top cx logo
cx logo
Explorearrow down
search icon
arrow down

Four albums recorded in France and one song that should have been

We look at which bands used French recording studios and the most French sounding song recorded in London

The Rolling Stones, Elton John and Kate Bush have all recorded in France Pic: Ben Houdijk / Tony Norkus / Kraft74 / Shutterstock

From the late 1960s to the end of the 1970s, British musicians headed to recording studios across the Channel in search of creativity and easy living. 

France was considered a liberated country where musicians could be louche at their leisure while working on their next album. 

Here are four classic LPs recorded in France – and one song, the most licentious of the lot, that you would have thought must have been made in decadent France but wasn’t. 

Read more: Paris classed ‘world’s third most musical city’ in new ranking

1. Exile on Main Street, The Rolling Stones (1972), Villa Nellcôte

Escaping from their tax problems and in search of hedonism in the sun, the Stones holed up in Keith Richard’s villa on the Côte d’Azur and used a mobile recording truck to work on their new album in the basement.

It has to be admitted that none of the 18 tracks is a standout work of genius – no one chooses ‘Turd on the Run’ as a Desert Island Disc. 

It is said that some session musicians took so many drugs they couldn’t remember being there.

2. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Elton John (1973), Château d’Hérouville 

Elton John’s seventh studio album was recorded in this 18th century chateau north of Paris. 

An earlier Elton John album, Honky Chateau, was named after the building. 

The Gibb Brothers (the Bee Gees) wrote ‘Stayin’ Alive’ while staying here. 

When David Bowie came here to record ‘Low’, his friends were convinced it was haunted.

Read more: Video: Elton John in surprise performance at Cannes restaurant

Read more: Bowie bassist’s chance collaboration with French music star next door

3. Lionheart, Kate Bush (1978), Berre-les-Alpes

Her second studio album, and the only one to be recorded outside the UK, was produced at Super Bear Studios in Berre-les-Alpes, a converted restaurant on the Riviera. 

She was still only 20 years old. 

The building is still there, but is no longer a recording studio. 

Paul McCartney and Queen also recorded here.

4. The Wall, Pink Floyd, (1979) Château de Miraval 

This studio created by Jacques Loussier was chosen for Pink Floyd’s concept album. 

Other artists who have passed through here include Judas Priest, the Cranberries and the Cure. 

The chateau is now owned by Brad Pitt who plans to reopen the recording studio

Read more: Brad Pitt to revive legendary music studio based in his French chateau

5. ‘Je t’aime…moi non plus’, Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin (1969), London

The sixties may have been liberated but this steamy and scandalous song was a step of important French licentiousness to set any stiff upper lip trembling. 

The British tabloids were convinced that they could hear the couple having sex next to a live microphone.  

In fact, it wasn’t recorded in France at all but in a mundane studio in Marble Arch, London, with each of the singers in his or her own ‘telephone cabin’.

Related articles

My photos of 'Swinging Sixties' spark memories in French care homes

From poverty to glory: Life of legendary French singer Edith Piaf

‘Chanter comme une casserole’: Our French expression of the week

Resident or second-home owner in France?
Benefit from our daily digest of headlines and how-to's to help you make the most of life in France
By joining the newsletter, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy
See more popular articles
The Connexion Help Guides
featured helpguide
Healthcare in France*
Featured Help Guide
- Understand the French healthcare system, how you access it and how you are reimbursed - Useful if you are new to the French healthcare system or want a more in-depth understanding - Reader question and answer section Aimed at non-French nationals living here, the guide gives an overview of what you are (and are not) covered for. There is also information for second-home owners and regular visitors.
Get news, views and information from France