Some time ago I was sitting on a bus with a token playlist of songs that had influenced my life in some way or another. Being somewhat refreshed, I started thinking of all the times that these songs had become significant and thought, wouldn’t it be an excellent idea to delve into other people’s ‘Life Record Boxes’.
Today is the turn of a truly gifted gentleman. Sing J. Lee is an award winning director and filmmaker and has worked with the likes of PINS, Chvrches and Skunk Anansie. Please immerse yourself in his work: singjlee.com
THE CLASH – STRAIGHT TO HELL
My school friend Kenny shoved From Here to Eternity into my hands at 12 years old.
The line “lemme tell you about your blood, bamboo kid, it ain’t coca cola, it’s rice” spoke volumes to me as a young teenager. Strummer was talking about the mixed raced Vietnamese children born from G.I’s during the Vietnamese War, but as a first generation Chinese kid born here, brought up in a mix of cultures, that line had weight.
NEW YORK DOLLS – PILLS
The New York Dolls were everything to me at 18. Johnny Thunders in particular. I remember standing at the front of a New York Dolls show in Liverpool yelling “PILLS! PILLS! PILLS!” with my mate, just because we’d read they’d shouted the same to Bo Diddley at his show back in the 60s. We had the flu and the heat was just too much. We gave up our space at the front for a respite at the bar, only to hear them start Pills.
YEAH YEAH YEAHS – ROCKERS TO SWALLOW
Nick Zinner was my hero when I was in a band. The way he used his guitar was just something else. He made unique music out of the noise and feedback, the flaws and sounds that fall between the cracks. He still is one of the most iconic musicians in modern music to me.
PATTI SMITH – BECAUSE THE NIGHT
Probably her most commercially successful, this song introduced me into Patti’s world – falling in love with her written work and eventually her memoirs Just Kids. I’d love to work with her in some capacity, I can’t deny I dream of directing her biopic.
PIXIES – WHERE IS MY MIND
2007, back when I was in a band, we were travelling back from a show in a huge transit van. The driver was DUI, which we didn’t know at the time and flipped the vehicle on the motorway. We went through the central reservation on our side, sparks flying everywhere. For my closest brush with death, it was a strangely calm and very noisy experience. This song was playing just before we crashed, oddly poignant. Miraculously, no one was hurt.
TOM WAITS – KENTUCKY AVENUE
I remember mopping the floor of the bar I used to work at to this and listening to the entirety of Blue Valentine before locking up with my old boss.
Ever the romantic.
MADEON – POP CULTURE
Hugo is a 19-year-old genius. When this came out, I was blown away by this guy’s ear for deconstructing music. I think it was this mash up that single-handedly drew me into this whole world of French touch, electro pop, EDM and house. It had aggression and it was saying something musically. Above all else, it’s the type of music I love making promos for.
CHVRCHES – THE MOTHER WE SHARE
Although this could be seen as a cliché, it has to go in this list. I loved this track a year before I had the unbelievable opportunity to shoot a music video for it. As with all CHVRCHES songs, there’s a big heart to their lyrics, set to incredible rhythm and melody.
R KELLY – IGNITION
This song has been one of those that has just stayed in the periphery of my life.
I love it, unashamedly. It was even the song that took us into this New Year at a crazy retro future NYE party in Islington Mill, Manchester. I took it as a good sign.
THE NATIONAL – DON’T SWALLOW THE CAP
The obligatory love song in this list. The National were an act that snuck up on me. I never really listened to them properly until a couple months ago. Matt Berninger’s words seduced me completely, that whole album is poetry. The line in this song “I only have two emotions, careful fear and dead devotion” made so much sense to me at the moment of first listen.