Château d'Hérouville

Last updated
Chateau d'Herouville Chateau d'Herouville.jpg
Château d'Hérouville

The Château d'Hérouville is a French 18th century château located in the village of Hérouville, in the Val d'Oise département of France, near Paris. The château was built in 1740 by "Gaudot", an architect of the school of Rome, from the remains of an earlier 16th-century château. [1] In the 19th century, it was used as a courier relay station (between Versailles and Beauvais) and stabled hundreds of horses. [2] [3]


Several accounts, including one by the BBC, suggest that in the mid-19th century, composer Frédéric Chopin conducted his love affair with the writer George Sand there. [4] The château was painted by Vincent van Gogh, who is buried nearby. [5] The estate also doubled as a recording studio, producing iconic hit records throughout the 1970s.


The château comprises two wings, plus a number of outbuildings. [4] It has 30 rooms, a swimming pool and a tennis court and is set in 1.7 hectares of parkland. [5] An octagonal stone drinking trough in the courtyard is a protected historical monument. [4]

History of recording studio

The composer Michel Magne purchased the chateau in 1962. He was best known for having been nominated in 1962 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment for Gigot . [6] He converted the building into a residential recording studio after a fire devastated its left wing in 1969. The musician, director and sound engineer Laurent Thibault took over management of the studio in June 1974. [7]

The studio has been referred to by many names in album credits including Studio Hérouville, Château d'Hérouville, Michel Magne Studios, Strawberry Studios, and by the nickname Honky Chateau. [8]

Rex Foster's Roads of Tomorrow was the first album recorded at Château in 1969–70, and released on Barclay/RCA in 1971. On his website, Foster claims that during the Roads session he gave it the nickname "the Honky Château." [9]

The Grateful Dead were there on 21 June 1971. Jerry Garcia tells the story: [10]

We went over there to do a big festival, a free festival they were gonna have, but the festival was rained out. It flooded. We stayed at this little chateau which is owned by a film score composer who has a 16-track recording studio built into the chateau, and this is a chateau that Chopin once lived in; really old, just delightful, out in the country near the town of Auvers-sur-Oise, which is where Vincent van Gogh is buried.

We were there with nothing to do: France, a 16-track recording studio upstairs, all our gear, ready to play, and nothing to do. So, we decided to play at the chateau itself, out in the back, in the grass, with a swimming pool, just play into the hills. We didn't even play to hippies, we played to a handful of townspeople in Auvers. We played and the people came — the chief of police, the fire department, just everybody. It was an event and everybody just had a hell of a time — got drunk, fell in the pool. It was great.

A recording of the Grateful Dead's performance is available online. [11]

During the first years of the studio, in 1971 and 1972, some important records of political Portuguese folk music (Música de Intervenção) were recorded at Château d'Hérouville. These included the seminal record Cantigas do Maio by singer-songwriter José Afonso in 1971. Also in 1971, José Mário Branco recorded his debut album Mudam-se os tempos mudam-se as vontades and Sérgio Godinho recorded Os Sobreviventes . Sérgio Godinho would also record his second album Pré-Histórias at the chateau in 1972.

Many other artists recorded there, many of whom were British, beginning with Elton John, who recorded his albums Honky Château (the title inspired by the house), Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player (both in 1972) and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973) there.

Jethro Tull attempted to record their sixth studio album there in late 1972, however the band was displeased with the studio and so the sessions were ultimately abandoned, with the band referring to the Château as the "Château d'Isaster". Three tracks from the band's sessions at the Château were later released on their seventh studio album War Child (1974) and several more were released on the compilation album Nightcap (1993).

Chris Bell, of the Memphis-based cult band Big Star, recorded solo tracks with Apple Records engineer Claude Harper at the studio in September and October 1974. The songs, recorded along with drummer Richard Rosebrough, would be released on his now acclaimed I Am the Cosmos LP. The posthumously released record saw its first release in 1992, nearly 13 years after Bell's death in December 1978. [12]

Sweet recorded part of their final album by their classic lineup, Level Headed , there as a four-piece group as Brian Connolly later left. The single "Love Is Like Oxygen" was taken from this recording, a top ten hit around the world and nominated for an Ivor Novello Award.

During David Bowie's time spent at the château whilst recording Low with Tony Visconti and Brian Eno, the three claimed to have felt supernatural, or 'haunting' experiences. [13] Visconti stated:

There was certainly some strange energy in that Château. On the first day David took one look at the master bedroom and said, 'I’m not sleeping in there!' He took the room next door. The master bedroom had a very dark corner, right next to the window, ironically, that seem to just suck light into it. It was colder in that corner too.

Eno also claimed to have been awoken early every morning with someone shaking his shoulder. When he opened his eyes no one was there.[ citation needed ]

Bowie previously recorded here in 1973 for his album Pin Ups .

The Bee Gees recorded there in 1977 to avoid the high tax rate of Britain, where they laid down the tracks for the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever .

1985 closure

Legal and financial problems surrounded Magne's sale of the château in 1984. The studio closed on 25 July 1985, [7] one year after Magne's suicide, Thibault and his team having been expelled by the liquidator of Michel Magne's estate. The château and its gardens were abandoned to squatters and overgrowth. In 2013, the château was put up for sale with an asking price of €1.29m, needing an estimated €300,000 of renovations.

Reopening of recording studio

In 2015 a group of audio engineers, including Stephane Marchi, [14] rebuilt the recording studios and started the Sup HD audio audio recording master classes. [15] [16] [17]

According to the BBC, the studio was due to re-open in 2016. [4]

Selected discography

Related Research Articles

<i>A Passion Play</i> 1973 album by Jethro Tull

A Passion Play is the sixth studio album by British progressive rock band Jethro Tull, released in July 1973 in both the UK and US. Following in the same style as the band's previous album Thick as a Brick (1972), A Passion Play is a concept album comprising individual songs arranged into a single continuous piece of music. The album's concept follows the spiritual journey of a recently deceased man in the afterlife, exploring themes of morality, religion and good and evil. The album's accompanying tour was considered the high water mark of Jethro Tull's elaborate stage productions, involving a full performance of the album accompanied by physical props, sketches and projected video.

Jean-Luc Ponty French musician

Jean-Luc Ponty is a French jazz violinist and composer.

<i>Honky Château</i> 1972 studio album by Elton John

Honky Château is the fifth studio album by English musician Elton John. It was released in 1972, and was titled after the 18th century French chateau where it was recorded, Château d'Hérouville. The album reached number one in the US, the first of John's seven consecutive US number one albums.

<i>Dont Shoot Me Im Only the Piano Player</i> 1973 album by Elton John

Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player is the sixth studio album by English singer-songwriter Elton John. Released in January 1973 by DJM Records, it was John's sixth normal studio album release, first of his two studio albums released in 1973, and was his second straight No. 1 album in the US and first No. 1 album in the UK.

<i>Goodbye Yellow Brick Road</i> 1973 album by Elton John

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is the seventh studio album by English singer-songwriter Elton John, first released in 1973 as a double LP. The album has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide and is widely regarded as John's magnum opus. Among the 17 tracks, the album contains the hits "Candle in the Wind", US number-one single "Bennie and the Jets", "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" and "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" plus live favourites "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" and "Harmony".

<i>The Idiot</i> (album) 1977 studio album by Iggy Pop

The Idiot is the debut studio album by American musician Iggy Pop, released on March 18, 1977, by RCA Records. After the break-up of his band the Stooges in 1974, Pop struggled with drug addiction. Although attempts to get sober proved unsuccessful, by 1976, he was ready to end his addiction. Pop accepted an invitation to accompany his friend David Bowie on his Isolar Tour. At the end of the tour, Pop agreed to join Bowie, also struggling with drug addiction, in moving to Europe to rid themselves of their addictions. The two settled into the Château d'Hérouville in Hérouville, where Bowie agreed to produce an album for Pop.

<i>Pin Ups</i> 1973 studio album by David Bowie

Pin Ups is the seventh studio album by English musician David Bowie, released on 19 October 1973 by RCA Records. Devised as a "stop-gap" album to appease his record label, it is a covers album, featuring songs by British bands from the 1960s that were influential to Bowie as a teenager, including the Pretty Things, the Who, the Yardbirds and Pink Floyd. The tracks mostly stay true to their original counterparts, albeit performed in glam rock and proto-punk styles.

Madeline Bell American soul singer

Madeline Bell is an American soul singer, who became famous as a performer in the UK during the 1960s and 1970s with pop group Blue Mink, having arrived from America in the gospel show Black Nativity in 1962, with the vocal group Bradford Singers.

Jacques Higelin Musical artist

Jacques Joseph Victor Higelin was a French pop singer who rose to prominence in the early 1970s.

Ken Scott British record producer and engineer

Ken Scott is a British record producer and engineer known for being one of the five main engineers for the Beatles, as well as engineering Elton John, Pink Floyd, Procol Harum, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Duran Duran, the Jeff Beck Group and many more. As a producer, Scott is noted for his work with David Bowie, Supertramp, Devo, Kansas, the Tubes, Ronnie Montrose and Level 42, among others.

Nigel Olsson Musical artist

Nigel Olsson is an English rock drummer and singer best known for his long-time affiliation with Elton John.

Crocodile Rock 1972 single by Elton John

"Crocodile Rock" is a song written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, and recorded in summer 1972 at the Château d'Hérouville studio in France, where John and his team had previously recorded the Honky Château album. It was released on 27 October 1972 in the UK and 20 November 1972 in the U.S., as a pre-release single from his forthcoming 1973 album Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player, and became his first U.S. number-one single, reaching the top spot on 3 February 1973, and staying there for three weeks. In the U.S., it was certified Gold on 5 February 1973 and Platinum on 13 September 1995 by the RIAA.

