Tales of how groups come together are usually predictable and more often than not disappointing. There’s a good chance the members of your favourite band grew up in the same town, or went to the same school, and maybe they acquired a drummer by placing an ad in the Melody Maker - or if you’re younger, they might well have formed on the telly, like One Direction.
Thankfully there are some exceptions to these unsurprising scenarios, and some outfits were thrown together in peculiar circumstances that could be described as serendipitous. Here are nine band origin stories where fate played its part with uncharacteristic flamboyance.
1. Hall & Oates
Pennsylvanian yacht rock legends Daryl Hall and John Oates might have become famous for their slick sounds, but their initial meeting was anything but smooth. The Kiss On My List hitmakers were both due on stage in different acts at the Adelphi Ballroom in West Philadelphia one night in 1967, when an almighty ruckus broke out amongst some frat boys. Things soon escalated, with knives and chains appearing, followed by a panic as shots rang out.
“We were on the upper floor and there was a lift down to the street, so I ran and jumped into it, and John Oates was in it too,” Hall told the Independent. “I said, 'Oh, well, you didn't get to go on, either. How ya doin'? You go to Temple University, I go to Temple University. See you later, bye.' And that was it, that's how we met.” The pair began to see each other around more often as they socialised in similar circles. A shared interest in music led to them firstly becoming roommates, and ultimately to six American No.1 singles, selling 13 million albums in the US alone.
2. Joanna Gruesome
With a name like Joanna Gruesome and an early fondness for all things twee, you’d think the Cardiff-based musicians might be pushovers. Their beginnings are surprisingly bad tempered however, with no cupcakes or vintage fairs involved in the biog. The noise pop quintet actually met at anger management classes after they were sent there by teachers at their alma mater.
In 2013 vocalist and guitarist Owen Williams told Interview that they met there in 2010: 'We all got sent there. We were in school at that point and we all got sent to this thing where if you were bad in school, they sent you to anger management courses, and we all met on one that was focused on musical therapy, where you’re all bound together to produce little songs with the group."
3. Pet Shop Boys
Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe’s first meeting actually took place in a real shop, though no animals were involved. The fateful meeting took place in a Chelsea electronics shop in 1981, and a casual natter about synthesisers would eventually lead to a great friendship and one of the most successful and enduring partnerships in UK pop. The pair's first musical dalliance together was ambitious - the song Jealousy was written with such scale in mind that they hoped one day Ennio Morricone would produce it; they had to settle for Harold Faltermeyer on their fourth album Behaviour, complete with synth-sampled orchestra, which isn’t the worst compromise.
Neil, who famously worked as assistant editor at Smash Hits back in the early 80s, had also been secretly writing songs for years: "I'd already had my career - which of course wasn't really a career - in my bedroom as a singer/songwriter,” he told the Independent. "Chris absolutely loathes the entire concept of that kind of music: his hatred and detestation for it is quite beyond belief." Taking note, the singer adapted his writing style to be "more sexy, more current", and soon the pair had written the bulk of their early hits, including West End Girls, Rent and It's a Sin.
4. The Replacements
Paul Westerberg’s recruitment by post-punk pioneers The Replacements is an American tale of slackerdom so full of odd detail that it could have been written by Thomas Pynchon. While working as the janitor for US senator David Durenberger during the late 70’s, Westerberg discovered a band called Dogbreath practicing Yes covers in a basement on his way home from work. Though he hated the progressive rockers they were attempting to emulate, his fascination with the group in the basement led to him hiding in the bushes each night listening to them play.
He eventually became acquainted with Dogbreath and even suggested that the singer from his own band Oates audition when they were on the lookout for a vocalist, though when it looked as though they’d found their man, Westerberg staged an intervention."I pulled him aside afterwards and told him that I liked his singing, but the other guys weren’t into it," he told Magnet Magazine more than 35 years later. "I told them he wasn't into it and I would sing until we found somebody else."
