One day in August 1986, two men in black announced themselves at the Pikes Hotel in Ibiza, where George Michael, Grace Jones and Freddie Mercury stayed. They said they came from a “very famous” singer who wanted to isolate himself there for a few weeks. I needed eight rooms. The hotel had 20; the singer wanted them for the next day: after a concert in New York he would fly on his private plane to the island. In Ibiza he traveled in a caravan of five white cars and rented, for those days, a yacht, a sailboat and a speedboat. Julio Iglesias swam in the mornings, sunbathed on the high seas, received visits from ¡Hola! and every day he had Galician seafood that his own cooks prepared for him. He lived surrounded by women who came and went from his side and entered and left his suite bungalow by a private access. He won over the local authorities in such a way that a Civil Guard sergeant, who was investigating the hotel for possible drug trafficking (“if you had a drink at the bar, you were likely to find a line of coke. Does that mean what we were selling? Not at all. Maybe that extra came with the booze,” owner Tony Pike said), ended up attending Freddie Mercury’s 41st birthday party, which lasted several days, downing 350 bottles of Moët Chandom and 250 glasses were broken, according to the bill.
Julio Iglesias flew over all that without getting dirty. All the testimonies collected by the book agree that he was rejected by cocaine, although his own environment considered the effort he made every day inhumane and how well he always appeared, despite not sleeping, at his promotional appointments. . A lot of sex with many women many times a day, a lot -a lot- of sun and white clothes on tanned skin for the tabloid photos. He had culminated his obsession: “the top of the last step” (the summit of the final step), he was the best-selling singer in the world, and he was facing the last of his terrors of a career full of insecurities and successes: how to continue climbing now where, after putting the finishing touch to the last and most amazing of his conquests, that of the United States. The musician and essayist Hans Laguna dedicates to that journey in the mid-1980s, its causes and consequences. Hey! Julio Iglesias and the conquest of America (Contra, 2022), a 430-page work in which he reviews with exhaustive documentation and testimonies the decisive years of the consecration of Julio Iglesias as a universal artist.
Beyond the caricature of the meme, beyond the character engulfed by the press and that he took care not to deny, there appears the figure of a man whose global success was built, in those decisive years, on desperate work all over the world. between albums, concerts and a relentless promotional campaign to finally become the singer with 100 million albums. How to continue after that? “Acting outside of Earth: giving a concert in another place in the galaxy”, said who admitted to being addicted to fame (“I cannot conceive of existence in any other way”) in such a way that, “if the fish applauded, I would sing at sea”. “He suffers from a sick addiction to success,” Alfredo Fraile, his right-hand man for two decades, said of him.
“The origins of this obsession”, says Hans Laguna, recently arrived in Barcelona after the Mexican tour of Nacho Vegas, with whom he plays, “are from his childhood”. His parents weren’t happy together and he learned to read his reactions to please them. “To this ability to interpret the demands of others was added in adolescence the desire to stand out. First as a goalkeeper and later, after an accident that almost cost him his life and ended his career at Real Madrid, as a singer”, explains the author of the book. Ramón Arcusa tells a story in the book that shows to what extent Julio Iglesias considered anonymity unbearable. When he settled in Miami, shortly before buying his first private plane, “Julio stopped many girls or ladies at the airport and asked them with a smile if they knew who he was.” The Latin Americans, almost all; the Americans, almost none. But that was what he was in Miami for: not to stop people at the airport, but to have to flee from them.
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“Julio always offers the same version of himself, which is also the best version of himself,” says Laguna. He has three teachers: Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Elvis Presley. “They have style, you recognize them at the first beat.” “When the style is there, the voice is secondary. The voice does not have to be perfect. A cold, finely tuned, long note has no emotion or meaning. What the voice should be is absolutely personal”, he once said. Julio Iglesias’ style, as Hans Laguna concludes, is not only due to the fact that he avoids situations that put him in trouble, “but above all because he uses his vocal technique to make the difficult seem easy”. And that’s why hits like I forgot to live, Hey o From girl to woman span at least one and a half octaves; “This range is far from what singers with enormous tessituras like Axl Rose or Mariah Carey can cover, but if you start singing over such songs you will discover that you have to shout to reach certain notes that Julio attacks without flinching, and without using the falsetto,” writes Laguna. “The key to the image of a character is not in him, but in what others perceive of him,” said Fraile.
In 2017, many years after hundreds and hundreds of statements of all kinds in which he admits that he says “a lot of nonsense” because “they interview me every day and it is impossible not to say it”, Julio Iglesias looks back, to the time when the one that conquered America on the back of, among others, Coca-Cola (Pepsi opted for Michael Jackson; each drink, with its style), and tells of the years in which he lived at number 1100 Bel Air (title of his first album in English), the most hectic of his career, such as a time when he was “very bad, very bad”, and played at being “between asshole and playboy”. He also said that before dreams were more generous “because they were more intuitive”, and proposed an epitaph for him: “He stopped dreaming when he could buy his dreams”. There was time for one more epitaph: “He did not want to die.”
1100 Bel Air Place it was recorded over 16 months in nine studios. Laguna records nine arrangers, twelve sound engineers and 79 instrumentalists on the album. “Modern music has a homeland in today’s world. And that country is the United States. Now you have to sing in English to get up there, which is where I want to be”, said the singer. “This is America, Maruja”, he snapped at the writer Maruja Torres, “this is progress. And Europe is finished. Although, aware of its impact, he changes the chip when he travels and says: “I belong to the country where I sing. If they ask me in China, ‘where are you from’, I say I am from China”.
Hey! Julio Iglesias and the conquest of America documents the most unusual career of a Spanish artist until he became a universal legend. It is based on reflections and theories from the hand of essayists or philosophers, as well as musicians, managers and other surroundings of the artist who said, and says as in I am a rogue, I am a gentleman, that the best things in life after so many years are still women and wine. Julio Iglesias, cloistered between dim lights, publicly fleeing from old age, once said a phrase that sums up a biography: “Life has been very generous to me, and the light has hit me in the eyes like rabbits on the roads.”