Sérgio Godinho Musical artist

Sérgio de Barros GodinhoOL is a Portuguese singer-songwriter, composer, actor, poet and author.

Sorrow (The McCoys song)

"Sorrow" is a song first recorded by the McCoys in 1965 and released as the B-side to their cover of "Fever". It became a big hit in the United Kingdom in a version by the Merseys, reaching number 4 on the UK chart on 28 April 1966. A version by David Bowie charted worldwide in 1973.

Bennie and the Jets 1974 single by Elton John

"Bennie and the Jets" is a song written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin. The song first appeared on the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album in 1973. "Bennie and the Jets" has been one of John's most popular songs and was performed during his appearance at Live Aid.

The Manor Studio

The Manor Studio was a recording studio in the manor house at the village of Shipton-on-Cherwell in Oxfordshire, England, north of the city of Oxford.

<i>Elton 60 – Live at Madison Square Garden</i> 2007 video by Elton John

Elton 60 – Live at Madison Square Garden is a 2-disc DVD release, starring Elton John performing some of his biggest hits and even several fan favourites. The release features appearances onstage by comedians Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg, as well as special remarks to the audience by lyricist Bernie Taupin. The concert was recorded on Elton's 60th birthday, 25 March 2007, and coincides with his record-setting 60th concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

<i>Whatevers for Us</i> 1972 studio album by Joan Armatrading

Whatever's for Us is the debut album of British singer-songwriter Joan Armatrading. The album was a collaboration between Armatrading and singer-songwriter Pam Nestor. At the time the two were musical partners and wrote over a hundred songs together. Armatrading sings lead vocals and plays piano and acoustic guitar, while Nestor co-wrote most of the songs.

Michel Magne was a French film and experimental music composer.

Alain Kan, is a French singer who disappeared on 14 April 1990.


  1. Base Mérimée : Château dit d'Hérouville , Ministère français de la Culture. (in French)
  2. Hope, Adrian (May 1975). "Honky Château". Studio Sound. Archived from the original on 2 October 2008. Retrieved 29 June 2008 via
  3. "Un peu d'histoire". (in French). Archived from the original on 12 May 2008. Retrieved 29 June 2008.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Schofield, Hugh (December 27, 2015). "The return of the Honky Chateau". BBC News. Archived from the original on 27 December 2015. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  5. 1 2 Willsher, Kim (4 August 2013). "For sale: 'honky château' where Elton and Bowie recorded classic hits". The Guardian . Archived from the original on 21 August 2017. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  6. "Michel Magne: Awards". AllMovie. Archived from the original on 13 January 2022. Retrieved 29 June 2008.
  7. 1 2 Ernould, Franck (1999). "Michel Magne: Un homme hors du commun". (in French). Archived from the original on 10 June 2008. Retrieved 29 June 2008.
  8. "Strawberry Studios, France". Discogs. Archived from the original on 2020-09-27. Retrieved 2020-07-22.
  9. "Rex Foster – The Long Story / Lost Recordings". Archived from the original on 2019-10-21. Retrieved 2019-10-21.
  10. Jackson, Blair. "Garcia: An American Life (Additions)". Blair Jackson. p. 217. Archived from the original on 10 September 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  11. Grateful Dead (21 June 1971). "Grateful Dead at Château d'Hérouville – June 21, 1971". . Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  12. Klein, Joshua (September 29, 2009). "Album Reviews: Chris Bell: I Am the Cosmos [Deluxe Edition]". Pitchfork . Archived from the original on November 27, 2009. Retrieved November 2, 2018.
  13. "The 'Honky Château' where Bowie, Bolan, Elton, and Iggy recorded is up for sale". 13 June 2013. Archived from the original on 18 June 2013. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  14. "Stephane Marchi , Co-Founder and Owner at LE CHATEAU D'HEROUVILLE".
  15. "Les mythiques studios d'Hérouville vont enfin revivre". Le Parisien, édition du Val-d'Oise (in French). 26 April 2015. Archived from the original on 7 May 2015. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  16. "Le centre de formation du son s'installe au château d'Hérouville". Le Parisien, édition du Val-d'Oise (in French). 25 June 2015. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  17. Boucher, Alexandre (5 July 2015). "Le parc du château d'Hérouville retrouve son éclat d'antan". Le Parisien, édition du Val-d'Oise (in French). Archived from the original on 3 October 2015. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  18. Pegg, Nicholas (2016). The Complete David Bowie (Revised and Updated ed.). London: Titan Books. pp. 383–388. ISBN   978-1-78565-365-0.
  19. O'Leary, Chris (2019). Ashes to Ashes: The Songs of David Bowie 1976–2016. London: Repeater. pp. 20–27. ISBN   978-1-912248-30-8.

Coordinates: 49°6′5.8″N2°7′59″E / 49.101611°N 2.13306°E / 49.101611; 2.13306