At the turn of 1972/73, Ian took his first 0-16NY Martin guitar and a tape of Villa Lobos to Switzerland, staying in a Montreux apartment owned by concert-promoter Claude Nobs (as heard on 'Bursting Out'), to write the music that became 'A Passion Play'. One of the opening parts to the album attempted at the nearby Brick Factory a few weeks later began with a guitar piece owing a lot to that companion cassette.
They then moved on to the famous Chateau d'Herouville, near Paris (where Pink Floyd had taken six days to record the soundtrack of 'Obscured By Clouds' in Feb. '72).
The equipment was "extremely dodgy", and technical problems made recording a real struggle, but they managed to record virtually all the backing tracks for three sides of a double album, plus some overdubs (in the Remastered CD's booklet, Ian describes it as "... a few relatively unusable sections of the album complete, or nearly so..."), before getting so disenchanted with it that they "all just jumped on a plane back to England, scrapped the whole thing and started again." The flute tracks and vocals had not been done (or at least aren't on the recovered tapes); the flute material on 'Nightcap' was recorded in 1993. Ian decided against recording the missing vocal parts, leaving several songs incomplete or merely as instrumentals for Nightcap.
As Martin recalls, a second major reason for the failure of the sessions was the food at the Chateau; he and Barrie in particular were ill, having to leave the studio rather abruptly on numerous occasions - hardly conducive to creativity.
For this whole period, including the Montreux rehearsals, they were all plagued with recurring illness, probably due to a stop-over in Bombay when they returned from their last visit to the USA.
Of the Paris tapes, Ian knew one tape had been saved, but in 1993 another two tapes were discovered, from which he mixed another two sides of the (then) unreleased 'Chateau d'Isaster' tape, for inclusion on Nightcap.
"It doesn't actually sound too bad. It's very Seventies, but it does sound a lot better than I remember it. Although I have to say that perhaps with modern equipment and the expertise developed over the years, it sounds a lot better now than the last time I heard it back in 1972 or 3, or whenever it was that we last played those tapes in the lonely chateau, and decided to consign them to the bin." (IA, 25th Anniversary Review)
The rediscovered tapes do include further pieces, but these were deliberately omitted from Nightcap as being, in Ian's opinion, "simply wretched" (IA, in Rees, 1998).
It is difficult to say what was meant by "scrapped the whole thing and started again"; some suggest that the 'best bits' of the Chateau material were combined, with new linking pieces, the result receiving fresh lyrics which bore little resemblance to those of the abandoned album and addressing a totally different topic. This is the basis for much criticism: if it was thrown-together in a couple of weeks, it probably wasn't fully thought-through and refined, and the lyrics probably don't mean much.
Others suggest that the concept and structure of APP do conform to Ian's original ideas, simply abbreviating rather than entirely reworking the existing material, or taking one aspect of the full concept and modifying it slightly to stand alone. If the latter, APP may represent one complete disc of the proposed double album, remaining true to at least one aspect of the planned, and well-developed, concept.
It's clear that Ian didn't think the work at Chateau d'Herouville was entirely worthless, as in addition to the sections reassigned to APP, two of the pieces were used in virtually unchanged form on the next album, 'Warchild', with the 'animals as people/people as animals' theme recycled in one of Tull's most popular songs, 'Bungle In The Jungle'.
Again in the booklet accompanying the 2003 Remastered CD, Ian says that the intention of the Montreux writing sessions and material recorded at Chateau d'Herouvile had been to produce something with the same feel as 'Thick As A Brick':
"... a new and similarly up-beat concept album. TAAB had, of course, been a spoof on the concept album genre and we were set to follow it up with another slightly jokey set of material with a few more musically serious passages thrown in...".
"...the disruptive recent events gave rise to an altogether darker set of tunes on the soon-to-be-named 'A Passion Play'."