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Screaming Lord Sutch
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Article © 2002 Thomas Wynn

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In 1959, while Elvis was still testing the patience of conservative America, Lord Sutch was really sending staid old England clutching the panic button. Taking the stage decked out as the Wild Man of Borneo, with a cheetah skin loincloth and huge buffalo horns protruding from the sides of his shaggy head, Lord Sutch weren't no Cliff Richard by a long shot. The more impressionable believed Sutch to own both a 20 foot alligator and a Himalayan bear, which he might wrestle on stage. More convincingly, he is said to have set his pre-Beatles long hair on fire from time to time, just to keep the kids in the proper mood.

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By 1961, Lord Sutch gave the earlier, horror movie antics of American Screamin' Jay Hawkins a decidedly British twist by adopting the personae of Jack the Ripper, complete with pallid make up, top hat, bloody knives, and leather surgical bag. He even wrote a song called "Jack the Ripper." Other lyrics, like those of "Dracula's Daughter" and "Monster in Black Tights," further bolstered Sutch's scary mystique, as did publicity stunts like chasing his bandmates through small town department stores with a fake axe.

The singles Sutch recorded during his classic period, the early-to-mid-sixties, are frenzied affairs raw, Little Richardesque rock and roll made even wilder by Sutchs psychotic scream-singing and buried in layers of echo and spookhouse sound effects. Many of Sutch's best records, including his near hit, "Til the Following Night," were produced by legendary studio genius/nutcase Joe Meek. Meek certainly seems to have found a comrade in madness in the good Lord Sutch, and the trademark claustrophobic ambiance of Meek's production adds to the creepy atmosphere of records like "She's Fallen in Love With the Monsterman."

When the BBC banned Sutch's macabre material, Sutch established his own pirate radio station, Radio Sutch, which operated offshore for a time in 1964. The station broadcast wild pop music during the day and excerpts from "Lady Chatterlys Lover" after midnight.

Lord Sutch's band, the Savages has been described as less a band than a pool of musicians with whom Sutch was intimate, and upon whom he could call for recordings and live gigs. Luckily for Sutch, this pool was one of the musically richest of all time, including the great drummer Carlo Little and such soon-to-be legends as Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Ritchie Blackmore, Noel Redding, Nick Simper, Nicky Hopkins, Mitch Mitchell, John Bonham and Keith Moon, just to name a few. Many of these young players made their first recordings with Sutch.

Most images on this page are links to other cool Sutch sites!

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To many in England, Lord Sutch is better known as a politician than a musician. From the sixties, up until his death in 1999, Sutch was a perennial candidate for the House of Commons. Over the years, he was affiliated with such self-concocted political parties as the "National Teenage Party," the "Go To Blazes Party," and the "Official Monster Raving Loony Party."

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Sutch performed with various incarnations of the Savages in the decades following his sixties heyday. His 1971 album THE HAND OF JACK THE RIPPER features Ritchie Blackmore, Carlo Little, Nick Simper, Noel Redding and Nicky Hopkins. LORD SUTCH AND HEAVY FRIENDS, subtracts Blackmore and Little, adding Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and John Bonham to the band. This album has been voted the worst rock and roll album of all time in at least two listeners polls on both sides of the Atlantic. During the seventies, the pre-fame Sex Pistols opened a less star-studded version of Lord Sutch and the Savages, who kept recording until at least 1994, when the excellent "Midnight Man" EP was waxed.



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It's hard to find, but be sure to score a copy of THE SCREAMING LORD SUTCH STORY (no label - this is practically a bootleg.) This handy comp. collects the cream of the good Lord's work with Joe Meek, with one side dedicated to HORROR and the other to ROCK AND ROLL.

CLICK ON THE ALBUM COVER, THEN SCROLL DOWN THE NEW PAGE TO HEAR SUTCH'S 1963 HIT "JACK THE RIPPER."

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Click on the pictures below to visit other sites for each
artist

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While Lord Sutch's act stood second to none in terms of wildness and excitement, the idea of rock 'n' roll as horror show does not begin with him, but with American performer Screamin' Jay Hawkins. Taking his cue from weekend "spook shows" that made the theatre circuit throughout the post-war period, Screamin' Jay developed the personae of a leering voodoo witchdoctor to add creepy ambiance to numbers like "I Put A Spell on You," and "Little Demon." Well over 6 feet tall, Screamin' Jay made for a fearsome apparition on stage, often rising from a coffin amid dry-ice fog with a huge bone through his nose. On one occasion in Louisiana, Hawkins was arrested for allegedly casting a voodoo curse on a female audience member. Charges were later dropped.

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As the drive-in horror movie rose to popularity among teenagers of the 1950's, it became closely associated with rock and roll. This can be seen from the plethora of horror-inspired albums that came out in those days. Several albums by Frankie Stein and the Ghouls mixed dance hits of the day with ghostly sound effects, monster growls and screams.

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The early sixties brought Boris Pickett's "The Monster Mash," the only single to have hit the Top 100 three different times, as well as a whole slew of scary garage rock the likes of the Buggs' "Strangler in the Night," and the Graveyard Five's ultra-rare "The Marble Orchard."

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By the seventies, the king of shock rock was Alice Cooper, whose baby doll stabbing, auto-decapitating stage shows added a large dose of theatre and choreography to the rock and roll stew. By decade's end, Alice would stage concert extravaganzas that seemed a lot like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD put on as Broadway musical. WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE would even include a cameo by Vincent Price.

Both punk and heavy metal have continued rock's fascination with camp horror. First and foremost among punk bands pursuing horrific themes have ever been New Jersey's Misfits, whose album covers and publicity materials look like missing pages from old FAMOUS MONSTERS magazines.

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From the metal side of the aisle have some such flamboyant oddities as Italy's Death SS, whose elaborate costuming outdid even Kiss. Death SS served as a prelude for the antics of 80's metal bands like W.A.S.P., whose leader, Blackie Lawless, drank blood from a skull on stage and wore a codpiece fitted with a circular saw blade.

Nowadays, the horror rock torch is held by a plethora of bands, from underground groups like the Mummies, Jack 'o' Fire, and Famous Monsters, to more well-known bands like Slipknot and Marilyn Manson. One of the most interesting exponents of current horror-story rock may be Mortiis, late of Norwegian black metalists, Emperor. Mortiis, who composes modern synthesizer music based on early Wagner and Grieg, is rarely filmed or photographed without the elaborate, "Troll King" make-up in which he performs live. Although his music is fairly sedate, and decidedly non-rock, he is still able to work the human sacrifice of a nubile young woman into his stage show. As Screamin' Jay might warn him, "You best keep that stuff out of Louisiana!"

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