In a new series of Friday articles , I would like to pay a nostalgic visit back in time to the culture and social environment that nurtured a particular piece of music. How it influenced lives of people connected to the track – a snapshot in sound if you like. Our first Snapshot is a track originally released in 1996 by UK group, Olive, which comprised of ex Simply Red musician Tim Kellett, Nightmares On Wax songwriter Robin Taylor Firth and lead vocalist Ruth Ann Boyle. This well written piece of electronic “trip hop” was first released in August ’96 and became an Ibiza hit that summer. When it was re-released in May 97, it was an instant success, reaching #1 on the UK Charts due much to its exposure in Ibiza the previous year.
1997 was a defining year in Europe. Tony Blair was elected Prime Minister heralding the dawn of a more liberal and open society, repressed after years of Conservative rule. The big news stories that year, were the suspicious death of Princess Diana in an underground tunnel in Paris, the outbreak of Avian Flu in Hong Kong, and the Olympic Games in Atlanta, where Michael Johnson’s gold shoes were making all the headlines. I had just returned from Australia on a years student working visa, where I was riding racehorses in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane for legendary horse trainer, Bart Cummings. I was to go on to America to work for a Veterinary College but remained in Ireland, a move that allowed me to take my first visit to Ibiza where Manumision, We Love, Cream and Clockwork Orange, were the big parties on the island.
It was the era of the much loved Peseta and a time before internet and smartphones dominated. The majority of the flights to Ibiza were charters run by the big tour operators. You only had two basic options, one weeks holiday or two, you returned on the same day you flew in on. I remember a more innocent and much slower Ibiza back then and £5 would get you 1000 pesetas, the price of a taxi fare from the airport, or a nights accommodation in a hotel. You could not spend all your money, such was the buying power and exchange rate of the old, much lamented Spanish currency. Musically, Boy Bands and Bubblegum pop were the mainstream sound, but in Ibiza, MTV, Subliminal, Ferry Corsten, Tiesto, Roger Sanchez, Erick Morillo, Tall Paul, Judge Jules and Paul Oakenfold were the big DJ names and much of the UK bookings went through Charlie Chester.
Ibiza was very much trance and house orientated in 97, there was very little on the Techno scene – Sven Vath & Cocoon, were not to grace the Amnesia decks until two years later. The West End, Bar M, Rock Bar and Cafe del Mar were doing all the business, as Cafe Mambo was starting to make an impact especially with the UK crowd. The Three n One remix of Cafe del Mar by Energy 52 was one of the big tracks in Ibiza that year, along with Ultra Nate’s Free, Insomnia, Children and our featured track, You’re not Alone by Olive. I know this because I still have the cassette tapes that the “Looky Looky” men sold of the DJ sets recorded illegally inside the clubs. Lio’s predecessor, Il Divino, was still open and the old two lane road was the main route from San An to Ibiza and the clubs in San Rafael. Due to lack of bridges and lighting, the stretch of road between Privilege and Amnesia was called “Death Road” because of the number of people that were killed crossing it late at night. The British Consulate had to put pressure on local authorities to put in the improved safety measures we see there saving lives today.
Olive were awarded the 1997 Ivan Novello prize for Best Dance Track with ” You’re Not Alone” and the band went on to record two studio albums, Extra Virgin and Trickle, which was released on Madonna’s label Maverick, before they drifted apart in 2001. Lead singer Ruth Ann Boyle went on to record her vocals at the infamous A.R.T studios in Ibiza for Michael Cretu and the Enigma project where he also produced her solo album, What About Us, in 2007. Twenty two years after its first release, You’re Not Alone, still sticks like glue. Its haunting vocals, classic synths and smooth melody, makes it a track that evokes happy memories for much of my generation that survived the rave/dance explosion of the nineties. We had witnessed the crossover of Dance Music, considered a drug fuelled holligan movement, to mainstream culture, adding some refinement and creativity along the way. For us that era represented freedom, love and feeling part of something new, it was our Woodstock and the dawn of a new social thinking. Music had become the answer, it broke down borders, as we made so many friends through dance music, when DJ’s could really mix and people would really dance together. Not everyone understands what we had back then, as it was a spiritual thing, a body thing, a soul thing……