked up and made the pilgrimage.

To walk into Space for the first time and onto that Terrace to hear extremely loud music at 8am in the morning was a bit of epiphany to say the least.  We couldn’t believe that the club was open air, and this loud!  We had found a perfect playground; hot sun, beautiful sea, sand and locals that had a totally carefree and completely tolerant attitude.  For me that was it, I had found nirvana.


We visited the huge cavernous Ku, danced on the terrace at Amnesia and went to the water party at Es Paradis, but I think the crowning glory was after the madness, watching the sun go down at Cafe Del Mar, sitting on the beach with a few hundred like minds, smoking a spliff  and enjoying a chocolate milk and brandy, all set to the most amazing sunset soundtrack I had every heard.  The strangest mix of genres, although completely different all seemed to meld perfectly together, and in the beach setting of the Cafe Del Mar.  This was and still remains to be one of the most special and tranquil times in my life, and holds the most fantastic dear memories for me.


The two weeks came to and end but of course that was just the beginning.  We returned every year for our two week fix, and I have done ever since.  Each time when I returned to the UK my search to hear the music that was played at Cafe Del Mar and my interest in the DJ’s that played it was piqued.  It took four years but finally in 1994 Cafe Del Mar brought out an album, which I bought immediately and it still remains as one of my most played to this day.  It was mixed by none other than José Padilla, the very DJ I had heard playing this emotionally charged music in the first place.

It was then that I heard that a local DJ from home had secured a residency at the Café; Phil Mison, an Essex lad that drunk at our local The Bridge House in Upminster Bridge.  Phil had a chance meeting with Jose and was invited to play.

Since those early days I have been captivated by this musical style, I will always have a huge love for House and Techno but the same can be said for this very distinct sound.

With Ibiza’s meteoric rise in popularity in the years that followed, and the growth of the super clubs the sunsets at Cafe Del Mar are much changed, the last time I visited (which was a good few years back) instead of a few hundred on the beach now there are thousands.  With the pre-party bar Mambo next door this guarantees a heaving throng of sweaty revellers, not very tranquil at all!  There are however other alternatives now to be enjoyed, Sunset Ashram and Cap Dés Falcó being two amazing spots to enjoy a less hectic Ibizencan sunset.

In 2010 I returned but this time with my family.  We had a completely different holiday and a saw a totally different side to the island.  Every visit previous to this had been pure madness.  We rented a small house in Cala Vadella an idyllic bay on the West coast of the island, around twenty minutes drive from the airport.  We hired a car and driving to our new holiday home for the first time ever I realised that the entire island is covered in pine trees.  I hang my head in shame!

The Greeks called the island “Pitiüses” or Land Of The Pines, now I could see why.  Some family friends of ours live on the island all summer long and gave us some tips of places to visit.  We drove up to Satalia, the highest point on the island.  From here you can really see the full extent of the thick pine forest;


Our friends have a boat and took us to Cala Conta, where the amazing Sunset Ashram can be found.  To discover this side of the island after all these years only proved to ingrain the power of Balearic music and made the link to the island within me ever stronger.

Thankfully these days we have many bastions of the Balearic sound probably more now than ever before;

Mison himself releases under the moniker Cantoma and with Pete Herbert Reverso 68.  In 2013 Phil launched Highwood Recordings, a new imprint for this unique sound.

Claremont 56 is a standout label too, run by Paul Murphy features some of the most forward thinking music around, including the excellent Originals series, of which Mr Mison mixed the 6th version:

And of course there is the quintessential Balearic label International Feel, conceived in 2008 on the Uruguayan coast, Mark Barrott the label boss now lives on the island, his recent release Sketches From An Island in my opinion is a near on perfect audio embodiment of the island:

Also flying the flag for all things Balearic is the truly excellent Test Pressing, which has a vast amount of information plus tons of music, a must for the intrigued:

And in 2014 a regular Balearic Sunday night affair at The Horse & Groom in Curtain Road, Shoreditch; Música Noche, already in its fourth incarnation with such eminent guests as Phil Mison himself, Nancy Noise, Daniele Baldelli and Ruf Dug holding court, the next party is a Carnival warm up scheduled for the 1st of August with none other than Tom Middleton playing upstairs;



Mark Barrott – Sketches From An Island 2

When the illusive Mr Mark Barrott releases an EP it makes everyone sit up and take notice, Mark has an incredible musical background beginning in the world of Ambient Drum & Bass with Future Loop Foundation, he was the first artist to perform Drum & Bass live on British radio and has worked in many different areas and genre’s of music.  In 2008 Mark moved to the Uruguayan coast where he started up International Feel Recordings which quickly became a quintessential label for Balearic Music, with quality limited run vinyl releases International Feel quickly garnered cult interest with twelves chaining hands on Discogs for ridiculous sums.  Having been living in Ibiza for two years Mark has embarked on the Sketches From An Island project.  Immersing himself in the islands culture he hopes to capture the true essence of the Balearic sound.

Formentera Headspace Blues (Pt’s 1 & 2) is a delightful skittering synth fuelled journey into the sunshine, the percussive arrangement is reminiscent of the drums to be heard at Benirras Beach melded with lilting guitar riffs and xylophonic interludes.

Deep Water is again synth heavy with flighty flutes, tom tom percussion and a smattering of flamenco guitar, the addition of tinkling piano breaks forms a rounded almost spiritual sound.

Go Berri Be Happy has a guitar led blissful vibe, haunting synths and laughter blended with wooden percussion, it does exactly what it says on the tin.

Essene is again guitar led, exquisitely arranged and extremely easy on the ear, without a doubt 100% bona fide sunset music.

Back To The Sea begins with the sound of the crashing mediterranean and the cries of gulls, synth and guitar permeate slowly to bring a warm welcoming smile to the face.

With this EP Mark has given us a near on perfect audio embodiment of The White Island, an absolutely perfect soundtrack for idyllic hot sunny days spent splashing around on a boat just off the coast at Cala Conta or equally at the lofty perch of Satalia the highest point on Ibiza.  In my opinion Mark has captured a true feeling of the real Ibiza with this EP.