Happy Hour – the buns behind the song

Or, Stan Cullimore on the role of buns in songwriting.

Paul Nichols headshot
  • By Paul Nichols
  • 29 Sep 2011
  • min read
One-time Housemartin Stan Cullimore remembers how buns were involved in writing Happy Hour.

"I’ve been involved in writing quite a few songs over the years. But probably the most widely played/sold /listened to song I’ve ever been involved with is one called Happy Hour. Which is odd, because of all the songs I’ve ever written, or in this case co-written, it was one of the quickest and easiest to finish. Let me explain.

"At the time, my writing partner Paul Heaton (nowadays one of the singer/songwriters behind The Beautiful South) and I used to meet up in my flat to write. In the morning Paul would arrive with a book full of lyrics and I would pull out a book full of chord patterns which I’d worked on. This particular day, we’d been thrashing away for a couple of hours without much success. I was bored of working and wanted a ‘bun break’. This meant strolling off to the local bun shop and treating ourselves to a couple of custard slices, or similar. At the time I lived off a diet of beer and buns.

"Anyhow, Paul decided that we ought to earn our buns and write a song before we had a break. I agreed. So he pulled out some lyrics which mainly consisted of a list of grumbles about an office job he’d once had. I started strumming a pretty obvious set of chord changes and Paul quickly came up with a nice verse melody. Next we had to find something for a bridge. By this time, I was getting quite peckish, so I simply strummed a single chord (B flat I think it was) and we quickly got a melody that worked over it. Now it was time for the chorus, so I suggested we just use the same chords as the verse (come on, I was hungry!), so we did.

"Paul wrote a delightful melody and I just shouted out ‘happy hour’ in the background. By this time we’d spent about fifteen minutes working on it, so we called it a day and went for a bun break".

Just shows that sometimes keeping it simple can best, or at least, popular.