Robin Lee: 50 Songs I Love

The author, painter, death-dodger and adventurer Robin Lee talks us through the sounds that defined him, from The Carpenters to Sex Pistols.
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1. Nanou 2 – Aphex Twin

There’s many facets to Aphex Twin, his body of work is incredible. This is one of his many melancholy moments.

2. Stink – Arab Strap

Mint band! ‘Burn these sheets that we’ve just fucked in’ what a great opening line.

3. Superstar – The Carpenters

Put this on and tell me you don’t sing your bollocks off at the chorus! She could have done with a bag of chips though. I heard they shagged each other….

4. The Vehicle - The Ides of March

I found a 7” of this in a bin in Hull when I was doing my paper round, aged about 13. I took it home and must have played it 20 times in a row. What a find! It remains one of my favourite songs. The guitar solo and horns are mint!

5. Rae – Autechre

I lived in Sheffield in the early 90s, when Warp Records was founded, and knew some of those involved. I didn’t pay their stuff much attention at the time, since then Warp Records have become my drugs.

6. Uptown Top Ranking – Althia and Donna

For many their first introduction to ska, or at least something with a recognisable off-beat, it sounded completely different from anything else at the time, and still does.

7. Best Friend– The Beat

Bought this on 7” from an ex-jukebox record stall in Hull market for 30 pence. The Beat were a superb band.

8. Everybody’s got something to hide except for me and my monkey - The Beatles

It’s boring how much people shit on about them, but side 3 of The White Album is ace.

9. Nite Klub (live version from Dance Craze) - The Specials

What a band. Wish they’d stop again now though, theyre like a 3 legged dog.

10. One Armed Scissor – At the Drive-in

I spent a few months in the south of France nursing someone who was dying of lung cancer, I’m still bothered by it. Whenever I could I would play this at full blast on my iPod. It served to remove me from the situation for 4 minutes, such is it’s ferocity.

11. If I'm Lucky I Might Get Picked Up – Betty Davis

By her own admission a ‘Dirty funky beeeatch’ with lyrics like ‘I sat wiggling my fanny….this is my night out’ I tend to agree.

12. Young Man Blues (Live at Leeds) –The Who

Townshend and Entwhistle are the Knitting needles, Moon is the wool. I love The Who but I wish they’d stop touring too. They’re a comedy tribute act of themselves.

13. Boot-leg - Booker T and the MGs

Grimy funky bastard.

14. Prince - Hot Thing

Prince blows my head off. I rarely bother going to gigs now, because there is no way they are ever going to be as good as the dozen or so Prince gigs I’ve been to. Impossible to get my favourite Prince songs down to less than about 25, so this is an example of his minimalism. A drum machine and a saxophone is all he needs.

15. Sometimes It Snows In April – Prince

I saw him play this in 1986. I blubbed like a baby.

16. The Ballad of Dorothy Parker – Prince

Effortlessly cool and funky. I’ll leave Prince there, otherwise this list will be all Prince.

17. Wichita Lineman – Glen Campbell

This song defines the word melancholy.


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18. I Want the One I Can't Have - The Smiths

I was pissed in an ‘80s night’ in a late bar in Soho the other week, all the usual stuff got played, Duran, Abba, Soft Cell, then this came on, the place fuckin’erupted.

19. Broken Heart – Spiritualized

If this song does not affect you you’re probably autistic.

20. All Things To All Men – Cinematic Orchestra

They’ve done some great work. You will have heard their stuff, as it’s become the ‘go-to’for TV editors.

21. One Better Day – Madness

They are so much more than a nutty pop band, as this shows.

22. Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) - Marvin Gaye

His dad shot him over money, what a cunt. I once went out with a girl solely because her mother had shagged Marvin, I thought that going out with someone who had come out of something that he had been in made me closer to greatness. She was in my phone as ‘Julia Marvin’. She was a bit mental….. should have just shagged her mother!!

23. The Wagon -Dinosaur Jr

They’ve been doing the same thing for 30 years, and it’s still brilliant.

24. Rebel Rebel – David Bowie

Could have chosen about 20 of his. People like to get pretentious about Bowie. I reckon he’s just a bloke who likes a laugh, a shag, a fry up, giggles when he farts and has a cheeky wank when his missus is out…and has produces some incredible moments.

25. The Grid – Phillip Glass

‘Full fuckin’ diddly!

26. Burn It Down – Dexys Midnight Runners

You either get Kevin Roland or you don’t. If you don’t I’m not going to bother convincing you. Neither is he. It’s your loss. ‘Shut your fuckin’ mouth till you know the truth’ well said son!

27. Bodies – Sex Pistols

Screaming fucking bloody mess’ ………need I say more?

28. British People In Hot Weather – The Fall

Is he a drunken horrible idiot or an erudite minimalist poet? Who cares? Who says you can’t be both, and be great regardless? It’s not like you’re inviting him to your wedding.

29. My Red Hot Car – Squarepusher

The place where funk meets electronica. It’s actually called ‘My Red Hot Cock’ and blows my head off whenever I hear it.

30. The Needles Eye – Gil Scott Heron

Getting into Gil will bring a great quality to your life. Start with ‘Pieces Of A Man’.

31. Pull Up To The Bumper – Grace Jones

Superb song, great groove, lush production ………..and it must be the first, and last, chart hit about anal sex!

32. Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose – James Brown

So filthy funky it’s in the gutter. From the finest album he ever did ‘In the Jungle Groove’.

33. Stand – Sly and the Family Stone

What a talent. Pity the freebase took over.

34. I Got the Music in Me – Kiki Dee

Put it on, see how you feel. It’s a tonic.

35. Waterloo Sunset – The Kinks

Ride across WaterlooBridge at dusk on a Lambretta. It’s as life affirming as this song.

36. Son Of A Gun (BBC session) – The La’s 

2 minutes of scally magic.

37. Everlasting love – Love Affair

Belting tune!

38. Workin' Day And Night – Michael Jackon

Before he turned white and started rummaging in places he shouldn’t have he did ‘Off The Wall’. A great album. Surely having 3 consecutive albums called ‘Thriller’,‘Bad’ and ‘Dangerous’ should have been enough for him to be flagged with social services?

39. Black Satin – Miles Davis

From the period when he started putting his trumpet through guitar effects pedals.

40. Honey Power – My Bloody Valentine

Not even Prince would be able to reproduce the noise that MBV make.

41. Saturday Sun – Nick Drake

The confused posh boy did some excellent stuff.

42. Wild is the wind – Nina Simone

Bewitching. The maddest people are the most interesting.

43. Boy About Town – The Jam

The theme tune of ten thousand Mods.

44. Into the White – Pixies

There’s many a great Pixies tune, this is the nearest thing they got to ‘groovy’.

45. Driver 8 – R.E.M

Their lifespan far outlasted their creativity unfortunately, but when they were good they were scorching.

46. Saeglopur – Sigur Ros

They are used as ‘atmospheric’ music on telly far too often, regardless, some of their stuff is breathtaking.

47. Knocks Me Off My Feet – Stevie Wonder

He was blind when he wrote this!!!

48. Flawed – Swervedriver

This band should have been massive. There is no justice.

49. Ascension Day – Talk Talk

The last 3 Talk Talk albums are incredible pieces of work.

50. Theme De YoYo – The Art Ensemble of Chicago

With words like ‘your voice is like a long fuck that’s music to my ears’ plus horns and killer groove underneath how can it fail?