The beginning of the year 2000 did not see the unravelling of the universe as global computing systems crashed and burned while emptying our bank accounts in a blip of zeroes and ones with the flicking of digital calendars from 31.12.99 to 01.01.00. It’s hard to comprehend what the largely publicised Millennium Bug was really all about as life seemingly trundled into the noughties pretty much the same as it had rambled throughout the late ’90s. I mean, weirdly a lot of people were still buying Oasis and Limp Bizkit records in 2000.

The year 2000 also saw the release of Hymns For Strange Children from London-based, underground glam rock heroes, Rachel Stamp. The album was a calling to the misfits who yearned for an exciting antidote to the bland and grey sludge churned out by the mainstream bands of the day. Rachel Stamp set the bar outrageously high having spent the late ’90s creating a cult-like following with their fresh and humorous odes to pop singers and heartbreak in the dark. Their debut album finally sealed the deal for the self-proclaimed, “we are the weirdos, mister” generation. If you saw Rachel Stamp back in the day, you would have been greeted by a vibrant delight of high octane energy and a group of charismatic rock n’ roll mavericks. Like all great bands, they never slotted into any particular music scene so set about forging their own. They effortlessly combined glamour, a little androgyny, a dash of punk attitude, searing riffs, huge sing-along choruses and hooks big enough to land Moby Dick. They appealed to the feather boa-wearing Manic Street Preachers fans as much as the goths and brightly coloured hair punks of Camden Market. If you didn’t feel like you fitted in anywhere else, you could always seek refuge and find kinship at a Rachel Stamp gig, where the band and audience took to heart the mantra of Simon Price’s Stay Beautiful club night and did indeed “Dress UP!”.

It is now a staggering 23 years since Hymns For Strange Children was originally released. The album has rather surprisingly never been issued on vinyl before and is finally getting released on pink wax, no less, and receives a shiny CD re-issue too, courtesy of Easy Action Records on 14th April. To celebrate, the band will be performing a one-off London show at Islington Academy on the same day. Frankly, now feels like a great time to get the lowdown on a record that I’ve listened to countless times over the years, so here’s singer/bassist, David Ryder Prangley’s guide through the album and its eleven blistering tracks. Enjoy.

Rachel Stamp is (L-R): Will Crewdson (guitar), David Ryder Prangley (vocals/bass),
Shaheena Dax (keys) and Robin Guy (drums)
Photo credit: Nigel Crane

Hymns For Strange Children had been a long time coming. It’s often referred to as our debut album but we had actually recorded a full album when the band was previously signed to major label WEA. The person who signed us defected to EMI and we were left stranded with no real support and instead of releasing the record the label quietly dropped us and put the album on a shelf in a dusty warehouse somewhere, not unlike the fate of the Ark of the Covenant at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. A big problem was that we were forbidden by WEA to re-record any of the songs included on that album for at least five years.

“Instead of curling up and dying, we wrote some new songs and released them as singles on our own label, Bitch Vinyl – surprisingly achieving a lot more success than we had on a major label. After a couple of years we were headlining big venues like the Astoria in London and getting on the cover of Kerrang! so it was obvious that we had to put out an LP. We didn’t have enough money to go and hire a studio and record a whole album, so we took the singles we had already released and some part-finished stuff we had and then worked with producer John Fryer (Depeche Mode, NIN, HIM, Fad Gadget) at Blackwing Studios to record six or seven more songs to go with that and put it all together to make up the album. It was all done very quickly and what it may lack in sonic fidelity, it makes up for in energy. John Fryer was great to work with – very laid back and with a stony sense of humour. If he didn’t like something he would tell us straight, but he got us where we needed to go and added some cool touches. I should add that we recorded “Spank” and “Pink Skab” with Harvey Birrell at Southern Studios.”

MONSTERS OF THE NEW WAVE – “This is the pop side of the band. Maybe even the Pop Art side. It’s very Warhol-esque, re-framing images from the past into something brand new. The second verse is a list of the song titles on side one of KISS’s Hotter Than Hell album and there’s some Prince stuff in there too. I love the keyboard melody and the one note guitar solo. It’s a groovy song and has really stood the test of time.”

