In late August 1980, XTC spent an extended weekend at Richard Branson’s Manor Studio in order to lay down another version of “Towers of London,” a track that would eventually become the second single off of Black Sea, following “Generals and Majors.” Someone clever at BBC sent a camera crew along to document the proceedings, and the result is the delightful hour-long documentary “XTC at the Manor.”
The “Manor” in question was a legendary estate that Richard Branson purchased in 1971 and promptly turned into a recording studio. (The documentary repeatedly features the memorable image of Branson teetering on one of the building’s many precarious rooftops.) Many, many albums were recorded at the Manor, including Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, PiL’s Metal Box, and Radiohead’s The Bends. In 1995 it ceased being a recording facility.
XTC also recorded White Music and English Settlement at the Manor. An interviewer points out that the weekend ends up taking on “a bizarre quality.” Andy Partridge mentions that for the previous album, the sessions were rather “sleepy.” This 1980 stint features the band’s very own bouncy castle—acquired, of course, for the shooting of the video for “Generals and Majors.”
The late, great postpunk website Slicing Up Eyeballs refers to this documentary as airing on BBC2 on October 10, 1980. My info says it was October 8, but it don’t much matter.
This is a must-see for all serious XTC fans.