Whenever anyone asks me what my favourite accidental barbershop harmony is – and let’s face it, this happens a lot – I point them toward the 45-second mark of the secret track at the end of my old band Big Day Out’s Seven Heavenly Lemony Lemons From a Seven-Eleven in Devon album.
(Listening to that just cheered me up.)
The scene where the above recording took place was colloquially known as the Red Room in my old flat (appropriately above a Barbershop in Hitchin) and the date was late 2001. The personnel behind the doo-wop were me, the band’s drummer Chris Hollis, and my flatmate, the actor David Garrud – and the inspiration behind it was McDonald's now long-defunct Supersize Deal.
I can’t remember what brought the song about, but I suspect we'd just had McDonald's takeaway. Whatever the reason, one thing led to another and I picked up my acoustic and started to chug my way through a simple 12-bar blues riff. It wasn’t unusual for Chris and me to improvise comic songs (a couple of them ended up in his comedy band Spandex Ballet’s repertoire in later years), nor was it strange for Dave to be about when we did it; I'm just glad I had the foresight to document this particular one with my Dictaphone.
What made the song special was the ending. We’d sketched out a harmony to finish on, but when it came to it, we got the arrangement wrong, but what came from our larynxes was far better than what we'd planned. It was a musical fluke Brian Wilson would be proud of. We marvelled at that last ‘supersize deal’ for weeks; we must have been starved for entertainment.
As an aside, I can recall my band having a long discussion over whether the ‘Lemony’ in the title ‘Seven Heavenly Lemony Lemons From A Seven-Eleven in Devon’ was a step too far. We only went with the name because we wanted something that would be difficult for a DJ to say on the radio. It could have been worse; we nearly called it ‘The Llama Palaver’. It’s fair to say that Big Day Out were dicks.