Robert Rental & the Normal.

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This is the release in question. A few years ago, I picked this up at a library record sale for about 25 cents. Although interesting at the time, it has become one of my favorites. The intensity, creativity, and the way the recording represents the type of raw collaboration that this was are very inspiring.


Does anyone have any information about this show? Was it a one time gig, or how did this work?

I assume the vocals are Robert Rental, not Daniel Miller ... ?

Cameron Octigan (Cameron Octigan), Friday, 10 November 2006 23:23 (twelve years ago) Permalink

My assumption is it was from the 1979 Rough Trade tour that was documented on the South Bank show Rough Trade episode. The tour was Daniel Miller and Robert Rental (I don't think Miller was billed as the Normal), Essential Logic and Stiff Little Fingers. Seeing vid footage of all the SLF punk fans calmly and curiously (and politely) sitting through Miller and Rental's set is pretty amazing.

Dan Selzer (Dan Selzer), Saturday, 11 November 2006 02:46 (twelve years ago) Permalink

I really need to dig my copy of this out and give it a listen. Just picked up "Private Planes" and am giving it a spin now.

sleeve version 2.0 (sleeve testing), Saturday, 11 November 2006 06:43 (twelve years ago) Permalink


Now I admit I heard some solo stuff of him that was lackluster, (I didn't see the worth in Private Planes, for example) but I dearly dearly dearly love the LP he did with Thomas Leer - The Bridge was it called? You know the one I mean 1979. God I love that thing. One of my most treasured LP's ever. The best song is - oh fuck I just realized I haven't ripped that to my computer yet. This is a tragedy of immense proportions. Especially since the speakers to my record player are not working properly now. BUT I know I've ripped that best song on it to my computer before because it appeared on my 8-Disc set of songs from 1979. It's called "Day Breaks and Night Heals". Talk about early electro.

I guess I'm not sure I knew he had a live album with the Normal, I mean Miller. I'm just not totally sure I've heard that or not.

A Chocolate Ball of Sweet Confectionary Fire (Bimble...), Saturday, 11 November 2006 07:17 (twelve years ago) Permalink

I think you're both getting confused with Thomas leer... He did the 'private planes' 7"

Rental's single was 'Paralysis' which apart from his second single "Double Heart" were the only solo records he released.

Jack Battery-Pack (Jack Battery-Pack), Saturday, 11 November 2006 08:16 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Okay, okay talk some sense into our memory-addled minds. None of these singles impressed me, that's all I'm saying. Though I'm not sure if I heard Double Heart or not. Anyway I tried some solo Robert Rental and I was very disappointed. Now what about this live LP? I think it got bad reviews didn't it? Not that that means anything, but that's what I recall.

A Chocolate Ball of Sweet Confectionary Fire (Bimble...), Saturday, 11 November 2006 08:18 (twelve years ago) Permalink

jack, you're right, I was thinking of a Leer solo record I have.

here's Trouser Press on the live LP:

Live: West Runton Pavilion 6/3/79 (Rough Trade) 1981

Emerging from the do-it-yourself school of synthesizer playing, Robert Rental teamed up with the Normal (aka Daniel Miller, founder and leader of Mute Records) for this show, reproduced on a one-sided album. The compendium of noises involved bears relation to music only by inference, though it is an impressive display of live electronics, tape loops and devices, similar in scope and approach to avant-garde electronic events of the '60s. Rental and the Normal are firmly rooted in rock, however, and this 25-minute-long demi-record proffers more ideas per minute than can be found anywhere, except the more esoteric recordings of Cabaret Voltaire.
[Steven Grant]

sleeve version 2.0 (sleeve testing), Saturday, 11 November 2006 08:22 (twelve years ago) Permalink

have to hear this

milton parker (Jon L), Saturday, 11 November 2006 08:29 (twelve years ago) Permalink

OMG they put it alongside the more esoteric recordings of Cabaret Voltaire? And I *missed* this album? Why does god hate me? etc.

