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Lennon wrote this in 1983 at a French chateau called the Manor de Valotte, which is how the song got its title (the word "Valotte" does not appear in the lyrics). In our interview with Julian
, he told the story:
"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 that you'd aspire to. It's as simple as that, really."
The album was dedicated to "My mother Cynthia and to my Father." Julian is John Lennon's first son. His mother is Cynthia Lennon, who John was married to before Yoko (they had a son named Sean). Julian sounds a lot like his dad, and a lot of people were surprised to learn it was not a John Lennon song when they first heard it.
This was Julian's first single in the US and his second in the UK. His next American single, "Too Late for Goodbyes
," fared even better, going to #5.
Julian recorded this at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios
, which at the time was located along the Tennessee River in Sheffield, Alabama. According to Jimmy Johnson, who was one of the studio owners, Lennon's lyric "Sitting on a pebble by the river playing guitar" was inspired by his time there. Muscle Shoals is a tranquil place where artists could record in relative seclusion with some of the best musicians in the world available to back them up. Rod Stewart, Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones, Wilson Pickett and Paul Simon all recorded in the Muscle Shoals area.
On "Valotte," Lennon was backed by bass player David Hood, and keyboard player Barry Beckett, and drummer Roger Hawkins, who were the other owners of the studio.
The album was mixed at The Hit Factory recording studio in New York City on the same console John Lennon used to record the album Double Fantasy.
The music video had a high-profile director: Sam Peckinpah. In 1984, most filmmakers shunned music videos, but Peckinpah, whose movies include The Getaway and The Wild Bunch, directed Lennon's first two videos.
Most Americans got their first look at Julian Lennon on MTV, which gave his clips consistent airplay. In the UK, he often appeared in the gossip press, but his interviews to promote the Valotte album gave the first real insights into his personality and his feelings toward his dad. In these early interviews, he stressed that he was forming his own identity, and in no way trying to emulate his father's music. He also spent a lot of time disproving the notion that he was a coddled rich kid; he went to public schools and did not receive money from John Lennon's estate until he was older.
As for the question of how he felt toward his dad, Julian explained that he was proud of his dad's work, but it was very difficult growing up with an absent father. In his first Melody Maker interview, he said, "I always had something against him, but I never knew what it was... apart from him leaving home and all that. It was because I went to visit him but he never came to visit me. That's the only thing that got me."
Justin Clayton and Carlton Morales, who played guitar on the album, co-wrote this song with Lennon.
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