Bizarrely, although Sutch had been releasing records for 10 years, Lord Sutch and Heavy Friends, issued in 1970 but recorded the previous summer, was his first full-length album. Recorded in Los Angeles, Sutch was joined by some of the greats of the burgeoning heavy rock scene - including Noel Redding, Jeff Beck, John Bonham and Jimmy Page. Page and Sutch had known each other for years; both had worked for Meek and Page had played guitar on Sutch’s 1964 single She’s Fallen In Love With a Monster Man. However Sutch’s desire to cut an album that would be “modern rock ‘n’ roll with the real Zeppelin sound’, as he put it, would result in this awful cacophony.
A truly terrible record, it’s no wonder that most of the people involved tried to distance themselves from the project - in fact several have claimed that they only agreed to play on the sessions if they remained uncredited. Page said that he “just went down to have a laugh, playing some old rock 'n' roll, a bit of a send-up. The whole joke sort of reversed itself and became ugly.” Although all of Zeppelin caught a show by the savages during the two-day sessions and even jammed with Sutch and Noel Redding on stage, Page later claimed that he “just did some backing tracks to numbers like ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’… to cut a long story short, he rewrote all the tunes and he put another guitarist on over the top. He wrote me in as producer, which was very nice of him (but) I wasn’t interested in that.”
By the time Lord Sutch and Heavy Friends was issued, Led Zeppelin had become international superstars - their second album going to Number One in the UK, US, Australia, Spain and Canada and hitting the Top 10 in many other countries. In the US and Japan the company attempted to cash in on Led Zep’s fame, with Page and Bonham being given more prominence than the Good Lord himself on single sleeves: the US 45 release of ‘Cause I Love You features Page alone on the cover. Buoyed by their presence, the album scraped into the Billboard Top 100 but failed to chart elsewhere. Critical reaction to Lord Sutch and Heavy Friends was entirely negative; Rolling Stone Magazine said that the musicians on the album sounded ‘like a fouled parody of themselves,’ and in a 1998 BBC poll the album was named as the worst of all time.
The following year Sutch assembled another collection of Heavy Friends, this time including Keith Moon and Ritchie Blackmore (who had also worked alongside Sutch at Holloway Road), to perform with him at the Country Club in Hampstead where he was booked for several nights. Blackmore noticed that Sutch had secreted recording equipment around the building but none of the artists who joined him on stage were aware that His Lordship was surreptitiously recording a follow-up album - The Hands of Jack the Ripper - which appeared in the shops in 1972. Says Blackmore: "Sutch phones me up and said 'Do you fance playing tomorrow night?' I agreed and I came down with Matt Fisher of Procol Harum, and we did just a night of playing. And I saw the recording equipment and thought, 'He's doing it again'."
In later years Sutch became more famous for his failed attempts to break into politics with his Monster Raving Loony party than for his music. He committed suicide in 1999 after suffering from depression for most of his life. Despite what you might read elsewhere, Sutch never was a bone fide lord: although he affected the title for his stage persona, his name always remained David Edward Sutch.
Here’s a brace of cuts from this classic of bad music - Wailing Sounds and the diabolically awful Brightest Light, both featuring Bonham and Page, with Brightest Light also featuring overdubs from Jeff Beck.