BRAND NEW TOY – “I had a friend who was in a band called Brand New Toy so I named a song in their honour, though the lyrics are not about them. Robin’s drum intro was inspired by The Police’s “Next To You“. My lyrical style was to mix things up, a deadly serious line followed by something funny. I always set the songs in a hyper world so it was never “should I come over and watch TV?”, it was always “should I come over and break your heart?”. This song has a cool riff that uses the tritone or ‘Devil’s Interval’ – a musical phrase that was banned in medieval times because it was said to drive whoever heard it insane.”

I GOT THE WORM – “A song about my lifelong battle with obsessive compulsive disorder. Some reviewers thought it was about tequila, but they were very wrong. This was the second single on our own label, Bitch Vinyl, and we didn’t have any money to hire a proper studio so we recorded this song in a really weird way. There was a small 8-track demo studio at our music publisher’s office that used a really obscure format called A-Dam (not A-Dat) and we recorded the drums on one tape, the guitars on another and then the bass, synths and vocals on another and got John Fryer to sync them all up when he mixed it. I remember taking a long time doing the vocals because I wanted a very specific sound, influenced by Dale Bozzio of Missing Persons. I sound like an androgynous robot. The song got playlisted on Xfm and people would tell me it made them sit up and listen when it came on the radio: “What the hell is this?!”.”

I WANNA BE YOUR DOLL – “The title is a sly spin on Iggy’s “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and the lyrics are about Catholic guilt, erotic automatons and Frankenstein’s monster. I think this was the first song we recorded from scratch with John Fryer and perhaps the first to feature Will playing his blue Rickenbacker guitar that he has used ever since – it’s an amazing sounding guitar and obviously Will is an amazing guitar player. If you listen really close you can hear the studio’s air con click in during the little gap between the middle 8 and the last chorus.”

LADIES & GENTS – “I wanted us to have a song with a drum intro like Toni Basil’s “Hey Mickey” or The Knack’s “My Sharona” and this is it. I feel like it could be from a musical or something. The lyrics are really funny – “Everybody knows that girls/boys are stupid, falling in love…”, etc. We had already recorded a version of the song that was included in the Taylor Hackford movie Mean Time but decided to do it again for the album. When it came time to do this one John Fryer told us, “This song is terrible – I don’t think it should be on the album.” We said, “Well, it’s going on!”, so he said, “I’m going to leave for a few hours, record it with the assistant engineer and let me know when you’re done!” and walked out! It was funny. I liked his no bullshit attitude.”

SPANK – “The “Spank” riff is so great. I think Will was playing it when I walked into rehearsal one day. I have to be honest, it’s a completely ridiculous song! The lyrics were partly inspired by the scene in the movie Jason and the Argonauts where the god Triton rises up out of the ocean to save the Argo and its crew from smashing into rocks. That scene really affected me when I saw it as a little kid. It’s also a spoof on the whole Eric Stanton S&M vibe. Most of the lyrics in Rachel Stamp are inspired by religion, mythology, pop art or weird movies I saw when I was a teenager. At the time, I was really good friends with Tairrie B, the singer of Tura Satana and My Ruin, so there’s a thinly veiled shout-out to her in the second verse. It’s kind of an ‘albatross’ song. It’s just this kind of joke song that became really popular and people expect us to play it live, but we rarely do. Perhaps we’ll play it at our upcoming London show…”

Most of the lyrics in Rachel Stamp are inspired by religion, mythology, pop art or weird movies I saw when I was a teenager.

– David Ryder Prangley

DIDN’T I BREAK MY HEART OVER YOU – “One of Rachel Stamp’s favourite bands, both as a collective and as individuals, is the Nymphs and I was obsessed with their cover version of Badfinger’s “Come And Get It” so I decided to write a song in that vein. Really noisy and sludgy but melodic. I wrote it very early on in the history of the band and the version on the album ends with a blow out jam and a lot of synthesizers and guitar feedback. It’s epic. I guess it’s not ‘power pop’ but ‘power sludge’.”

