Honky Chateau was Elton John’s 5th studio album recorded at Château d’Hérouville in France.
One hour North of Paris, in the village of Herouville, the Chateau was residential studio that offered the artists a chance to record with a small band, and the chance for some time out of the limelight.
Less than three years after his legendary appearance at the Troubadour Club, Honky Chateau was his fifth studio album, coming after 1971’s Madman Across the Water. By this point he had sold millions of records and become a global sensation. His previous album had been certified Gold before in February 1972 and he was en route to being the biggest star in the World.
The Chateau was bought as a potential recording studio back in 1962 but really came to prominence almost a decade later. It had a good run of musicians recording before the Grateful Dead rocked up in 1971 and played in the back garden. Elton’s recording and promotion of the studio (through the album title!) must have been a catalyst for other bands to record here in the Seventies. Pink Floyd decamped here to record Obscured by Clouds and David Bowie was here for 1973’s Pin Ups. The Seventies many British rock bands leave the UK’s high tax rate and record in sunnier locations from Muscle Shoals to Jamaica and the South of France. (see Classic Albums recorded in the South of France) so the Chateau made sense for British stars.
Often credited as ‘Strawberry Studios’, The Chateau must have agreed with both Elton and with David Bowie. Elton John returned the following year to record Don’t Shoot Me, I’m only the Piano Player and again the same year for Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Bowie would return in 1976 to record Low, the first of what became his ‘Berlin Trilogy’ of Low, Heroes & Lodger.
Bowie producer Tony Visconti is said to have experienced supernatural feelings whilst staying at the chateau.
From 1971 up until 1985 the Chateau was one of the go-to places for many notable bands looking to record including Elton and Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Uriah Heap, MC5, Cat Stevens, Rick Wakeman, Iggy Pop, the Bee Gees, The Sweet and Fleetwood Mac.
After falling into disrepair, the Chateau has since been revived as a recording studio.
The Chateau sits right in the middle of the French village Hérouville-en-Vexin, just off the D928. The Chateau isn’t vast but the village is tiny so you shouldn’t miss it.
4-6 Rue Georges Duhamel, 95300 Hérouville-en-Vexin, France (map)