I first learned about Screaming Lord Sutch because I was, at one point, so obsessed with the band Deep Purple that I found this tape called Rock Profile Vol. 1 which showed off some of the early session work by guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. It also featured a couple of interview snippets with Blackmore where he was actually in good spirits and reminisced about his time doing work with all manner of fly-by-nighters in the early/mid-60s ahead of the formation of Purple.
So, and you guessed this, one of the names that came up – was Sutch. A dreadful but enthusiastic singer and a real character it seemed, total loon; an eccentric (he actually had a sad life, plagued by manic depression, in the late 1990s he hanged himself). Anyway, I was a Blackmore/Purple disciple so that meant I had to check out more by Sutch and more by many of the other names that came up – sometimes it worked out, sometimes it didn’t.
Blackmore wasn’t the only big name musician that had started out by playing with anyone and everyone. Famously the instrumentalists in Led Zeppelin did many sessions – including some after the formation of the band. Same with Jeff Beck. And then there were people like Nicky Hopkins – session pros that stayed in that gig but worked with so many of the all-time greats.
So I have always kinda loved this rambling mess of an album – Lord Sutch and Heavy Friends. Said friends are Beck and Page and Bonham and Hopkins and Noel Redding on bass (from The Jimi Hendrix Experience) and you can spot Bonham’s monster-groove and Page and Beck’s licks and Sutch barks his rock’n’roll inanities and madness atop.
It plods and sometimes almost swings and nearly grooves – and it’s harmless but largely uninspired. The musicians involved thought they were just jamming for demos. Sorta horrified to hear that it was being officially released; that it was an album. They were all but clowning about. So many of them wanted no part in it. A blip. A skid-mark on their CV.
But to a youngster eager to get their head around 60s and 70s pop and hard rock this album had something. And once or twice a year it still does.
It was reviewed as the worst album of all time, polled more recently in the BBC as still being a bottom-feeder effort. I think that’s a bit cruel. I’ve spent my life listening to a lot of albums far worse than this. Some of them I really dig by the way too! (lol).
Yeah – it’s silly. It’s slow at times. It’s murky. And Sutch cannot sing, nor does he have anything much of value or interest to say. But there’s some great Bonham drumming, some good guitar lines from Beck and Page. And it feels like a drunken eulogy for Swingin’ London. Which elevates it to worthwhile-curio status in my books.