Classic Albums recorded in the South of France

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The Rolling Stones pictured at Villa Nellcôte in the South of France

The South of France has long been a place for creativity. From Picasso, Matisse and Van Gogh to Jagger, Richards, Gilmour and Waters, the lure of sun, space (and tax breaks) has long been attractive. No wonder it has become the place to record some classic albums.

Five Classic Albums recorded in the South of France

  • Exile on Main Street – The Rolling Stones
  • The Wall – Pink Floyd
  • Jazz – Queen
  • Lionheart – Kate Bush
  • A Moon Shaped Pool – Radiohead

This is the story of five classic albums, and their famous South of France recording locations.

Exile on Main – Villa Nellcôte

In the Spring of 1971, The Rolling Stones + entourage decamped to the South of France. Escaping a 93% tax rate, they rented houses across the Provence for the next two years. Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor moved to Grasse, whilst Charlie Watts took up residence in Thorais, near Arles. Mick rented a place in the old town on Biot, between Cannes and Nice. It was Mick who took up residence at Villa Nellcôte in Villefranche-sur-mer, just along the coast between Nice and Monaco.

It was Nellcôte that became the central place for the band’s exile, recording the album sporadically in the villa basement.

This time of tax exile and creative inspiration has been written about at length. I suggest you read these two articles for more on the legendary recordings. Exile In Paradise: The Rolling Stones’ French Villa Of Excess and The Stones and the true story of Exile on Main St.

The villa is a private residence which cannot be seen from the road. However, it can be seen from the water if you have a spare yacht.

10 Avenue Louise Bordes, 06230, Villefranche-sur-Mer (Map)

Did you know? Pictures for the album’s back cover were taken on Main Street in Los Angeles. See LA’s Top Rock n’ Roll Landmarks for more details.

The Wall – Super Bear & Miraval

The Wall became the band’s second greatest album, staying atop the US album charts for 15 weeks.

In 1978 the members of Pink Floyd left the UK to avoid paying high taxes. Between December ’78 and November ’79 the band recorded the album between two South of France studios – Super Bear Studios and Miraval.

The Wall became the band’s second greatest album, staying atop the US album charts for 15 weeks.

Located in Berre-les-Alpes, just outside Nice, Super Bear was a private residential recording studio that became a popular location for the band and their future solo efforts. It was a popular spot for bands, offering state of the art recording facilities, a tennis court, swimming pool and home comforts.

The studio operated between 1978 and 1986 when a forest fire devastated the buildings. The brand ‘Super Bear’ has been resurrected an independent dance music label.

I believe you can now you can stay at Super Bear, although the website is looking pretty dated.

Super Bear Studios/Villa Saint Benoît, 1 Chemin De La Roche D’Argent
, 06390 Berre Les Alpes (map)

Miraval Studio was used for Roger’s vocals and a few piano parts. It was opened in 1977 by jazz pianist Jacques Loussier in the castle of Miraval , a sprawling estate later owned by Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.

Chateau Miraval produced a fine Rosé that for some time was branded Pink Floyd Rosé without the band’s permission. You can buy the actual Miraval Rosé for about £20 a bottle.

Miraval Castle, Miraval, 83570 Correns, France (map)

Jazz – Super Bear

Another great album recorded at Super Bear. The band booked in after David Gilmour completed his (so-so) debut album. The initial recordings for their seventh album took place at Berre Les Alpes, before moving onto Mountain Studios in Montruex. Freddie loved the Swiss recording studio enough to purchase it outright for the band.

Lionheart – Super Bear

The late Seventies must have been an incredible time to be working at Super Bear. Probably influenced by mentor David Gilmour, Kate Bush recorded her second album at the studio.

Kate loved recording in France. Only 20, she found the experience of recording abroad quite inspirational,

[Recording in France] was an amazing experience. I mean it’s the first time I’ve ever recorded out of the country. And the environment was really quite phenomenal, I mean it was just so beautiful, it was so unlike anything I’d seen for a long while.

Kate Bush Encyclopaedia

A Moon Shaped Pool – La Fabrique Saint-Rémy de Provence

Showing that not all classic albums were recorded in the Seventies, Radiohead recorded their ninth studio album at this new studio North West of Marseille.

The album, focusing on climate change. group think heartbreak went on to garner Mercury and Grammy nominations.

The reclusive band had a difficult time during the album recording so we won’t get much more information about their time at La Fabrique.

La Fabrique studio is available for commercial bookings.

454 Petite route Jardins, 13210 Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, South of France (map)

Bonus – albums that could have been recorded in the South of France

No Line on the Horizon – Bono’s House Èze Sur Mer

In 2008, a passing fan heard U2 music blasting from a nearby villa. This was Bono’s villa in Eze Sur Mer. The songs were work in progress for the band’s forthcoming album ‘No Line on the Horizon.’ Bono and fellow band members Larry and the Edge have neighbouring villas looking out across the sea. Adam lives further away in Grasse.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Chateau d’Herouville

Elton John’s seventh album should have been recorded in Jamaica. But problems with ‘the locals’ lead to the rapid retreat to France, and the writing go ‘Jamaica Jerk Off.

In later years, Elton lived in the South of France, famously recording two music videos and a documentary on the Cote D’Azur. (see Top movies set in the South of France.)

Elton had already recorded two studio albums here, Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player and Honky Chateau, the name he gave to the Chateau.

One hour North of Paris, in the village of Herouville, the Chateau was another residential studio hosting bands including Pink Floyd (Obscured by Clouds), Bowie (Pin Ups & Low) and the Bee Gees. The brothers Gibb loved the acoustics in the chateau stairwell, recording most of the vocals for Saturday Night Fever.

After falling into disrepair, the Chateau has been revived as a recording studio.

4-6 Rue Georges Duhamel, 95300 Hérouville-en-Vexin, France (map)

What is your favourite album from the South of France? Leave a comment!