The Château d’Hérounville, in the French Val d’Oise region 30km north of Paris, famously used as a recording studio by Elton John, David Bowie and many more top acts, is for sale – a snip at £1.12 million. Such news would not normally interest Just Backdated but when the item cropped up on Facebook yesterday, I was reminded of a passage in Tales Of The Brothers Gibb, the 700+ page definitive biography of The Bee Gees by Melinda Bilyeu, Hector Cook and Andrew Môn Hughes, edited by yours truly and published by Omnibus Press in 2001.
It is 1977 and The Bee Gees have decamped to the château in order to record the songs that will appear in the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever, the album that spectacularly rejuvenated their career as champions of disco. Our intrepid authors take up the story:
Echoing the beginnings of their first international hit ‘New York Mining Disaster 1941’, the writing of ‘Night Fever’ was completed sitting on a staircase, utilising the natural echo. The only difference was that ‘Mining Disaster’ was written in Polydor’s London studios, and ‘Night Fever’ had the more atmospheric setting of a thirteenth century French chateau.
That staircase had other claims to fame, according to Robin Gibb. "You know, years ago there were so many pornographic films made at the Château,” he revealed. “The staircase where we wrote ‘How Deep Is Your Love’, ‘Stayin’ Alive’, all those songs, was the same staircase where there’ve been six classic lesbian porno scenes filmed. I was watching a movie one day called Kinky Women Of Bourbon Street, and all of a sudden, there’s this château, and I said, ‘It’s the Château!’ These girls, these dodgy birds, are having a scene on the staircase that leads from the front door up to the studio. There were dildos hanging off the stairs and everything. I thought, ‘Gawd, we wrote ‘Night Fever’ there!’"
‘Night Fever’ was the movie’s big dance number, and besides the drums, it is full of rhythms played on guitars and keyboards. ‘Night Fever’ uses two different verses and is so feverishly fast that it runs through verse-chorus pairs four times in only three minutes.
Robin got the location right but the film’s title wrong. It should be Kinky Ladies Of Bourbon Street and if you key this into Google you’ll discover that it’s a minor classic of the genre, given 6.9/10 on the Internet Movie Database website where it is described as a film that “may very well be the best Continental ’core ever” and proving “fertile breeding ground for several of the most intriguing French fornication film-making talents of the ’70s”. My natural reticence on such matters precludes me from offering my own views on the film’s cinematic qualities.
The Château d’Hérounville
Back at the château, other acts that have checked in include Canned Heat, Rick Wakeman, Iggy Pop, Marvin Gaye, Fleetwood Mac, Jethro Tull, Cat Stevens and T Rex. Sadly, it has fallen into neglect and, empty now for the last 28 years, requires a £300,000 refurbishment to make it habitable. Bowie was convinced it was haunted. Perhaps paranormally mindful of what might have been filmed occurring between its sheets, he declined to sleep in the master bedroom.