A Chocolate Ball of Sweet Confectionary Fire (Bimble...), Saturday, 11 November 2006 10:26 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Thomas Leer's Private Plane/International 7" is the single best record ever released. Rental's 2 solo synth records aren't nearly as good, but have their moments. Those 3 records are generally considered the start of the do it yourself record it in my bedroom electronic new wave synth movement, along with The Normal's Warm Leatherette. In any case they were all buddies. The Bridge is a fantastic fucking album all the way through, the more poppy stuff and the weird ambient noise stuff which is just beautiful. Day Breaks Night Heels is Robert Rental singing and I assume it's more his song, while the more guitar-led and poppy Monochrome Days is Leer singing, and I think that's the best song on the album. In any case, it's definitely one of my favorite albums ever. For what its worth, I think through the Cherry Red days and into the Arista mid 80s fairlight pop days, Leer did no wrong.

Dan Selzer (Dan Selzer), Saturday, 11 November 2006 16:31 (twelve years ago) Permalink

did a bit of research and The Bridge is on CD now, cheap from Amazon. There is also a CD of Leer's complete Cherry Red recordings which seems to be oop, also a CD of a 1985 Leer album which reportedly is a bit more polished.

sleeve version 2.0 (sleeve testing), Saturday, 11 November 2006 16:33 (twelve years ago) Permalink

I have all those...the Bridge CD I only bought recently really cheap, couldn't believe it, highly recommended (already had the vinyl). The Leer CD Contradictions shouldn't be out of print, Cherry Red has had it out forever, oh I see they're out of stock. Hopefully they'll repress again, Leer's stock is rising, I think because the instrumental b-side to his 12" All About You is a Cosmic Disco classic, suddenly the hipster dance music weirdos and beardos are discovering him. Contradictions contains the Private Plane single, the Letter From America/4 Movements releases, which is more funky and soulful but still very uniquely produced, sort of a cross between Cabaret Voltaire and Heaven 17. The 1985 Leer album Scale of Ten only recently was reissued with extended mixes and an intro written by Matt Johnson of the The The, who was a big fan...Leer actually co-produced much of Soul Mining. This stuff couldn't be more polished, it's all fairlight digital high tech stuff, but is really brilliant. The songwriting is in line with earlier stuff and the production is really cool. If you like Trevor Horn and the Art of Noise and all that stuff, this is really great. After that he and Claudia Brucken from Propaganda joined up w/ Trevor Horn and ZTT to form Act, but apparently Leer and Horn locked horns...some of the songs are good and some of the production is cool, but it dated more then the Scale of Ten.

Dan Selzer (Dan Selzer), Saturday, 11 November 2006 16:57 (twelve years ago) Permalink

thanks Dan. I better track down a copy of that Cherry Red CD now before the eBay frenzy sets in.

sleeve version 2.0 (sleeve testing), Saturday, 11 November 2006 17:00 (twelve years ago) Permalink

I used to have Contradictions on vinyl, and Act's album, didn't care for either of them much. But Scale of Ten is drawing a complete blank for me which rather bothers me now as it seems I would have had every opportunity to be exposed to it.

A Chocolate Ball of Sweet Confectionary Fire (Bimble...), Saturday, 11 November 2006 17:15 (twelve years ago) Permalink

You'd probably find Scale of Ten way to poppy and glossy. Do you like things like ABC and Heaven 17? 80s Roxy Music? Suprised you wouldn't like Contradictions though, some of it sounds like its from that early 80s Cabs period when they were their most organic, and stuff like the Steve Malinder solo records on Fetish. But the Contradictions vinyl is missing the earlier stuff, the Private Plane single, Kings of Sham which was on Cherry Red's "experimental" comp Perspectives and Distortions, the 4 Movements EP which is a bit more out there then the Contradictions LP. All of this stuff, plus the slightly later single A side All About You are on the Contradictions CD.

