Sutch was born at New End Hospital, Hampstead, North West London. In the 1960s, inspired by one of his favourite rock and roll stars, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, he changed his name to Screaming Lord Sutch, 3rd Earl of Harrow. Despite the fact that he had no connection with the peerage, the deed poll laws of England permitted this. Following a successful career as an early-’60s rock ‘n’ roll attraction, it became customary for the UK press and citizens to refer to him as Screaming Lord Sutch, or simply Lord Sutch. Early works included recordings produced by legendary audio pioneer Joe Meek.
During the 1960s, Screaming Lord Sutch was known for his horror-themed stage show, as well as for usually dressing as Jack the Ripper, pre-dating the shock rock antics of Alice Cooper by several years. Accompanied by his band, The Savages, he often started the show by coming out of a big black coffin. Other stage props included knives and daggers, skulls, and “bodies”. Sutch also booked ‘themed’ concert tours, such as ‘Sutch and the Roman Empire’, where Sutch and the band members would be dressed up as Roman soldiers. Despite his self-confessed lack of any vocal talent, he released many horror themed singles during the early- to mid-60s, the most popular and well known of which is “Jack the Ripper”, which has been covered both live and on record by many garage rock bands over the years, including The White Stripes, The Black Lips and The Horrors for their debut album, Strange House.
In 1963, Sutch and his then manager, Reg Calvert, took over a fort built during World War II, just off the coast at Southend. This was to be ‘Radio Sutch’, intending to compete with the other pirate radio stations such as Radio Caroline. He planned to play music and broadcast Mandy Rice-Davies reading extracts from “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”. It didn’t really happen and Calvert took over the project, renaming it ‘Radio City’, which lasted for a couple of years. In 1966 Calvert was shot dead by Oliver Smedley over a financial dispute. However Smedley was subsequently acquitted of this killing on grounds of self-defence.
In 1968, Dave Sutch took off for the USA in a Rolls Royce emblazoned with a Union Flag on the roof and pulling a trailer full of Marshall amplifiers which he intended to sell. He had a share interest in the Marshall company.
Lord Sutch’s album “Lord Sutch and Heavy Friends” was named in a 1998 BBC poll as the worst album of all time, a status it also held in Colin Larkin’s book The Top 1000 Albums of All Time, despite the fact that legends such as Jimmy Page, John Bonham, Jeff Beck, Noel Redding and Nicky Hopkins among others performed on it and helped to write it.
For his follow-up album, “Hands of jack the ripper”, Sutch assembled a group of British rock celebrities for a concert at the Carlsharlton Park Rock ‘n’ Roll Festival. The entire show was recorded (though only Sutch knew), and after some quick editing, cutting and pasting it was released - much to everyone else’s surprise! Musicians appearing on the record included Ritchie Blackmore (guitar); Matthew Fisher (keyboard); Carlo Little (drums); Keith Moon (drums); Noel Redding (bass) and Nick Simper (bass).
In the 1960s, he stood in various parliamentary elections, often standing as a representative of the ‘National Teenage Party’. His first attempt to enter Parliament was in 1963, when he contested the by-election in Stratford-upon-Avon caused by the resignation of John Profumo. He gained 208 votes. His next foray was at the 1964 General Election when he stood in Harold Wilson’s Huyton constituency. Here he got 518 votes.
He founded the Official Monster Raving Loony Party in 1983 and fought the Bermondsey by-election. In his career he contested over 40 elections, rarely threatening the major party candidates, but often getting a respectable number of votes. He was an easily recognisable figure at election counts due to his flamboyant clothes. It was shortly after he polled several hundred votes in Margaret Thatcher’s Finchley constituency in 1983 that the deposit paid by candidates was raised from £150 to £500. This did little to deter the legendary deposit-losing Lord Sutch, who increased the number of rock concerts he performed per year to pay for his mock political campaigns.
Arguably his most significant contribution to British politics came as a result of the Bootle by-election in 1990. He secured more votes than the candidate of the Continuing SDP, led by former Foreign Secretary David Owen. Within days the SDP dissolved itself. In 1993, when the British National Party (BNP) secured its first local councillor, Derek Beackon, Sutch was able to point out that the Official Monster Raving Loony Party already had six councillors.
He also made an appearance - as himself - in the first episode of ITV comedy The New Statesman, coming second in the 1987 election (ahead of the Labour and SDP candidates) which saw Alan B’Stard elected to Parliament.
A series of adverts in the 1990s for Heineken Pilsener boasted that “Only Heineken can do this”. One ad had Sutch at 10 Downing Street after becoming Prime Minister.
Despite his seemingly light-hearted antics, Screaming Lord Sutch in reality suffered from periods of depression and committed suicide by hanging on June 16, 1999, following the death of his mother the previous year. At the coroner’s inquest into his death, his fiancee stated that he had “manic depression”. However, 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.
In 1991, Sutch’s autobiography Life as Sutch: the Official Autobiography of a Raving Looney (co-written with Peter Chippindale) was published; however, the book was recalled by publishers swiftly. Versions are available: Angus & Robertson, ISBN 0-207-17240-4 and HarperCollins ISBN 0-00-255090-3. In 2005 Graham Sharpe, who had known Sutch since the late 1960s, when they both lived in Harrow and Sharpe was a rookie reporter on the Harrow Weekly Post, wrote the first biography of the man, The Man Who Was Screaming Lord Sutch. The culmination of almost two years’ research and around 200 interviews by Sharpe, who had been with Sutch just three days before his death, the book received very positive reviews and seems likely to be the definitive biography.
Edited by easisingles on 8 Jun 2008, 03:04
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