He was the UK’s first long-haired pop star, boasting hair over 18 inches long and the self-styled lord was Britain’s longest-serving political leader, standing (and losing in nearly 40 elections). His most famous party was the Official Monster Raving Loony Party.
David Sutch was born in Kilburn, North-West London on November 10, 1940. His father was a policeman who was killed in World War II, when the boy was ten months old.
After leaving school, David worked as a plumber’s mate before becoming a singer. His stage name came from his main influence, Screaming Jay Hawkins, and from the fur-lined crash helmet which he wore on stage, topped with bobbles so that it resembled a coronet.
In 1968, he changed his name by deed poll to Lord David Sutch. Although he never had any ranking hits, his antics on and off stage brought him great notoriety, and he was to record with, among others, Jimmy Page, John Bonham, Jeff Beck, Noel Redding, Ritchie Blackmore, Nicky Hopkins and Keith Moon.
In 1963, he stood for Parliament as the National Teenager’s Candidate in Stratford-on-Avon, following the resignation of John Profumo after the sex scandal with Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies.
Although he gained only 209 votes, nearly all the policies he advocated – reducing the voting age to 18, commercial radio, calling for pubs to be open all day – were to become law long before his death.
In 1963, Sutch and his manager, Reginald Calvert, took over Shivering Sands Army Fort, a Maunsell Fort off Southend and in 1964 started Radio Sutch, intending to compete with other pirate radio stations such as Radio Caroline. Broadcasts consisted of music and Mandy Rice-Davies reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Sutch tired of the station, and sold it to Calvert, after which it was renamed Radio City, and lasted until 1967. In 1966 Calvert was shot dead by Oliver Smedley over a financial dispute. Smedley was acquitted on grounds of self-defence. About this time Ritchie Blackmore left the band. Roger Warwick left to set up an R&B big band for Freddie Mack.
He was to contest 44 elections and is mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records as having stood for Parliament more times than anyone else. In the 1980’s, he tried to change his name again, to Mrs. Thatcher, but was refused permission, allegedly on the grounds that it might cause confusion if he did make it to the House of Commons. He was to become Great Britain’s longest serving party leader, having formed the Monster Raving Loony Party in 1983. He was never elected and, indeed, never retained his deposit. However, in May 1990 at Bootle, he received 418 votes to the Social Democratic Party’s 156; following which Dr. David Owen, the leader of the S.D.P and a former Labour Foreign Secretary, retired from politics.
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 Jimmy Page, John Bonham, Jeff Beck, Noel Redding and Nicky Hopkins performed on it and helped write it.
For his follow-up, Hands of Jack the Ripper, Sutch assembled British rock celebrities for a concert at the Carshalton Park Rock ‘n’ Roll Festival. The show was recorded (though only Sutch knew), and it was released to the surprise of the musicians. Musicians on the record included Ritchie Blackmore (guitar); Matthew Fisher (keyboard); Carlo Little (drums); Keith Moon (drums); Noel Redding (bass) and Nick Simper (bass).
What was not known to the general public was that Sutch suffered from depression and had been on medication for many years. This became more acute following the death of his mother in 1997. In the same year, he met a lady named Yvonne Elwood. (Sutch never married but, in 1975, had a son, Tristram, with an American model.) His last years were dogged with financial troubles, but he seemed to be more cheerful in his last weeks and was looking forward to concerts in Belgium and Las Vegas.
However, in June 1999, he was found by Yvonne at his late mother’s house, 10 Parkfield Road, near South Harrow Station, having hanged himself. The last entry in his diary read : “Depression, depression, depression is all too much.” The coroner at the inquest described Sutch as “A comedian with tragedy in his heart. The public saw the public face, a cheery outgoing character, yet, in the privacy of his room, his true sadness emerged.
“During the 60s, he was known for his horror-themed stage show, dressing as Jack the Ripper, pre-dating the shock rock antics of Alice Cooper. Accompanied by his band, The Savages, he started by coming out of a black coffin. Other props included knives and daggers, skulls and “bodies”. He booked themed tours, such as ‘Sutch and the Roman Empire’, where he and the band members would be dressed up as Roman soldiers. Despite self-confessed lack of vocal talent, he released horror-themed singles during the early to mid-’60s, the most popular “Jack the Ripper”, covered live and on record by garage rock bands including the White Stripes, The Black Lips and The Horrors.
His 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 Jimmy Page, John Bonham, Jeff Beck, Noel Redding and Nicky Hopkins performed on it and helped write it.
He killed himself by hanging on June 16, 1999 at age 58.
He was definitely an original:
His bad time-keeping was the inspiration for his policy of decimal time – where there would be 100 seconds to the minute, and 100 minutes to the hour!
“What can we say about the man who posed the impossible question: Why is there only one Monopolies Commission?
He gave his age as 10 years younger than it was, then added ‘plus VAT’.”