Westerberg taught his new band Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers covers passing them off as his own work. The Replacements would eventually go on to become cult heroes with songs they made up themselves, even scoring something approximating a mainstream hit with I’ll Be You in 1989 (it reached No.51 on the Billboard chart).
5. Bombay Bicycle Club
The tale of how the core of indie rock outfit Bombay Bicycle Club came together is the usual story involving friends from school, though the recruitment of their bass player Ed Nash was a little more unusual, not to mention macabre.
"It's quite a dark story," Nash told Front Row Boston, "but I’m happy to talk about. So the other three guys started a band, as they all went to school together. I went to a different school just down the road in North London. And we knew each other vaguely from parties and just hanging out.
"And one of our mutual friends passed away and we were all at the funeral, and they needed someone to help out at a gig they were playing the next weekend. I had played in some other bands at the time and I just did it to help out and obviously things went from there. I guess it was meant to be a one-off thing at the time."
6. The Slits
Seminal punks The Slits dispensed with one bass player and hired another in the strangest of circumstances in 1976. As a member of the fledgeling all-female group The Castrators, guitarist Tessa Pollitt had appeared in a Sunday tabloid in a feature about female punk rockers, and it caught the eye of Ari Up and Palmolive.
"Originally The Slits had another bass player called Suzie Gutsy," Pollitt told Loud and Quiet in 2009, during a second incarnation of the band that was sadly cut short by the death of Ari Up the following year. "I met The Slits through this News of the World article that was written about women in punk right at the beginning. Ari came round to my flat and she really liked all this poetry I had written on the wall. Suzie Gutsy got kicked out and I joined, that was it really. I was playing guitar before and so I had to learn bass in 2 weeks for our first gig and that was at The Roxy in Harlesden."
7. Let's Eat Grandma
There’s nothing unusual about childhood friends forming a band together, but the way Jenny Hollingworth and Rosa Walton first bonded is like a scene straight out of the movie Ginger Snaps. According to Pitchfork, the “wonderfully weird duo” came together thanks to one appreciating the other’s depiction of a giant, slimy, turquoise and orange snail created in their kindergarten art class. The admiring critical glances took place at pre-school in their hometown of Norwich, which prompted Walton to ask: "Hi, do you want to be my friend?"
The critically-acclaimed Let’s Eat Grandma are all set to release their second album I’m All Ears on June 29th. Interesting fact: Snails don’t actually have ears, but they can detect noise through vibrations.
8. Bow Wow Wow
You can’t keep a good situationist Svengali down for long, as proved by the late great Malcolm McLaren after the messy demise of the Sex Pistols in early 1978. McLaren teamed up ex-members of Adam and the Ants with the teenage singer Annabella Lwin, who he had discovered - via a scout - singing in a London launderette in late ‘79. The Anglo-Burmese singer was just 14 when Bow Wow Wow brought their Burundi beat to the world, with songs like Go Wild In The Country troubling the UK top 10 in 1982.
Lwin was fortuitously spotted singing at Shamrocks Dry Cleaners in West Hampstead by an A&R working for McLaren: "I used to sing along to the Top 40 radio every Saturday morning, and the scout came in to the dry cleaners and I guess he heard me singing to the radio,” she told Ham & High. "He came in quite often and one day he asked if I sang professionally, and I said no. He said: 'There’s a band looking for a singer, and you sound like you can sing. Would you come to an audition?' I said: 'I'm at school and I'm 13-and-a-half.' But he said I could take a friend, so I did, and the rest is history."
9. Harry Styles
Not a band, technically, though the former One Direction heartthrob locally sourced his guitarist to improve the ingredients of his chart topping twelve-inches. “I found my bandmate Mitch in a pizza shop,” Harry told Radio 2’s Chris Evans: "He had never been in a studio before but he was an absolute monster as a musician and now he is one of my best friends."
Mitch Rowland is now a member of both the writing team behind Harry’s eponymously titled debut and as one of his touring band - taking off frequently for trips around the world - which means he’s probably not short of dough these days.