Dan Selzer (Dan Selzer), Saturday, 11 November 2006 17:36 (twelve years ago) Permalink

To get back to the live record for a moment, I notice my copy is on Rough Trade US (ROUGH US 2). Does this mean it didn't have a UK release? If so, it would have been more readily available in America I imagine.

sleeve version 2.0 (sleeve testing), Saturday, 11 November 2006 19:50 (twelve years ago) Permalink

ifyou search soulseek, you'll hopefully find the fantastic 'mental detentions' cassette that robert rental made in 1979. 8 tracks and mor of a demo than a proper release but still worth hunting down.

frenchbloke (frenchbloke), Saturday, 11 November 2006 19:59 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Does this mean it didn't have a UK release?

i have the uk release.

stirmonster (stirmonster), Sunday, 12 November 2006 02:02 (twelve years ago) Permalink

does anyone know where i can hear a sample of Private Plane? i've heard a handful of releases by Thomas Leer, but never that one. and considering the high recommendation from Mr. Dan Selzer, I'm curious.

Cameron Octigan (Cameron Octigan), Sunday, 12 November 2006 02:50 (twelve years ago) Permalink

you can hear a sample here

stirmonster (stirmonster), Sunday, 12 November 2006 04:04 (twelve years ago) Permalink

has the entire CD.

Dan Selzer (Dan Selzer), Sunday, 12 November 2006 04:09 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Thanks for the Mental Detentions recommendation. Listening to the first track leads me to believe that this is just the kind of unsettling "scare the shit out of you at 3 AM" stuff I really go for. I've also got the live album now and that also sounds quite interesting so far.

Pump up the pumpkin, pump up the pumpkin dance dance (Bimble...), Sunday, 12 November 2006 16:08 (twelve years ago) Permalink

And happily, "Private Plane" also just turned up on a German comp of UK postpunk stuff called 7" Up.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Sunday, 12 November 2006 16:10 (twelve years ago) Permalink

that's what stirmonster is linking to up there. Cabaret Voltaire fans should also seek out that comp for They Must Be Russians, who had 2 7"s and are part of the Sheffield/Western Works Cabs/Eric Random/Clock DVA axis of friends.

Dan Selzer (Dan Selzer), Sunday, 12 November 2006 16:21 (twelve years ago) Permalink

I've got They Must Be Russians on my compilation called "Hicks From the Sticks" from 1980. I also heard a couple of their other tracks aside from that, and they didn't particularly appeal to me, but it seems that even if often Dan and I agree on what genres we like, we often don't agree on specific artists. That's okay, though you know, different strokes for different folks. :)

And by the way "poppy glossiness" doesn't scare me in and of itself. I can't see why I shouldn't at least try Leer's "Scale of Ten". If anything I'd be curious to know if I recognize anything off it.

Pump up the pumpkin, pump up the pumpkin dance dance (Bimble...), Sunday, 12 November 2006 16:26 (twelve years ago) Permalink

The track off Hicks from the Sticks isn't their best. Of the 2 7"s, the later one, Don't Try to Cure Yourself is a real diy pop gem, both sides. The other 7", is very Cabs-esque though not as good, but if I remember correctly, they're both better then what's on Hicks.

I recently got Hicks sequal...Beat from the Streat. Mostly pretty bad but a few ok songs, haven't listened to it enough.

And I'm still convinced you're writing off the Lines to early, do you know what songs you heard? This prob. belongs on the Lines thread.

Dan Selzer (Dan Selzer), Sunday, 12 November 2006 16:45 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Well, actually I was thinking about that Lines thread about a half hour ago or something, so I guess it's fine to take this discussion over there.

But I AM GOING TO GET THE BRIDGE ON CD BECAUSE I LOVE LIFE, and I love the fact that such a CD could exist.

Pump up the pumpkin, pump up the pumpkin dance dance (Bimble...), Sunday, 12 November 2006 17:39 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Heh - thanks guys. I've been racking my brain trying to remember 'The Bridge'. The cover image came into my head a couple of weeks ago and has been bugging me ever since.

tolstoy (tolstoy), Sunday, 12 November 2006 20:01 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Holy shit this live album is fantastic! Who is singing? Miller? Rental? someone else? Wow!

