The Château d’Hérouville where David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Elton John, The Grateful Dead, The Sweet and Fleetwood Mac recorded is up for sale.
Located near the town of Auvers-sur-Oise, in France, the property is described as a coaching station, built in the 18th century, which includes 30-rooms, and 1,700m ² of living space.
The selling price is 1, 295, 000 Euros.
In 1962, composer Michel Magne purchased the property and developed it into a recording studio. Magne is best known for his Oscar win for Gigot.
The Château was particularly popular with British artists, starting with Elton John, who recorded three albums at the studios, Honky Chateau, Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player and Goodbye Yellowbrick Road. Elton suggested the studio to Marc Bolan where he recorded his 1972 album The Slider; and Bolan recommended it to David Bowie who record Pin-Ups in July 1973, and then Low in 1977.
But the Château wasn’t just known for its considerable musical pedigree. Producer Tony Visconti claimed star-crossed lovers Frederic Chopin and George Sand haunted the building—Chopin had trysted with Sand while living at the mansion. Bowie also noted the studios supernatural feel.
Nope, this isn’t an undiscovered song by the 20th Century Boy recently unearthed here in the 21st: “Childlike Men” is the first track from Tony Visconti and son Morgan Visconti’s “T.Rex Regeneration” project.
They’ve taken the multi-tracks from some vintage T.Rex recording sessions from 1970-72—which, of course, Visconti Sr. produced—to create an entirely “new” song. (Well entirely like a new—and highly enjoyable, don’t get me wrong—fusion of demos for “Jeepster,” “Diamond Meadows” and “Ride a White Swan” with a spoken word poem section, strings and an unrelated guitar solo or two, I guess is more like it).
A few years ago Visconti mixed a barnstorming version of Electric Warrior in 5.1 surround, and took great care that it still sounded sonically like what it is, an album from the early 1970s. I didn’t expect this to be as good as it is, but I really, really love it.
Marc Bolan’s would have turned 65 on the September 30, 2012.
“When I was a lad…” well, it used to be at least moderately difficult to acquire music. Some stuff was really hard to find, even if you lived in New York or London and indeed this often meant paying beaucoup bucks for things back then. I’m frankly ashamed at some of the money I’ve spent on LPs and CDs over the years. I cringed with embarrassment when reminded that I’ve spent $100 on a soundtrack LP or a rare 12” dance mix. $80 for a 45 rpm single. It made sense at the time…
I mention this wistful old man shit by way of bringing up the most I ever spend on a single CD (times three): At some point in the late 80s, I paid $43 apiece for three Les Rita Mitsouko CDs that I special ordered at Record Runner on Bleecker Street. I was a huge fan of the band (Indeed I saw them play twice in New York and I think they probably only played three times, ever, in the US) but it was next to impossible to buy their CDs. So I special ordered them from France and spent $129 plus tax on three discs. It took about 3 weeks for them to arrive. Ridiculous I know, but it had to have them. The truth is that I think I’ve gotten my money’s worth over the years.
Most Americans and Brits have probably never heard of France’s greatest ever pop band (Air are great, sure they aren’t as good as Les Rita Mitsouko and they know it themselves). Even Francophiles who love them some Serge Gainsbourg don’t know much about Les Rita Mitsouko and this is a damned shame.
The group was comprised of lead vocalist Catherine Ringer and multi-instrumentalist Fred Chichin, who died suddenly in 2007 of cancer. There’s not a lot about written about them on the Internet, although there are tons of videos on YouTube of various French TV performances (including appearances with Sparks and Iggy Pop) and their incredible music videos, which more than lived up to their music. Their records were hard enough to find, but somehow I also managed a near complete collection of their music videos on 3/4” U-matic videotapes. Oh the youthful insanity, but truly they are a group worthy of fanatical fandom, as ye shall see…
Les Rita Mitsouko, although they predate both bands by a few years, are in the same general category (to my mind at least) as Dee-lite or Japan’s Pizzicato Five. Aside from the music, the visual component of the group, like with these other two bands, was fashion forward and extremely well art-directed. Contributors to their videos included famed director Jean-Baptiste Mondino, and superstar fashion designers like Thierry Mugler, Agnes B. and Jean-Paul Gaultier.
Their first album, produced by Conny Plank (Kraftwerk, Neu!, Brian Eno, Ultravox) at his studio in Germany. Rita Mitsouko was named the 20th greatest French rock album in the French edition of Rolling Stone magazine. (The “Les” was added afterwards to warn off people from the idea that the name was Catherine’s). The follow-up, Les Rita Mitsouko Presentent The No Comprendo, AKA The No Comprendo, was produced by the legendary Tony Visconti and was #7 on that same Rolling Stone list.
Visconti remarked about the group “I never thought I would hear a French rock band rival an English or American one.” If you don’t believe me, the guy who produced Electric Warrior and several of David Bowie’s best albums, ought to know, right?
The song that you might know if you’ve heard any song by Les Rita Mitsouko, is “Marcia Balia,” a paean to a choreographer/dancer friend of Ringer’s who died young. This was a huge dancefloor hit in New York nightclubs in the mid-80s. I saw them do an absolutely dazzling live show at The Saint, a cavernous gay club known for its great sound system and laser show (formerly it was the Fillmore East) when this song was breaking in NYC.
Okay, so did you clock just how incredibly sexy Catherine Ringer is? How insanely hot hot hot she was/is? Of course you did. It’s rather difficult not to notice, isn’t it? She’s a rare beauty, a hyper-intelligent, gifted woman, one half of arguably the greatest French band, ever and…
Well, years later I found out from a French friend that Ringer, who was apparently a junkie in her youth (and perhaps beyond, when I met her in 86 or 87 she seemed somewhat disheveled and that’s putting it kindly), had made a number of specialist porn films in the late 1970s, early 80s. The types of films for a certain subset of porn connoisseur, if you know what I mean, and chances are, that unless you’re thinking of something really dirty, you don’t…
Apparently during the time of the band’s initial burst of mid-80s notoriety, theme dinner parties were held to all over haute Paris to watch some of Ringer’s filthiest XXX antics—some filmed when she was just 17—filmed under the nom de porn names of “Betty Davis,” “Cat’ Gerin,” “Claudia Mutti,” and “Lolita da Nova.”
I doubt that they served any chocolate pudding at such soirees, let’s just say. No lemonade, either, kay?
To celebrate Bertolt Brecht’s birthday, here is David Bowie in the BBC production of Brecht’s play Baal, from 1982. It was directed by Alan Clarke, the talent behind such controversial TV dramas as Scum with a young Ray Winstone, Made in Britain, with Tim Roth, and Elephant.
Baal was Brecht’s first full-length play, written in 1918, and it tells the story of a traveling musician / poet, who seduces and destroys with callous indifference.