Swindells, a photographer, makes a living taking cool pictures of people partying (terribly tough gig, then). In his new book, Ibiza '89, he has documented one of his most iconic assignments while serving as Time Out London’s nightlife editor: a stint on the white isle for Time Out’s 20/20 magazine in 1989.
Having published a small collection of photos from the trip in a book in 2011, at the end of the first lockdown this year Swindells was approached by publisher IDEA for more, which resulted in the book of more than 100 photos - and it takes on new perspective in the era of social distancing.
“It certainly wasn’t a cunning plan to exploit people’s longing for the collective buzz of dancing together,” he tells the Standard. “There’s a double hit here, though, because not only can we not party all night long but also the kind of open-air clubbing that happened in Ibiza in 1989 really is a thing of the past – even though the free beach bars in Ibiza and places like Ushaia may still offer some of that thrill.”
In his introduction, he writes: “It was easy to believe that almost anything was possible in Ibiza in 1989; that many of the big clubs put MDMA powder into their cocktails; that the music could jump across genres and not only be exciting, but better than the sum of its parts; that there was always another club or bar to carry on to as long as you wanted to carry on; that it didn’t really matter about your age or sexual preference or how much money you had if you came for the fiesta and the music (although it helped to dress up to get into Pacha, and only the wealthy could buy tables overlooking the dance floors there); that there was always a secret cove or beach where you could create your own party... And all of that was pretty much true.”
He partied with the likes of Boy George and Fat Tony (above) pretty much every night of the trip. “George hosted the opening night party at Amnesia which doubled as his birthday party. The musician Adamski (aka Adam Sky) was there too as were DJs like Danny Rampling, Nicky Holloway and Terry Farley of Boy’s Own (who wrote the foreword to the book).”
The trip was a last chance to capture the “spirit of Ibiza,” he says, before hordes of British clubbers invaded the island and before Ku (then the largest club in the world and now called Privilege) and Amnesia were forced to put rooves on their al fresco dance floors. "One of the best things about Amnesia was that they didn’t have a VIP room at that time: not only was there nothing between the dancers and the stars above on the dancefloor, there were also no velvet ropes dividing the hoi polloi from the glitterati,” he reminisces.
“Nights often began on the beach outside Café del Mar where the late, great José Padilla (to whom the book is respectfully dedicated) was serenading the sunset with his brilliant mix of chilled-out tunes. Most of the photos are taken at the big clubs - Ku, Pacha, Amnesia and Es Paradis - but we also found a little time to enjoy a couple of the island’s beaches and the maze of alleys in Ibiza Town’s Sa Penya district as well as eating paella in a worker’s café in Ibiza port.”
While Swindells insists he couldn’t possibly choose a favourite photo, he says the photo above of a couple dancing in the morning light reflected in the mirrored pyramid at Amnesia particularly resonates. "It was more than 20 years later that I met Jon Banham (who’s dancing in the photo) and he told me that he and his friend had only arrived in Ibiza that day and had rushed to the club only to find that the opening night was tickets-only.
"He was desperate to get in so he managed to crawl in behind a crowd of Spanish clubbers at the gate and then got partying with a group of Italians who were sharing water pistols filled with liquid ecstasy. The girl was apparently ‘an Italian princess’ and Jon’s been hoping to meet her again ever since, so if she happens to be reading this...”
For a proper dose of escapism, click through the gallery at the top. Dave Swindells Ibiza '89 (IDEA, £35) is available to order online.