Jerry Garcia at Château d’Hérouville, photo (c) Rosie McGee
Château d’Hérouville is a residential recording studio in Hérouville, France made famous by Elton John, who recorded three albums at the studios, (Honky Château, Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player and Goodbye Yellowbrick Road). Marc Bolan, Gong, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Bad Company, Iggy Pop, Fleetwood Mac… there is a long, long list of groups who have recorded there. It was once home to Chopin and Vincent van Gogh apparently painted part of the building.
The Grateful Dead did not record in the famous studio, per se, but they did perform a locally legendary impromptu gig there on June 21, 1971, as Jerry Garcia explained to Rolling Stone:
We went over there to do a big festival, a free festival they were gonna have, but the festival was rained out. It flooded. We stayed at this little chateau which is owned by a film score composer who has a 16-track recording studio built into the chateau, and this is a chateau that Chopin once lived in; really old, just delightful, out in the country near the town of Auvers-sur-Oise, which is where Vincent van Gogh is buried.
We were there with nothing to do: France, a 16-track recording studio upstairs, all our gear, ready to play, and nothing to do. So, we decided to play at the chateau itself, out in the back, in the grass, with a swimming pool, just play into the hills. We didn’t even play to hippies, we played to a handful of townspeople in Auvers. We played and the people came — the chief of police, the fire department, just everybody. It was an event and everybody just had a hell of a time — got drunk, fell in the pool. It was great.
In The Dead Book: A Social History Of The Grateful Dead, Hank Harrison (Courtney Love’s estranged father), briefly a manager of the group, wrote:
The Dead started to play just before the sky got dark, but their entire set was illuminated by bright lights from the Paris socialized television station Link Two, which rebroadcast the event the next week. Their film technique was flawless, as one would expect from a French film team; the camera people were completely unobtrusive on the musicians; the lights bugged Phil a little. Pig Pen just barely recovered in time to sing after downing his two bottles of duty free Wild Turkey… Weir was in fine primal scream voice, and Garcia settled into his trancelike lassitude from which emanates the famous electronic genius that is particularly his.
They played for three hours, and during this time the workers and the fire department and little children lit hundreds of candles and placed them around the pool as if it were a religious shrine… a Lourdes or place of healing waters. As the party progressed, the candles were extinguished by the bodies of of various drunken celebrants being thrown in the pool by other drunken celebrants. The Dead played louder and louder; the locals had never heard anything like it before and they were delirious.
Some parts of the Grateful Dead’s show at Hérouville were broadcast by ORTF on the Pop 2 TV show on July 24, 1971. A second portion from the set was broadcast on November 27, 1971. The video below is from a bootleg compilation of those two broadcasts that’s been going around for the past few years on Dime a Dozen and other torrent trackers. You can listen to the entire set (audio only) here.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
If you think you hate the Grateful Dead, give ‘Terrapin Station’ 16 minutes of your time