Screaming Lord Sutch

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Screaming Lord Sutch, 3rd Earl of Harrow (born David Edward Sutch, 10 November 1940 - 16 June 1999) was an English musician and politician. As founder of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, he was the longest serving leader of a British political party.

Career

Sutch was born at New End Hospital, Hampstead, North West London, and grew up in the working class area of Kilburn, North London. His father, a policeman, was killed in the Blitz, while his mother worked as a cleaner. Sutch fell in love with rock 'n' roll upon hearing 'Rock Around the Clock' in 1956 on his crystal radio set. His earliest public performances were at a local biker hangout called the Cannibal Pot Coffee Bar, on Harrow Road. Inspired by one of his favourite rock and roll stars, Screaming Jay Hawkins, he changed his name to Screaming Lord Sutch, 3rd Earl of Harrow.[1] Despite the fact that he had no connection with the peerage, the deed poll laws of England at the time permitted this. He was one of the first musicians in England in the 1960s with long hair, reputedly 18 inches long, a fashion statement of rebellion that soon caught on with other rock artists. Sutch was aware of his weaknesses as a melodic vocalist, and relied heavily on image, taking his lead from Screaming Jay Hawkins, and putting on a show that mixed rock 'n' roll, theatrics and gothic horror.[2] Among the stage-props he used were an axe, daggers, skulls and a black coffin he emerged from dressed as Jack the Ripper.[3]

In 1961 while playing at London's famed 2 I's coffee bar in Soho, he was discovered by maverick producer Joe Meek. Sutch then assembled his first backing group, the Raving Savages. Recording at Meek's home studio in Holloway Road, Islington, Sutch and the Savages often had their records banned by the BBC, a fact which only served to give them more publicity and notoriety. Although never achieving any hit records, the Savages were an accomplished live band featuring Ritchie Blackmore, Andy Wren, and Carlo Little. Their early releases include 'Til the Following Night' (their debut a-side), 'Jack the Ripper', 'Dracula's Daughter', and 'I'm a Hog for You Baby'. Sutch once changed the name of the band to Lord Caesar Sutch & the Roman Empire, with his band dressed as Roman soldiers and Sutch dressed in a toga riding around to gigs in a horse drawn chariot, although this did not last long. Sutch's relationship with Meek ended when the two fell out over money that Sutch claimed Meek owed him. The Savages went through numerous line-up changes throughout the 1960s, including the departure of guitarist Blackmore who later went on to form Deep Purple.

In January 1968, Sutch left England to tour and establish himself in the United States, and for most of the late 1960s and early 1970s spent increasing time living in Los Angeles. During Led Zeppelin's Spring tour of the US in 1969, he met with manager Peter Grant, whom he persuaded to assist him in brokering a recording deal with Atlantic Records. Sutch also met guitarist Jimmy Page, who was scouting studios to record in during their tour, and managed to get Page and John Bonham to test the facilities at studio Mirror Sounds in May 1969, by recording a number of rock standards. He later secretly recorded a set of his own lyrics over the standards they performed. Sutch enjoyed minor success in 1970 with the album Lord Sutch and Heavy Friends, which featured Page, Bonham, Jeff Beck, Nicky Hopkins, and Noel Redding. The musicians involved were however unimpressed with Sutch, believing the recordings to be for a studio test only. In 1971, Sutch assembled a new line-up for the Carshalton Park Rock 'n' Roll Festival, and had the evening secretly taped. This later appeared in 1972 as Hands of Jack the Ripper featuring Keith Moon, Ritchie Blackmore, and Nick Simper, but it failed to chart. To promote his albums, Sutch toured the United States in a Union Jack painted 1955 Rolls Royce Silver Wraith. In 1972, he was also arrested and later released without charge, when he accompanied five naked women to Downing Street to protest at the shortage of rock music on the BBC. He recorded his final album Alive & Well in 1980, featuring Pat Travers, Rick Nielsen, and Klaus Voormann. Numerous compilation albums have proliferated after the 1980s.

Pirate radio

In May 1964, taking advantage of a loophole in the UK broadcast law, he founded Radio Sutch, one of the first pirate radio stations in Britain, often playing his own records and those of his friends, with late night readings of a bawdy nature. Early broadcasts were transmitted from The Cornucopia, a fishing trawler, and were fraught with technical problems.[4] The vessel was used in the early morning for fishing, and after midday it would begin broadcasting its programmes. The station finally moved to Shivering Sands, a disused wartime fort, located in the Thames Estuary off Southend.[5] Now in competition with the newly launched Radio Caroline and hampered by a weaker transmission signal to London, Sutch began losing interest in the venture and he sold the station in September of that year to his manager Reg Calvert, who re-launched it as Radio City.

