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'Honky Chateau' studio reopens

French mansion used by Pink Floyd, Bowie, Wakeman and others will become centre for arts

The French mansion studio that became known as the Honky Chateau has reopened for business – and its new owners aim to expand its activities beyond recording music.

Chateau d’Herouville, built near Paris in the 18th century, became an icon of 1970s excess when it was used by Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Rick Wakeman, Iggy Pop, the Grateful Dead, Ritchie Blackmore, Fleetwood Mac, T Rex and many others.

It opened in 1970 and got its nickname from the 1972 album Elton John recorded there. It was also known as “France’s Abbey Road.”

Owner and composer Michel Magne became celebrated for his hospitality at the live-in location, offering a bohemian lifestyle that included drink, drugs and sex parties. He committed suicide in 1984 while being pursued for debts run up after the studio’s glory era had passed.

Herouville village mayor Eric Baert tells the BBC: “It was the original residential studio. It was a kind of hotel. The musicians didn't just make musicº hey could sleep, eat, live here. If they wanted to record in the middle of the night, that was fine.”

Magne’s former wife Marie-Claude Calvet says: “Those years were like a dream. It was magical to sit in the studio and watch these great artists like Elton John and Pink Floyd play. It was only many years later that I realised how lucky I had been.”

The mansion lay abandoned for many years, with a protection order preventing redevelopers from moving in. It was recently purchased by four music fans, who have already started running sound engineer training sessions, and aim to bring the main studio back into action soon.

Co-owner Stephan Marchi says: “We have been friends for 30 years, and for 30 years we have had a dream of building a place where expertise and creativity can be seamlessly associated.

“Ultimately we want to expand from sound recording to other mediums – writing, sculpting, painting. In everything, we are inspired by the idea of recreating the state of mind that prevailed here in the early 70s.” Asked to describe that state of mind, he replies: “Freedom.”

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