Kid B (Bimble...), Monday, 13 November 2006 03:06 (twelve years ago) Permalink

No one answered the original posters question about who did the vocals in this! But I'm going to guess Miller simply cause I don't believe Rental is capable of singing that well. I took a listen to his 7" singles again. But I could be wrong.

Kid B (Bimble...), Monday, 13 November 2006 03:09 (twelve years ago) Permalink

"Mental Detentions" is great as well. I'm listening to #2 track right now. It reminds me of some other song by some other artist but is twice as brilliant as whatever else it reminds me of.

I'm going to have to think very hard in silence in a minute to figure out what it reminds me of.

Kid B (Bimble...), Monday, 13 November 2006 03:39 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Okay I know what it reminds me of. A really ambient instrumental track by Wire. I think it's on "Turns & Strokes". I don't know which one. I will figure this out later.

Kid B (Bimble...), Monday, 13 November 2006 03:42 (twelve years ago) Permalink

On track 3 now on Mental Detentions, wanting to turn it up much louder than my stupid CD discman will let me. The boom box is my only hope.

Kid B (Bimble...), Monday, 13 November 2006 03:45 (twelve years ago) Permalink

this is really good and probably not easy to come by so i ysieeed it here

the album with thomas leer is fantastic too

this is worth reading (halfway down) ~

shittypoo (shittypoo), Tuesday, 14 November 2006 12:06 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Is the South Bank Show on Rough Trade from May 1979 available anywhere?

I won the Hicks from the Sticks album at a hook the ducks stall at a fairground in about 1988. It was what they gave you as a consolation prize if you didn't hook a lucky duck. They had stacks of them!

Raw Patrick (Raw Patrick), Tuesday, 14 November 2006 13:19 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Someone made me a nth generation VHS dub of the South Bank Show, but I recently saw someone posting about getting a DVD of it, so somebody is bootlegging it around.

Dan Selzer (Dan Selzer), Tuesday, 14 November 2006 15:46 (twelve years ago) Permalink

any chance of a ysi (or whatever) of that 'Mental Detentions' for us non-slsk-ers?


nerve pylon (flat_of_angles), Tuesday, 14 November 2006 16:30 (twelve years ago) Permalink

I won the Hicks from the Sticks album at a hook the ducks stall at a fairground in about 1988. It was what they gave you as a consolation prize if you didn't hook a lucky duck. They had stacks of them!

I think this is funny. I've long wondered why this comp has been so cheap & easy to come by compared to other similar comps from the same era.

Kid B (Bimble...), Tuesday, 14 November 2006 20:14 (twelve years ago) Permalink

if linking to the demo tape 'mental detentions' is ok, i'll upload it somewhere.

frenchbloke (frenchbloke), Wednesday, 15 November 2006 10:17 (twelve years ago) Permalink
mental detention cassette by robert rental.
as far as i know it was a demo tape and thus never for sale.

frenchbloke (frenchbloke), Wednesday, 15 November 2006 11:12 (twelve years ago) Permalink

great! thanks frenchbloke!

nerve pylon (flat_of_angles), Wednesday, 15 November 2006 11:38 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Second the thanks!!

tolstoy (tolstoy), Wednesday, 15 November 2006 18:01 (twelve years ago) Permalink

likewise, sounds like Demos for the Bridge maybe? Same kinda ambient industrial electronics (but good!) as the Bridge and also featuring Leer.

Dan Selzer (Dan Selzer), Wednesday, 15 November 2006 18:17 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Thomas Leer's Private Plane/International 7" is the single best record ever released.

Dan Selzer, if you were a woman I would make babies with you.

Disco Nihilist (mjt), Wednesday, 15 November 2006 18:52 (twelve years ago) Permalink

I'm honored. I think. And by honored, I mean disturbed.

Dan Selzer (Dan Selzer), Wednesday, 15 November 2006 18:54 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Hahaha. Well anyone looking for the South Bank Show on DVD or VHS can get it from this guy:

He doesn't list it cause he has it on another tape with a bunch of other stuff, but I trust his word that he has it. I've done business with him for about ten years now.

Umpire Teen (Bimble...), Saturday, 18 November 2006 02:55 (twelve years ago) Permalink

two years pass...

that's from the South Bank Show 1979 Rough Trade episode, I have the whole thing on VHS and have been meaning to digitize it. Great clips like Mayo Thompson recording the Raincoats and live stuff from Stiff Little Fingers and Essential Logic.

dan selzer, Thursday, 16 July 2009 16:51 (nine years ago) Permalink

oh yeah, I was talking about that further up in the thread.

dan selzer, Monday, 20 July 2009 05:00 (nine years ago) Permalink

one year passes...

this is one of the best records 'of all time'

fuck you jan stepek you kurwa (nakhchivan), Saturday, 19 February 2011 02:47 (eight years ago) Permalink

one year passes...

biennial reminder

Nilmar Honorato da Silva, Sunday, 28 October 2012 01:29 (six years ago) Permalink

one year passes...

hey he's from my hometown there's a notable person from my hometown wow.

Merdeyeux, Tuesday, 5 November 2013 23:03 (five years ago) Permalink

that's from the South Bank Show 1979 Rough Trade episode, I have the whole thing on VHS and have been meaning to digitize it. Great clips like Mayo Thompson recording the Raincoats and live stuff from Stiff Little Fingers and Essential Logic.

― dan selzer, Thursday, July 16, 2009 9:51 AM (4 years ago)

goes w/o saying that I would love to see this if any copies are floating around

sleeve, Tuesday, 5 November 2013 23:31 (five years ago) Permalink

there's another notable person from your hometown: thomas leer. xpost

stirmonster, Wednesday, 6 November 2013 01:07 (five years ago) Permalink

nakhers posted this recently & it was joyous

kaputtinabox (imago), Wednesday, 6 November 2013 01:19 (five years ago) Permalink

four years pass...

Thomas Leer and Robert Rental: A tale of electronic pioneers

Some of the most significant names in the UK's early electronic music scene oscillate through the careers of Thomas Wishart and the late Robert Donnachie - and cite them as influences.

Names such as John Foxx, Art of Noise, ABC, The The, Throbbing Gristle, Propaganda, The Normal.

But, unlike many of their contemporaries, memories of the pair from Port Glasgow will not be rekindled by tuning into re-runs of Top of the Pops and the Old Grey Whistle Test.

Even their stage names, Thomas Leer and Robert Rental, will not strike a chord with most.

Music archivist and fan Simon Dell hopes his exhibition - From The Port To The Bridge - which runs at the Beacon Arts Centre in Greenock until 28 October, will help change all that and win greater recognition for what he regards as forgotten pioneers of British electronic music.

The Greenock exhibition has inspired Leer, now 65, to end a 30-year absence from the stage to play a short set at Friday's sold-out Live Electronic Night.

It also features JD Twitch, the Optimo DJ who is a lifelong admirer of Rental's work in particular.

Rental died of lung cancer in 2000, aged 48, and Leer tells BBC Scotland: "It will bring back quite a lot of memories - too many actually - and that was part of the reason I wasn't too keen at the beginning.

"There's a lot of sad memories and it will probably get more so on the performance night as his partner, Hilary, and his son will be coming up and I expect it will be quite an emotional night."

Although not one for nostalgia, Leer nevertheless found himself beginning to enjoy digging out relics of their musical past for the exhibition, "remembering good times" and being persuaded to make what will be his live solo debut.

"As you can imagine, I'm bricking it," he admits.

Having followed one another on a hippy-era journey through communes and squats from London and Wales to Edinburgh, Leer and Rental returned to the UK capital inspired by the emergence of punk in the mid 70s, only to find their creativity being drawn in more experimental directions.

Recording with cheap basic equipment, including a Stylophone keyboard, in their London flats, the hard-up pair had self-released debut singles to some critical acclaim.

