Soundtrack to School Memories: Hong Kong in the Seventies

When producing this 70s-themed video to help SKH Lam Woo Memorial Secondary School celebrate its 40th anniversary, I wanted to use Hong Kong tracks from the period to create a nostalgic feel. Thus, I began my research foray into the 70s music scene in Hong Kong. The following is a description of the soundtrack.


Track 1. Sam Hui (Hui Koon-kit): Leaves that are Green

Sam Hui

The video opens with Sam Hui’s 1970 interpretation of Leaves that are Green (written by Simon and Garfunkel). Sam Hui was arguably the biggest star in the 70s and is credited with popularizing Cantopop. His success earned him the nickname ‘God of Song’. He started out as a singer in an English language rock cover band—The Lotus—during the late 1960s. During the early 70s, he mainly released English language albums. I had originally planned to open the video with his version of Time of the Season, but Leaves of Green, with its nostalgic feel, lyrics about the passage of time and heavy reverb, seemed to work better with the opening images. I think that one thing that made Sam Hui such a success was that he paid his dues working his way up from being a singer in a club rock band to being the leading singer of the day. His early exposure to, and experience with American and British rock helped him develop a wide stylistic range.


Track 2. Paula Tsui  (徐小鳳): 風雨同路

Paula Tsui

My selection for the second song changed a few times. This song by Paula Tsui, another famous singer of the era, was chosen for its lovely melody. Pop songs with this kind of lyrical Chinese folk melody fell out of fashion in the 80s, so the song’s style helps create a 70s feel. Though the song is a soft ballad, you can still hear the power and depth of Paula’s singing. Originally, I had been using  啼笑姻緣 (the theme from the television series Fatal Irony). This had an even stronger Chinese folk feel and is culturally important as it is considered the first very popular Cantonese pop song. Before the seventies, Hong Kong pop music tended to be sung in Putonghua or English. The original version is performed by Sandra Lang (仙杜拉), though I prefer the  more up-tempo version by Rose Cheung (舒雅頌). Eventually, I dropped this song as it seemed a little too romantic for the video.


Track 3. Sam Hui: 雙星情歌

This lyrical song is the love theme from the film Games Gamblers Play. Sam was also well known as an actor, particularly in the Hui brothers comedies produced by his brother Michael Hui.


Track  4. The Wynners (溫拿) : Reflections of My Life

The Wynners

The Wynners were a five piece band featuring Alan Tam (vocals), Kenny Bee (vocals), Bennett Pang (guitar), Danny Yip (bass guitar) and Anthony Chan (drums). The members later pursued solo careers with Alan Tam becoming one of the biggest Cantopop stars of the 1980s. Reflections of My Life was originally recorded in 1969 by the Scottish band Marmalade.  The song evokes a nostalgic mood and a longing for a better time. The music is uplifting, but the lyrics are actually depressing. I avoided most of the negative lines in the lyrics (like “the world is a bad place / a bad place / a terrible place to live”).


Track 5. Sam Hui: 梨渦淺笑

Back to Sam Hui again. His output in the seventies is so rich and embraces such a wide range of styles that the entire soundtrack could have been made up of his songs. Originally I had been using the much more rocking 半斤八兩 (Theme from The Private Eyes), but that song’s lyrics about the harsh plight of the working class didn’t seem to suit the images of the hopeful students (many of the photos in this section seemed from the students’ graduation day).  In the end, I opted for another of the songs from the same film, though I do miss the energy the Private Eyes song gave to the middle of the video. Here is the theme song:


Track 6.  Frances Yip (葉麗儀): The Way We Were

Frances Yip

I generally don’t go for big, classic ballads like this, but the message and melody fit the video well. The 1975 song is Frances Yip’s cover of the academy-award-winning-theme from the 1973 film The Way We Were. (originally recorded by Barbara Streisand).


Track 7. The Wynners: Shalala Lala

I got the idea for using this song when I saw some students at school perform it for an English singing contests. They looked like they were enjoying the song so much, so I thought it might fit in the video. It was originally recorded in 1973 by the Danish band The Walkers (I had thought it was from the early or mid sixties) and was more recently popularized by Vengaboys in 2000. The Wynners version was recorded in 1974. Though the song is fast, the edits in this section are not. This is because I found the backgrounds in many of the pictures to be very interesting. In a lot of shots, the athletics track seems to be pressed right against tenement blocks. Now the sports days are held in modern stadiums and I would guess that a lot of the buildings in the background have since been torn down.


Track 8. Roman Tam (羅文): 獅子山下

Roman Tam

This was the theme song for a hit series (Below the Lion Rock) broadcast on ATV describing the lives of ordinary Hong Kong residents.  The show is considered a reflection of Hong Kong’s emerging cultural identity during the seventies and eighties, while Roman Tam, who passed away in 2002, is regarded as the ‘Godfather of Cantpop’. Lion Rock refers to a rock formation that looks like a  . . . lion (you can see it in the video in the background at 7 min. 9 sec.). The area ‘below Lion Rock’ would be working class districts like Shek Kip Mei and Sham Shui Po. The song was written in 1979 by Joesph Koo and James Wong Jim. Wong Jim (黃霑) is one of the most famous lyricists in Hong Kong (writing lyrics to be sung in Cantonese is particularly difficult because it is a tonal dialect with nine tones; well-written lyrics match the natural tone movement of the words to the melody of the song).


Eighties Teaser. Leslie Cheung (張國榮): Stand Up

Leslie Cheung was one of the biggest names in singing and acting during the eighties and nineties before his tragic death in 2003. He is best known for his ballads, but he also performed over-the-top lively numbers like Monica and Stand Up.


Unused. Michael Kwan (關正傑): 大地恩情

I had also planned to use a song by Michael Kwan—大地恩情—but I simply didn’t have enough photographs to make the video one song longer.


Copyright Issues

As only relatively brief excerpts of the songs are used and the purpose of the soundtrack is to introduce today’s students to the music and culture of the seventies in Hong Kong, I believe the use of the songs falls within the provisions of Fair Use.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s