As thousands of us make the annual migration to the Balearic island, we look back at Danny Rampling, Nicky Holloway, Johnny Walker and Paul Oakenfold’s legendary 1987 trip that started the Ibiza holiday as we know it.
The story is almost mythical. Four DJs cross the globe on a musical pilgrimage, paving the way for the masses. But it isn’t quite that straightforward.
Ibiza Before ‘87
As Nicky Holloway tells it, he had already been going to Ibiza once a year since the early eighties. While he was there, though, he mostly sat around in “naff English pubs.”
Oakenfold, too had visited Ibiza. He told the Guardian that he had briefly stayed there on business, working as a promoter for Divine, but that the 1987 excursion was his “first proper trip.” He was the one who invited the others, suggesting the holiday as part of his own 24th birthday celebrations, unaware that he had just planned the trip that would change the face of British club culture forever.
The Legendary 1987 Trip
The DJs enjoyed the first day of their holiday, but by Nicky Holloway’s own admission, it wasn’t until later that night, when they tried Ecstasy and headed to Amnesia that the pieces began to fall into place. Getting the MDMA was easy, but getting to Amnesia was difficult. They decided to pool together and spend their money on getting there. If it was as good as they had heard, it would be worth it.
It was worth it. Amnesia was an old converted farm, miles away from Ibiza’s more populated areas and ‘naff English pubs’. When the DJs arrived, they found a club unlike any they had seen. It was a huge, open-air space. According to Rampling it had an ‘underground glamour’, with the music and the capsules and the eclectic colourful wild mix of people making it an open air nirvana. And it was a revelation.
But this revelation was not just a product of intoxicants and atmosphere. The real revelation was the man behind the decks: a former candle-seller named Alfredo.
Alfredo and the Original Sound of Ibiza
Originally from Argentina, Alfredo travelled the world before he began his six year residency at Amnesia. He had worked as a music journalist, a clothes vendor and a concert organiser, but in 1982 he was handed the keys to Amnesia by its former owner.
As he told the Guardian, the soundsystem was second to none. So was Alfredo’s taste in music.
When Rampling, Holloway, Walker and Oakenfold stepped into the club on that fateful night, Alfredo remembers he was playing: “Elkin & Nelson’s ‘Jibaro’, Manuel Göttsching’s ‘E2-E4’ and Art of Noise’s ‘Moments in Love,’” alongside music by “Talking Heads, Prince, Bob Marley, the Woodentops.” He says he was playing music from “South America, Europe, different places.”
But it was the music from one place in particular that spoke to the English DJs. Alfredo was playing the hottest house music, fresh from its Chicago birthplace. Records from Trax, DJ International, Frankie Knuckles, Marshall Jefferson and many others. Johnny Walker, who joined the DJs on the trip, says “no one was playing house in London at the time.” That would soon change.
It wasn’t just the quality of the house music that struck the DJ trio, it was Alfredo’s tendency to play it alongside chart tracks from Queen, Kate Bush, and George Michael: all records Rampling, Holloway, Walker and Oakenfold would never have touched. According to Holloway: “on E, it all made sense.”
The DJs returned to Amnesia every night for the rest of their trip, taking in the atmosphere and learning all they could from Alfredo. Rampling says those nights “completely transformed my life.” It wasn’t long before they would transform the lives of others.
Bringing Balearic Beats to Britain
The ‘87 trip was not just a holiday for the DJs. It was a learning experience. They had run clubs in England for years, but they felt they had never reached the heights of Amnesia under Alfredo.
When Rampling returned, he founded Shoom, which grew into an infamous underground party attracting thousands of clubbers. Shoom’s ethos was directly inspired by Ibiza. Rampling played Marshall Jefferson and Cyndi Lauper side by side, and just as it did in Amnesia, it all made sense.
Shoom and these DJs’ other endeavors kickstarted the UK’s rave and acid house scenes, which grew into huge cultural movements, and none of it could have happened without this legendary first trip.
This year Danny Rampling and Nicky Holloway opened Dance 88/89 at Sankeys, bringing the spirit of that era back to the Balearics. The weekly party will also see sets from 808 State, Trevor Fung, Ratpack, and sets from Dance 88/89’s chief resident: Alfredo.
When writing this article, we contacted Danny Rampling for some quotes about the Ibiza trip. What he said was so interesting that we have decided to publish the interview in full:
MN2S: Is there one specific moment that stands out in your memory from the 1987 trip?
Danny Rampling: I can clearly remember the sun coming up one morning at around 7am on the Amnesia open air dance floor and everyone was smiling at one another and many people were hugging. Alfredo closed the night with U2’s ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’. I thought to myself, U2 may not have found what they were looking for, but we certainly have found what we were looking for on this dance floor in the open air.
What was it that made Amnesia and Alfredo so special?
Alfredo’s openness towards the music he played and how he played it, mixing up many different styles of music: house, techno, latin, funk, hip hop, pop, indie, reggae and film scores. His approach and style influenced us to describe the sound as ‘Balearic beats’. The club was a large open air space with a great sound system and a DJ box close to the dance floor. The crowd was a combination of the jet set including racing drivers and movie stars, Ibiza locals and international club kids – a special eclectic mix of people.
What do you think clubbing would be like today if that trip had never happened?
That’s a difficult question. We were part of a link in a chain of events from the Warehouse in Chicago to the Paradise Garage in NYC to Amnesia in Ibiza. We were so greatly inspired and came back with a passion to create a scene in the UK based on our experiences. If it wasn’t us it may have been someone else, who knows. I am very thankful we collectively had the foresight, creative energy and vision and made our experience a reality for others to enjoy.
Do you think the trip has been too mythologised over the years? Is it as important as it is held up to be?
Let’s think how would it be if we had not have gone to Ibiza together at that time. Very different I would imagine. We have played a pivotal role in the development of the Acid House and rave scene with our clubs Shoom Spectrum and Trip clubs that laid the foundations for the scene we have today.
What was the most important thing you learned from the trip?
How to mix up all different styles of music in one night as a DJ, and that openness to music which we termed ‘Balearic’.
Is the spirit of that trip still alive and well in Ibiza today? Can you find that spirit anywhere else?
That was a unique time which shaped the scene we know and love today.That time is part of history and the feeling was unique to then. Dance 88/89 Sankey’s Ibiza present the original core Acid House scene DJs every Wednesday playing the music from that era and the atmosphere is great, with a diverse mix of music lovers, and a younger international crowd who are interested in the culture and spirit of the time. With weekly Ibiza residents DJ Alfredo and Bushwacka. I will be returning to DJ at the closing party Weds 28th September.
Make sure you head to Dance 88/89 for a revelatory experience of your own. Book Danny Rampling to see the master in play.
Header image by Travelbusy [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons