Looking For The Balearic Beat /  Bohemians, Beatniks & Hippies

In the 1950s, America’s hip youth were encouraged by the writings of The Beats – William Burroughs, Allan Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac – to hit the road. These “beatniks” in search of “kicks” found themselves traveling in the company of authors and artists, who were running for cover and sanctuary from Senator Joseph McCarthy and his Communist witch hunts. The Balearic Islands became a popular bolthole for both. An oasis of freedom, annexed off from General Franco`s Fascist grip on mainland Spain. 


Ibiza at this time was isolated. You needed to get on a boat to get there. It was dusty, run down, “the end of the Earth”, but it was packed full of interesting characters. The young Americans who`d come up with the $110 for freight from New York to Tenerife, wound up in Barcelona, rubbed shoulders with the shady and dangerous elements who frequented the Jamboree jazz bar, then jumped on an overnight ferry to The White Isle. There they mixed with English ex-patrons of Bohemian hang-outs, like Finches on The Fulham Road and The Partisan Coffee Bar in Soho. Actors, authors, artists, and poets. 

Albert Camus The Outsider Edit

In the 1930s the inaccessibility of Ibiza had provided sanctuary for folks such as German philosopher Walter Benjamin, and French-Algerian absurdist Albert Camus, who would congregate with criminals, conmen, and assassins in hiding at the Hotel Montesol, next door at Bar Alhambra, or the Migjorn Bar, all situated on Vara de Rey. But it was in the 1950s, post the Spanish Civil War, and World War II, that the island really began to attract travelers from around the globe. Despite General Franco`s Nationalist rule across the water, Ibiza seemed forgotten and left to its own devices. During the Algerian War, which began in 1954, the island harboured members of right-wing paramilitary group, the O.A.S. – Organization Armee Secrete. Nationalists, like Franco, such as Jean-Jacques Susini, Pierre Lagaillarde, and Jean-Maurice Demarquet, whose various terrorist acts were aimed at maintaining Algiers under French colonial rule. Most infamously, they attempted to assassinate France`s then president, Charles De Gaulle. The former Nazi Emil Schillinger opened the Hostel El Delfin Verde and then Hotel El Corsario. The latter, a favourite haunt of Hollywood hell-raiser, Errol Flynn, would become a meeting place for the artists and architects, such as Erwin Bechtold, Egon Neubauer, Josep Lluis Sert and Erwin Broner – who collectively constituted the movement known as Grupo `59. 

hotel el corsario MONOCHROME


Everyone either was, or aspired to be, a writer, poet, or painter. Americans – Clifford Irving, Harold Liebow, Steve Seeley, John Anthony West – the Irishman, Damien Enright, New Zealander Janet Frame. Many of whom went on to document their time spent on the island. The English poet and author, Laurie Lee, who`d fought against Franco`s forces between 1936 and 1939, wrote of “playing dice and drinking bad wine” on the boat from Mallorca, and observed how the influx of foreigners was already changing the place – with each nation setting up its own enclave. The Dutch “settlers”, who included trepanation advocate Bart Huges, for example, made camp near the beaches of Platja d`en Bossa and Figueretes. The `60s saw the arrival of English actors, Terry Thomas and Denholm Elliot, and the notorious Hungarian forger Elmyr de Hory – the subject of the Orson Welles directed film, F For Fake. 

orson welles f for fake poster

The Domino Bar was a dive located in the port, practically opposite the harbour gangplank. A less than sanitary establishment – the sea would come up through the toilet – it was presided over by three owners. The French-Canadian, Alfons Bleau, the Englishman, Clive Crocker, and a German named Dieter Loerzer. Inspired by Kerouac Crocker initially planned to write, but fell in with Dieter and Alfons who already ran The Domino. The two, having hit financial difficulties, allowed Crocker to buy in and bail them out. As a host, he engaged his colourful patrons in existential discourse and endless games of chess. Crocker was by his own admission a “beat”. He`d done a couple of years of National Service in Hong Kong – where he`d refused to pick up a weapon – and then found work as a casting agent. Arriving in Ibiza with his then wife, Gigi, in 1959, he embarked on a long-running affair with Christa Paffgen AKA actress / model / musician Nico. The Warhol muse, having just finished filming Frederico Fellini`s La Dolce Vita, moved to the island with her mother in 1960. Buying a house in Platja d`en Bossa. Crocker often recounted tales of their tempestuous relationship. Displaying the bite marks and cigarette burns his lover had given him. 

domino bar 1964


The Domino`s crowd was a catty, artistic milieu. Kind of like Dean Street`s infamous Colony Room Club, transported to the Mediterranean. The evenings were soundtracked by American Jazz LPs procured by Dieter. Sides by names such as Albert Ayler, John Coltrane – they were the first bar on the island to own and play a copy of his A Love Supreme – Chet Baker, Ella Fitzgerald, Coleman Hawkins, Billie Holiday, Charles Mingus, and Sarah Vaughan. Miles Davis` Concertio de Aranjuez, from Sketches Of Spain, becoming an obvious favourite. Cheap booze, cutting asides, infidelity, a little marajuana, plus a trickle of pure Sandoz acid from Switzerland, provided the ambience. The Domino`s doors would close at 2AM and its patrons would carouse the old town and the surroundings beaches, high as kites, during La Madrugada – the hours before dawn. The place thrived for a few years, but folded because its patrons rarely paid their bar tabs. In 1963, Crocker opened his own place, El Portico, with Spaniard, Luis Cardona, and then finally Clives, which is now the site of The Rock Bar. Within this mix everyone knew everyone, usually only by first name. When anyone threw a party all were invited. These gatherings often “organically” spiraling on for days. 

By the mid-60s Ibiza was already renowned as “beatnik central” – a place associated with “kicks” and drugs. In 1966 it was the location for Hallucination Generation, a piece of b-movie exploitation that whose posters proclaimed,

“You will experience every jolt, every jar of a psychedelic circus, the beatniks, sickniks, and acid heads, and you will witness their ecstasies, their agonies, and their bizarre sensualities. You will be hurled into their debauched dreams and frenzied fantasies.”

hallucination generation poster

As the decade moved on the beatniks evolved into hippies turned on by Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey, and LSD. Tuning in, dropping out, and seeking Nirvana through hallucinogens, Eastern religion and philosophy. The existing artistic community was genteel in comparison. The hippies were not an educated elite. They came from all walks of life. Invading and eventually over-running the pretensions of their plummy predecessors. These were youth fleeing the fires of Paris 68, escaping the dictatorships and juntas of South America, and the Vietnam War. All looking for an alternative to the accepted status quo. Something more primitive. More spiritual. Charities in Sweden and Norway were set up to assist the American kids attempting to avoid joining the Vietnam conflict. Paying their airfares and flying the “draft dodgers” out to Scandinavia. But when winter set in these rescued souls invariably sought somewhere warmer. Hitting The Hippie Trail – the pop culture name given to the paths “East” taken by Westerners during the 1960s, and 70s. Before further war closed all available routes. Through Istanbul, leaving and receiving messages on the bulletin board of the Pudding Shop. To Tehran, Herat, Kandahar, Kabul, Peshawar, Lahore, India, and Nepal. Or via Syria to Jordan, Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan. Heading for Goa and Kathmandu. Meeting on Freak Street, Jhochhen  Tole, where cannabis was legal and freely available.

istanbul pudding shop


For those traveling from Europe, Ibiza became a stopping off point. Usually en route to Morocco, or on the way back from India. Ibiza is as close to Algiers as it is to Barcelona. The Mediterranean end of the trail, Ibiza became one of the top three hippie destinations. Alongside Tangiers and Goa. It was a haven. Where likeminded souls could meet, regroup, and share travel information, at a time when the cost of living on the Mediterranean was far less expensive than in Northern Europe. The locals called the hippies, peluts, which is Catalan for “hairies”. Those with money settled in Ibiza`s Old Town. Those without rented fincas (farmhouses) in San Carlos, San Juan and Aqua Blanca. Establishing small communes. The properties having frequently been left empty by locals looking to make ends meet on the mainland. The adventurous would sometimes seek out the even more “unspoilt” Formentera. A neighbouring island where there was no electricity, no running water, no toilets. Some funds could be raised selling wares at the the market in Las Dalias, but more often than not the hippies maintained their island idyll with stints of labour back in Europe. Working for a month in a city, such as Paris, London, or Barcelona, to provide the cash for three months in The Balearics. Outside of the Old Town there were few cars and buses on the island. So a trip there for supplies could take those in San Carlos two days there and back on foot. San Carlos did however boast Anita’s Bar, which was the only “hang-out” away from the town. Bar bills there were often paid in kind, and “donated” artwork still lines the restaurant`s walls. Anita’s also, importantly, doubled as the hippies` post-office, where they could send and pick up mail. 



As word of Ibiza`s paradise spread, so its popularity grew. Eventually bringing a burgeoning drug trade, and attracting rockstar celebrities of the day. Joni Mitchell, Mike Oldfield, Robert Plant, and Frank Zappa all bought houses on The White Isle. Mitchell refers to Ibiza in her classic, California: 

“I caught a plane to Spain, went to a party down a red dirt road, there were lots of pretty people there, reading Rolling Stone, reading Vogue.”

In came more film stars, European royalty, and shipping magnet Aristotle Onassis, leading Ibicenco hippie, Alejandro Vallejo, to open the island`s first “proto-nightclub”, La Cueva de Alex Baba. There was live music at new venues such as Bar Anfora in San Penya. With the dealers and musical deities came the “alternative” religions. The first being the Hare Krishna. Most of the music made on Ibiza at this time, though, was spontaneous, jammed. Beach drum circles beating as night fell, and crazy parties in fincas full of freaks. Drugs were an integral part of life on Ibiza. The imported communities liberally imbibing speed, weed, and LSD. The psychedelic, and alleged aphrodisiac, Yohimbina – extracted from African tree bark – was available over-the-counter at the island`s pharmacies. The Dutch held ceremonies they called “The Big Kick”, fueled by preparations of the flowering plant, datura. By the 1970s, harder drug use, that of cocaine and heroin, was prevalent. 


The then kings of psychedelic rock, Pink Floyd, began their own connection with The Balearics in 1967, when band members, Roger Walters and Syd Barrett visited Formentera with Dr Samuel Hutt. Perhaps better know by his stage name, Hank Wangford, Hutt was a “rock & roll doctor”, a specialist in drug-dependency, who acted as the band`s private physician. The trip to Formentera was an attempt to halt Barrett`s hallucinogen and narcotic-induced descent into madness. They hoped that Syd would rest and recuperate. Though a hedonist hippie hang-out might not have been the best choice of locations. Despite learning the sitar, and penning the touching Wined & Dined while on the island Syd was unfortunately beyond saving, and soon replaced by David Gilmour. 

In 1969 the group, with Gilmour, returned to the islands to record the score for Barbet Schroeder`s film, More. Schroeder`s feature debut which plots the seedier side of the “hippie dream”. Shot around Punta Galera, where his mother, Ursula, owned a house, despite its dark story-line of doomed drug-addition, More, captured in panorama The Balearics` beautiful scenery. Due largely to those landscapes, the film actually drew increased numbers of inquisitive visitors to the islands. Cafe del Mar DJ Jose Padilla, for example, was often quoted as saying that it was watching More that made him pack his bags for Ibiza. 

Aubrey Powell, a photographer, and one of the founders of the design studio Hipgnosis, was part of Pink Floyd`s entourage. He bought a house on Formentera in the late `60s. Powell`s cover for Floyd`s More soundtrack features a 200 year old windmill, in which, according to unconfirmed legend, Bob Dylan is supposed to have stayed. Powell’s photographs of Formentera and Ibiza, the psychedelic shapes of the sandstone erosions, also informed the artwork for Floyd`s Wish You Were Here, and Elegy by The Nice. 

pink floyd MORE


The Nice ELEGY

Powell’s treated images of the Giant`s Causeway in Northern Ireland used for Led Zeppelin`s Houses Of The Holy were perhaps a shot at recreating Ibiza`s near inaccessible Phoenician quarry, Atlantis. A place full of carvings and unspecified magic, located near the beach of Cala D`Hort on the South East of the island. Hidden by the peaks of Llentrisca, Sa Talaiassa, and Roques Altes. Watched over by Es Vedrà, the 155 million year-old Holy Island of Tanit, the Phoenician goddess of the moon and fertility. The spot commonly mistakenly name-checked as home of the sirens mentioned in Homer`s epic Greek poem, The Odyssey. The whole area guarded over by the towering defenses of Torre Des Savinar – itself, the site of occult rituals. 




The stories of freedom and magic attracted members of other successful “counterculture” bands to The Balearics. The myths that surround the islands drew in Cologne`s kosmische rock pioneers, Can. While under the influence of the writings of the celebrated “beast” Aleister Crowley, the group produced the highly-influential LP, Tago Mago. The collected extended jams in the band`s own words map “a journey from light to darkness and back to light”. Can referring to the album as their “magic record”. The track Augmn lifts its title from Crowley`s appropriation of the Sanskrit / Hindu / Buddhist “Om”, while the entire album is a reference to Illa de Tagomago – the privately owned outcrop off the east coast of Ibiza. A place Crowley is rumoured to have stayed during his travels across Spain. Any connection to Crowley, however, has been scrubbed from the internet. Maybe because the island is available to hire, at a price, as a private resort for high rollers. 



While recorded in London, the lyrics for King Crimson`s 1971 album, Islands, were inspired by song-writer Peter Sinfield`s visits to Ibiza and Formentera. So beloved is the LP by the Eivissians that the group got a road named after them. Carrer De King Crimson. Similarly, probably inspired by the “Es Vedra-Sirens” myth, Cream`s sometime lyricist, Australian artist, Martin Sharp, wrote the blues supergroup’s wah-wah-tatsic Tales Of Brave Ulysses during a visit to the islands. 

Another important element in the musical development of Ibiza were the free parties. Spinning out of those spontaneous “happenings”, with time they became regular, promoted events. Many taking place near the market in Las Dalias, or Toro Mar, in Salines, and the amphitheatre-like Festival Club in San Josep – previously the site of bull fights. Others were organized by a Frenchman called Anant, who has unfortunately disappeared into legend. When I spoke to legendary DJ Alfredo Fiorito, he suggested that Anant, or Anand, may have been a devotee of Osho, a follower of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, since the latter is a common sannyasin name. Nearly all of those who claimed to have actually known the Frenchman have sadly passed away. Word-of-mouth remembrances have Anant / Anand getting his hands on a large sound system in 1974. A system big enough to drive proto-raves in the caves of Cala Conta, and on the hilltops of Can Punta. Dances in another deserted bullring near San Agust. Naked parties on Benirras Beach. According to the legend, by the 1980s an estimated 5000 people attended these events. By the 90s pressure from the locals, and the clubs whose business they were “stealing”, forced these parties to stop, and Anant was effectively banished. 

The uninhibited and international mix of free spirits forged on the balearic islands during the hippie era was key to what happened next. When Ibiza`s first nightclubs opened they were built upon, and borrowed from, the sounds, colour and hedonistic abandon of the hippies` finca “happenings”, with some of these young folks, who had come seeking refuge becoming DJs, who would go on to shape and define the balearic beat. 


Pete Watts: Uncut September 2016

Helen Donlon: Shadows Across The Moon

Damien Enright: Dope In An Age Of Innocence 

Stephen Armstrong: The White Island

Diario de Ibiza: Interview with Clive Crocker

8 thoughts on “Looking For The Balearic Beat /  Bohemians, Beatniks & Hippies

  1. What a wonderful read, thank you. California is one of my all-time favourite Joni Mitchell songs and. after years of singing along to the lyrics, I had no idea that taking a plane to Spain and going to a party down a red brick road..was in fact, a reference to Ibiza. Wonderful!


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