The Château d'Hérouville is a French château of the 18th century (1740) 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. In the 19th century, it was used as courier relay station (between Versailles and Beauvais) and stabled a hundred horses. The château was painted by Vincent van Gogh, who is buried nearby.
The composer Michel Magne purchased it 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. He converted it into a residential recording studio after a fire devastated the left wing of the building in 1969. The musician, director and sound engineer Laurent Thibault took over management of the studio in June 1974.
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.
Many artists recorded there, many of whom were British, beginning with Elton John, who called it the "honky château", and used the nickname as the title of the album he recorded there, Honky Château and Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player, in 1972. He also recorded Goodbye Yellow Brick Road in 1973.
Sweet recorded part of their final album, 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 super-natural, or 'haunting' experiences. 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." Whilst Eno also claimed to have been awoken early every morning with someone shaking his shoulder. When he opened his eyes no one was there.
Legal and financial problems surrounded Magne's sale of the château in 1984. The studio closed on July 25, 1985 one year after the suicide of Michel Magne, Laurent 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, and needing an estimated €300,000 of renovations. It has 30 rooms, a swimming pool and a tennis court and is set in 17,000 hectares of parkland.,
Partial list of albums recorded at Château d'Hérouville
- Gong – Camembert Electrique (1971)
- José Afonso – Cantigas do Maio (1971)
- Elton John – Honky Château (1972), Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player (recorded 1972, released 1973) and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)
- Pink Floyd – Obscured by Clouds (1972)
- Joan Armatrading & Pam Nestor - Whatever's for Us (1972)
- T. Rex - The Slider (1972) and "Tanx" (1973)
- Jethro Tull – Nightcap: The Unreleased Masters 1972-1991 (recorded 1972, released 1993) and A Passion Play - An Extended Performance (The Château d'Hérouville Sessions, recorded 1972, released 2014)
- Cat Stevens – Catch Bull at Four (1972)
- MC5 - "Thunder Express" (1972)
- Uriah Heep – Sweet Freedom (1973)
- David Bowie – Pin Ups (1973) and Low (1977)
- Alain Kan - Et Gary Cooper s'éloigna dans le désert... (1974)
- Bad Company – Burnin' Sky (1976)
- Iggy Pop – The Idiot (1977)
- Bee Gees – "How Deep Is Your Love" and "Stayin' Alive" from Saturday Night Fever (1977)
- Jacques Higelin – Alertez les bébés (1976), No Man's Land (1977), Champagne pour tout le monde, and Caviar pour les autres... (1979)
- Rainbow - Long Live Rock 'n' Roll (1978)
- Sweet – Level Headed (1978)
- New Trolls - Aldebaran (1978)
- Claudio Baglioni - E tu come stai? (1979)
- Sham 69 - The Adventures of Hersham Boys (1979)
- Kazuhiko Kato - Belle Excentrique (1981)
- Fleetwood Mac – Mirage (1982)
- Michael Schenker Group – Assault Attack (1983)
- Chris Bell (musician) - I Am the Cosmos (recorded 1974-75, released 1992)
- Ministry of Culture: Château dit d'Hérouville (French)
- "Honky Château - Hérouville 75". Retrieved 29 June 2008.
- "HEROUVILLE - 95300 Val d'Oise". Retrieved 29 June 2008.
- Kim Willsher, "For sale: 'honky château' where Elton and Bowie recorded classic hits", The Observer, 4 August 2013
- "allmovie (((Michel Magne > Awards )))". Retrieved 29 June 2008.
- "Michel MAGNE". Retrieved 29 June 2008.
- Blair Jackson. "Garcia: An American Life". Blair Jackson. p. 217. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- "The ‘Honky Château’ where Bowie, Bolan, Elton, and Iggy recorded is Up for Sale". dangerousminds.net. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
- Ministry of Culture study of Château d'Hérouville with link to archive documents, maps and photos (French)