Leer's "Private Plane" was named single of the week by the NME.

Rental also toured as a duo with The Normal, the stage moniker of Daniel Miller, who would go on to establish Mute Records.

However, it was Leer and Rental's one and only album together, 1979's The Bridge, that received widespread recognition.

The exhibition recalls how the pair became the first signing to Throbbing Gristle's Industrial Records, had hired equipment thrust into their hands with basic instructions at Rental's flat and told to come up with an LP within a week - extended to two.

"It is one of the few albums made during that period that still stands up in terms of electronic trickery," Leer suggests.

"We were pretty ahead of our time I think.

"A lot of stuff from that time does sound dated, it is very specifically 80s, which is fine, but we were never really interested in being a fashionable band."

Indeed, despite the album leading to them gracing the front cover of the influential Melody Maker, their insistence that they were were "not a unit" and Leer's reluctance for playing live ensured their moment in the spotlight was short-lived.

Rental was to release one more solo single and recorded the soundtrack to the Comic Strip television show "A Fistful Of Travellers' Cheques" before concentrating on family life in London and illness took hold.

Leer flirted with commercial success with his next three albums, the last enlisting the help of musicians from Art of Noise and ABC, and a series of singles, one recorded in John Foxx's studio.

He was invited by Matt Johnson to play on The The's seminal debut album, "Soul Mining", and formed a duo, Act, with Propaganda singer Claudia Brucken.

However, from 1988, there followed a long hiatus from the public eye and, shortly before his friend passed away, Leer returned to Scotland to help his ageing father care for a mother facing up to Parkinson's disease.

"I'd been away for a long time and I thought it was time to come back and be with them at the end," he says.

"I kind of fell in love with the place again once I was here for a while.

"It was nice to wake up next to the river and the brilliant skies you get up here. Things you don't get in London.

"But, once you are away from it, you can no longer do session jobs and even all my friends who would ask me to come and play on albums were too far away.

"Eventually you are out of sight, out of mind and the career just slipped away just not being there. I had to sign on the dole for a while, which was not fun."

In the documentary that accompanies the Greenock exhibition and also features Miller and Throbbing Gristle's Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti, Johnson suggests that Leer "was years ahead of his time" and inspired him to create The The.

Keith McIvor, aka JD Twitch, talks about admiration for Rental that led to Optimo Music last month releasing an album of his demos called "Different Voices For You, Different Colours For Me".

Leer has continued recording in his home studio in Greenock, releasing seven more albums since 2001, mainly through his own Future Historic records.

His latest though, "Freedom Of Steel", has the backing of German label Sleepers Records and gigs in Berlin and New York are a possibility on its release in the coming months.

Dell hopes to further spread the word by taking his exhibition, three years in the making, to London next year in the time for the 40th anniversary of The Bridge and a possible re-issue on Mute.

"From The Port To The Bridge" and back again, life has come full circle for Thomas Leer, but don't expect any appearance at a Rewind Festival any time soon.

From BBC news -

paolo, Friday, 12 October 2018 08:08 (eight months ago) Permalink

The Robert Rental demo tape that's just been released on Optimo is well worth checking out

paolo, Friday, 12 October 2018 08:09 (eight months ago) Permalink

The Live at West Runton Pavilion record is on the Mute Audio Documents box set which might be a cheap way to get it if it's still in print.

The Discogs link has "Note: date on this recording is wrong. Gig in West Runton was 2-3-79, 6-3-79 was Malvern Winter Gardens", my uncle used to go to punk gigs at Malvern Winter Gardens, if it was with Stiff Little Fingers he could conceivably have been at that (possibly not because he was 15 then, think he was going a couple of years later, and I can't ask him because he's dead now)

Colonel Poo, Friday, 12 October 2018 08:34 (eight months ago) Permalink

Twitch sent me the booklet that was produced to go along with the exhibit, great stuff. There’s also a new issue of electronic sound magazine with a feature and 7” included.

dan selzer, Friday, 12 October 2018 11:25 (eight months ago) Permalink

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