Valotte: The French Chateau That Inspired the Title of Julian Lennon’s First Album and First Hit Single.

Julian Lennon has been in the news in the last year on account of his new children’s book and environmental activism. People may not realize that the Liverpool-born son of John Lennon is actually named John Charles Julian Lennon. A previous post on this blog entitled “Julian Lennon? Both John Lennon and Paul McCartney Names Their Sons after Themselves!” details how John Lennon named both of his sons after himself and Paul McCartney named his only son after himself.

Of course, Julian Lennon has received much media attention upon the release of his book Touch the Earth (A Julian Lennon White Feather Flower Adventure), which was released on April 11, 2017. The second volume in this trilogy, Heal the Earth, will be released in late April 2018. On April 3, 2018, it was announced that Lennon signed a deal with Gaumont to turn the trilogy into an animated tv series.

Julian Lennon came to the attention of the public with his highly successful 1984 debut album Valotte. The album was first certified gold, then platinum early in the New Year. The title track “Valotte” received massive airplay and reached number nine on the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100. The album reached # 17 in the U.S. and # 20 in the UK.

In September 1983 Julian’s demo tape was given to Charisma Records head Tony Stratton-Smith. Mogul Ahmet Ertegun was impressed with Lennon’s songwriting. Then, in October 1983, Julian began a three month stay at the French chateau Valotte. He had the luxury of having four recording studios. He named the title track and the album after the chateau Manor de Valotte, but the term “Valotte” does not appear in the song, which was written at the chateau.
The Liverpudlian said after the song was released, “The place where that was written, which was actually a beautiful little run-down chateau in the middle of France, which is where the label at the time decided was a good place to send their artists to work out their writing skills. I know that Thomas Dolby had been down there and a few other high-end acts at that point in time. It was just a really tranquil, beautiful spot in the middle of nowhere, where one could get a little lonely I guess. The song initially came from that idea of just being in this beautiful landscape and dreaming of the idea that if you found that love of your life, this is something you’d aspire to. It’s as simple as that, really.”

“Valotte”, the title track from the album, was the first single from the album released in the U.S. and the second single released in the UK. Written by Lennon, Justin Clayton, and Carlton Morales, the song was recorded at the famed Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Lennon was inspired by the surroundings of the Tennessee River in Muscle Shoals and in the opening line of the chorus incorporated the line, “Sitting on a pebble by the river playing guitar”, as well as other references in the lyrics to the Tennessee Valley.
Ironically, the song was mixed at The Hit Factory recording studio in New York City on the very same console John Lennon used to record the album Double Fantasy.

So many people who heard the song “Valotte” for the first time thought it was actually John Lennon singing and were surprised that it was his son. The similarity in vocals was glaring. However, at the time Julian was adamant in letting people know that he received his records deal as a result of his talent and not his family name. When he sent the demo tape to Charisma Records, it was sent anonymously. With the exception of one song on the album, Julian either wrote or co-wrote every song, in addition to providing lead vocals and keyboard chores on every single. The album peaked at number 17 in the U.S. and number 20 in the UK.

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