Political aspirations

In 1963, Sutch made his first foray into politics, standing as a parliamentary candidate (as Lord Sutch) for his own National Teenage Party (NTP) in Stratford-Upon-Avon.[6] Straford-Upon-Avon was previously held by conservative MP John Profumo, who had to resign over the Profumo Affair. The NTP's platform included reducing the voting age to 18, establishing commercial radio, abolition of the 11-plus exams, and all-day opening of pubs, all of which have since become law in Britain.[7] Sutch received a mere 208 votes but his taste for politics had been whetted and over the next 30 years he stood in 40 elections - more than any other candidate in history, and earning him a place in the Guinness Book of Records. As founder of the Monster Raving Loony Party, which replaced the NTP, he eventually became the longest surviving leader of any UK political party, despite the fact that he lost his own deposit at every election.[8] In total, Sutch stood for Parliament 39 times, plus 1 Euro-election in 1989, polling some 15,000 votes, forfeiting more than £10,000 in lost deposits and incurring £85,000 in campaign expenses.

Sutch formerly registered the Monster Raving Loony Party in 1983, and campaigned for more than one Monopolies Commission, for the European butter mountain to be turned into a ski slope, and to breed fish in the wine lake, 'so they'd come out ready pickled!' Sutch would appear during campaigns with his trademark megaphone, top hat and leopardskin shirt. The party's official slogan was: 'Vote for insanity, you know it makes sense'. In the ITV comedy series The New Statesman, he appeared as himself in the 1987 elections, securing second place against the SDP and Labour candidates. A Heineken Pilsener commercial in the 1990s featured Sutch as Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street. In 1991 Sutch published his autobiography Life As Sutch (with Peter Chippendale) published by Harper-Collins.

Sutch's strongest showing was at Rotherham in May 1994 when he polled 1,114 votes, only some 200 short of the number required for saving his deposit. His most significant result, however, was at Bootle in May 1990, when he scored 418 votes to the Social Democrats' 155, a result which helped to convince Dr David Owen that his party was finished. In 1995, Sutch was facing bankruptcy when Barclays Bank threatened to foreclose on a loan of £194,000, but William Hill, the bookmakers agreed to finance his election deposits, and the bank re-scheduled his repayments, so that in July he was able to record one of his best results (782 votes) at the Littleborough and Saddleworth by-election. In the 1997 general election, English betting agency Ladbrokes gave odds of fifteen million to one against Sutch ever being Prime Minister of England, their greatest odds ever. They only gave fourteen million to one against little green men being found on Mars. Although he didn't win the seat, Sutch in the end scored 10 times the vote of Dr Alan Sked's UK Independence Party. It would also prove to be the party's final national election campaign as Sutch could no longer afford the deposits, which had been increased for every candidate from £150 to £500.

Death

Despite his seemingly light-hearted antics, Sutch in reality suffered from periods of depression and committed suicide by hanging himself at home on 16 June 1999, affected by the sudden death of his mother Annie Emily Sutch in late 1997. He had been previously booked to appear at a show in Las Vegas, and tour the US. At the coroner's inquest into his death, his fiancée Yvonne Elwood stated that he had 'manic depression'. Indeed, her descriptions, both of his symptoms and their treatment by doctors with antidepressants, suggest that Sutch suffered from clinical depression. Sutch never married, but is survived by a son, Tristan Lord Gwynne Sutch, born in 1975 to the American model Thann Rendessy. Party chairman Alan 'Howlin Laud' Hope, took over as Monster Raving Loony Party leader after Sutch's death.[9] A spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair stated:

Screaming Lord Sutch will be much missed. For many years he made a unique contribution to British politics. Our elections will never be quite the same without him.[10]

The 2008 Joe Meek biopic Telstar featured singer Justin Hawkins as Screaming Lord Sutch.

Notes

  1. Moran, Mark and Sceurman, Mark (2007). Weird England, 1st. New York: Sterling, 124. ISBN 1-4027-4229-0. 
  2. Crouse, Richard (2000). Big Bang, Baby: Rock Trivia, 1st. Toronto: Hounslow Press, 121. ISBN 0-88882-219-7. 
  3. Unterberger, Richie (1998). Unknown Legends of Rock 'n' Roll: Psychedelic Unknowns, Mad Geniuses, Punk Pioneers, Lo-Fi Mavericks & More, 1st. San Francisco: Miller Freeman, 241. ISBN 0-87930-534-7. 
  4. Baron, Mike (1975). Independent Radio: the Story of Independent Radio in the United Kingdom, 1st. Lavenham: Dalton, 241. ISBN 0-900963-65-4. 
  5. Chapman, Robert (1992). Selling the Sixties: The Pirates and Pop Music Radio‎, 1st. London: Routledge, 132. ISBN 0-415-07970-5. 
  6. Gosling, Ray (1963). "Lord Sutch". New Society 2 (1): 21. ISSN 0028-6729. Retrieved on 5 June 2009.
  7. Murray, Phil (1997). Bites on Personal Development, 1st. London: Lulu, 69. ISBN 1-8987-1611-2. 
  8. Barrie, Axford (2002). Politics: An Introduction, 2nd. London: Routlege, 31. ISBN 0-415-25181-8. 
  9. Stadlen, Matthew and Glass, Harry (2004). The Politics Companion, 1st. London: Robson Books, 31. ISBN 1-86105-796-2. 
  10. Hawthorne, Leon. Screaming Lord Sutch found dead, BBC News, 17 June 1999. Retrieved on 20 April 2009.