TAKE A HOLD OF YOURSELF – “The riff was inspired by ABBA and Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme. I think this song came out great, it’s probably the best sounding track on the album. The lyrics, well, they speak for themselves really… A music journalist once described Rachel Stamp as “big riffs and rude words” and I think this is a prime example of that.”

PINK SKAB – “Probably my favourite Rachel Stamp song. Will played that riff and I was immediately reminded of all those amazing Adam And The Ants B-sides so we called it “Pink Skab” in homage to “Red Scab“. The riff is just monstrous, with double tritones in it. Shaheena says some stuff in French at the end – again in homage to those Ants B-sides. The lyrics are about what it’s like to be the singer in a rock n’ roll band and the relationship with the audience, and how dangerous that is – “Now I’m nailed to your bedroom wall I’ve only got myself to blame”.”

The lyrics are about what it’s like to be the singer in a rock n’ roll band and the relationship with the audience, and how dangerous that is…

– David Ryder Prangley

DIRTY BONE – “”I am a sinner, born with an original sin”. Another song about religion and sex. Rachel Stamp lyrics are always really knowing – I was fully aware that I looked like a doll and that people thought I took myself too seriously so I would poke fun of my Rock and Roll Messiah complex in the songs. It went over a lot of people’s heads, I think. I should mention that I subconsciously stole the title from Rub Ultra. They had a song of the same name and I must have heard it and used it. I didn’t realise until years later. This one is always great live, it has that huge synth bass riff that Shaheena plays – I love it.”

MY SWEET ROSE – “This song was the first thing we recorded and released on our own label after we got dropped by WEA and it could be considered our first ‘hit’. There’s a crazy story attached to it – we had recorded a demo of it when we were still signed to WEA but they couldn’t see the potential in it and dropped the band. A couple of weeks after that our press officer at the label found the cassette on his desk and it didn’t have the name of the band on it. He played it and freaked out, telling everyone that this was a monster hit song and that the label should sign this band straight away! The A&R department had to sheepishly tell him it was us and that they had just ended our contract. It’s very influenced by Laurie Anderson and Fleetwood Mac, who I adore, and features an unusual guitar tuning. The version on the album was the third time we recorded it and I love this song. It really touched a lot of people. We’ve been very lucky to have an amazing audience over the years who connected with our music. That means the world to me.

We’ve been very lucky to have an amazing audience over the years who connected with our music. That means the world to me.

– David Ryder Prangley

“We originally released the album in February 2000 and I don’t feel that it’s dated at all. It was pretty ahead of its time, and a lot of the themes feel very current in 2023 so it’s great to have it re-issued now. It’s been fun to revisit it and listen to where we were at as people back then. Part of me is outraged, and I love that. I’m looking forward to playing the songs again.” – David Ryder Prangley

Hymns For Strange Children will be re-issued on CD and pink vinyl by Easy Action Records on 14th April – pre-orders are available here. Rachel Stamp will be performing a one-off London show at Islington Academy also on 14th April – ticket link here.

You can discover more of Rachel Stamp’s music on Bandcamp / Spotify and follow them on their social media channels: Facebook / Instagram.

David Ryder Prangley is currently working on his third solo album and can be found on Bandcamp / Facebook / Instagram.

Will Crewdson and Shaheena Dax also record and perform as She Made Me Do It: find out more on Bandcamp / Facebook / Instagram. Will’s solo project is Scant Regard: discover more on Bandcamp / Facebook / Instagram.

Robin Guy is the touring drummer with punk legends Sham 69.

This article is dedicated to Belle Star, RIP.

Introduction by Mandy Bang @mandybang
Article by David Ryder Prangley @davidryderprangleyofficial

Keep up to date with all new content on Joyzine via our
Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Mailing List

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: