Saturday, June 14, 2014

When Mallorca Had A Pop Festival

Summer, we can safely say, is here. When the temperatures hit the thirties, everyone hits the beaches and the summertime hits start to pump out from speakers, radios and I-things. If music be the ice-creams of summertime love, then play on. Music goes together with summer as much as bucket meets spade and sun shines over beach. And this music comes in many a Mallorcan mode. It is played back, karaoke-ed and tributed and it is also live, rock, dance, jazz or classically vibrated on a violin. The Bellver Festival has been reawaken from its estival hibernation of 2013, Mallorca Rocks rocks, The 1975 ensure cars smell like chocolate, Sa Pobla will syncopate a jazz August and David Guetta will raise the Titanic in Palma in the same month. All musical life is to be found in Mallorca.

But one thing that Mallorca doesn't have - more's the pity - is a true music festival. One like they have in Benicàssim on the mainland where, for four days next month, the headlining acts will be Tinie Tempah, Kasabian, The Libertines and Paolo Nutini. Yet, go back to those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summers past and there used to be a festival. The first one took place fifty years ago in July 1964.

One says festival, but it wasn't what we now think of as a festival. Newport may have had its jazz and folk and Dylan being booed, but Monterey, Woodstock and the Isle of Wight had all yet to happen. The Mallorca Festival of Song did not boast a line-up of major international artists. Franco's lot were ok when it came to the non-threatening likes of Cilla Black, but they were unnerved by long-haired young Britons with guitars, sharp suits and anarchic lyrics which declared that she loved you. They relented and admitted Los Kinks to Mallorca in 1966, but otherwise they wanted predominantly homely, happy, Spanish acts who could be guaranteed not to engage in Dylanesque protest.

The Mallorca Festival featured, therefore, acts local to the island and artists from the mainland as well as "safe" performers from other countries. Who, for example, can forget the Italian Tony Dallara and "E Colpa Mia" who stole first prize in 1970, fending off Pedro Luján with "Cocktail Mallorquín"? Well, pretty much everyone can forget, it would seem. The festival is one of the great forgottens of Mallorca's musical past, yet it ran for seven years until 1970 and it took place slap bang in the tourist land of Playa de Palma.

The festival was in fact a contest. The first one in 1964 was spread over six days from 7 to 12 July, and the winners were Frida Boccara and Luís Recatero with a song in French, "Quand Palma Chantait". Frida, those of you with long memories and a sad knowledge of Eurovision might recall, went on to be one of the four co-winners in Madrid in 1969 (one of the others having been Lulu). In 1966, Tony Dallara - yep, him again - stormed to victory with "Margarita", though this particular festival is apparently better known for what was the most popular song of the festival: "Vuelo 502" by Los de la Torre. (I'm not quite sure what the difference between most popular and winner was, but there clearly was one.)

By 1967, the sentiments of the songs were clear. They were firmly touristic. Lea Zafrani and Los Dogers warbled the praises of "Las Chicas de Formentor", which was something of a change from the poetic praising of a Formentor pine tree, and Los Dogers (dodgy name) teamed up with Los Stop to give the world - a small part of it anyway - "El Turista 1,999,999", which was either a sort of dig at the number of tourists coming to Mallorca by then or, more likely, a celebration of the number. Either way, Loses Dogers and Stop were not pre-empting Prince and multiplying him many times. They were not partying like it was one million, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine.

The last festival was the one held in 1970. One might take Tony Dallara at his word and blame him for its demise, but the fact was that, after the great enthusiasm with which earlier editions had been greeted, later ones suffered from dwindling interest. The point was that, despite the best attempts by the Franco regime to limit the foreign musical invasion, it had invaded. A revival was planned later in the 1970s but nothing came of it. Fifty years on from that first festival, with a very, very different musical environment, might it not just be time to consider reviving it again? There is, after all, a very much larger potential audience nowadays. El Turista 9,999,999.

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