My Favourite Music #7: Chet Lam

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Chet Lam

Chet Lam is a pioneer independent singer-songwriter from Hong Kong. He composes his music, lyrics, arrangement and produces most of his songs all by himself, as well as writing many songs for other artists. His music genre is mostly city-folk and features the guitar prominently. He sings in Cantonese, Mandarin and English (and very occasionally in Spanish). He is a prolific artist, and has so far released more than 20 full albums and EPs over the past 20 years, as well as acting in stage plays, authoring a number of books including a travelogue and a cookbook. Chet is known as an avid traveller, and nowadays he no longer lives permanently in Hong Kong. In the past few years, he resided in cities such as Los Angeles, Belmopan, Yangon, Bogota, and currently he lives in Dublin.

Again in this blog, I will introduce few of my favourite songs by Chet, including links to YouTube and lyrics translated into English.

Suddenly Single

Suddenly Single was the first song from his debut album Pillow Songs in 2003. It was the theme song of the novel of the same name by Ye Zhiwei. The novel and the song were about a guy who thought he was in a loving long-term relationship but his boyfriend left him suddenly. The plot was not too different from the recent Netflix series Uncoupled (and yes, Chet is gay).

Chet sang an English version of the song in one of his concerts, so the English lyrics here are not translated by me. The English lyrics are of course not the exact translation of the Chinese ones, but they are close and kind of telling the same story.

突然獨身

曲、詞:林一峰

街中彷彿傾刻多了一對一對的
實際捉緊的頓變虛無
I'm all alone, alone again

家中開支縮減一半應該可慶祝
牙刷一雙多刺眼的溫馨
提示著我
有些空虛要快速消耗

Can have a one night stand, if you got a chance
Back to the wonderland, see some long lost friends
下個他 若太早得到
預測結果未必看好
I'm suddenly single

很想計算雙方總括得到多與少
時間花光 失去更加多
沿途在哭 晚節亦不保
有些壞心情 助長衰老

* Can have a one night stand, if you got a chance
Back to the wonderland, see some good old friends
下個他 若太早得到
預測結果未必看好

任性多一點 Let me have a go
誰人若願意聽 盡情地控訴
遇上他 令我不知所措

Repeat *

Can have a one night stand, if you got a chance
Back to the wonderland, see some long lost friends
下個他 沒法猜得到
但有幸碰著你在同路
I'm suddenly single
I'm happy I'm single
I'm suddenly single

Suddenly Single

music and lyrics by Chet Lam

Walking down the street, lovers oh so sweet
While I don't have one to call my own
I'm all alone, alone again

Toothbrushes in two got in my sight
In the mirror I tell myself
Fight the good fight...yeah right
Everything is gonna be alright

Can have a one night stand, if you got a chance
Back to the wonderland, see some good old friends
Who's my next? I'll put him on hold
My mind says yes my heart says no
I'm suddenly single

Treat yourself sleep yourself, just don't calculate
Only more to lose and more to waste
Cry all the way, what would they say?
There's a time to grief, a time to play

* Can have a one night stand, if you got a chance
Back to the wonderland, see some good old friends
Who's my next? I'll put him on hold
My mind says yes my heart says no

If I talk too much, let me have a go
If it's really too much I don't wanna know
There's my ex, don't let me lose control

Repeat *

Can have a one night stand, if you got a chance
Back to the wonderland, see some long lost friends
Who's my next? What else would follow?
But hey ain't we back on the road?
I'm happy I'm single
So happy I'm still single
On highway, on highway again

Leaving is for Coming Back

Leaving is for Coming Back was a 2003 song from his album Travelogue 1, the first of his four travelogue albums. The song described the contradicting feelings of escape and longing. For a traveller (not a tourist), the purpose of a trip is always more than a mere holiday. This is my favourite song about travelling, and is always on my playlist whenever I fly.

離開是為了回來 Leaving is for Coming Back

music and lyrics by Chet Lam

明天就要飛走
Tomorrow I'm flying out
朋友都輕鬆奉上祝福 旅途愉快
My friends casually offer their blessings, bon voyage
留低是個選擇
It's a choice to stay behind
離開亦未算放開一切壓抑
But leaving doesn't mean letting go of all the stress
如愛上一個人 一起上路
If I've fallen in love with someone and journeyed together
才驟覺尚有一些心野
Then realised that I still have some ambitions
行程未想好 起點經已太遠
The itinerary is not yet planned out, [but] the starting point is already too far behind

人進進出出在我生命
People come and go in my life
季節更改幻變天地 歲月流過
The seasons change, the world changes, and the years go by
遺憾若是放不下
If the regrets can't be left behind
仍可學習去感激得到過的
I can still learn to appreciate everything I've got
如放棄一個人 孤身上路
If I give up someone and travel alone
才驟覺尚有一些心軟
Then realised that I'm still bit soft-hearted
忙著讓傷口盡快風乾
Busy letting the wound dry up
沿路風光沒心機細看
No mood to watch the scenery
明明是太軟弱 偏裝作硬朗
Obviously I'm too weak but pretend to be tough

倘若結束 為了重新開始
If the end is for starting anew
乾掉了酒 為了重新斟滿
Emptying the glass is for refilling it again
旅途落泊 能讓記憶穩固
A rough journey can make the memory strong
偶然下雨 懷念陽光可愛
An occasional rain [can make you] miss the lovely sunshine
歡樂太短 為了回憶千次
The joyful time is too short, so [you can] recollect a thousand times
失掉瑰寶 為了尋找安慰
Losing the treasure, so [you can] find the consolation
我離別你 全為太專心愛
I leave you because I'm too focus in love
怕忘掉了世間的色彩
Afraid that I'll forget the colours of the world
離開 是為了回來
Leaving is for coming back

從機艙機望向跑道
Watching the runway from the plane cabin
迅速身處萬尺高空 我留下你
Swiftly reaching 10000 feet height, I left you behind
城市跟天空大概一樣
Perhaps cities are the same as the sky
容納著敵友 從不知道偏心
Accommodating friends and foes, never know bias
曾遇上幾個人 一心靠近
I've once met few people and tried to be close
才驟覺尚有 一些心癮
Then realised that I still have some scars in my heart
離別再上路 不管遠或近
I farewell and hit the road again, no matter how far or close

倘若結束 為了重新開始
If the end is for starting anew
乾掉了酒 為了重新斟滿
Emptying the glass is for refilling it again
旅途落泊 能讓記憶穩固
A rough journey can make the memory strong
偶然下雨 懷念陽光可愛
An occasional rain [can make you] miss the lovely sunshine
倘若痛哭 為了趁早解脫
If crying in anguish is for getting relief sooner
失掉瑰寶 為了尋找安慰
Losing the treasure, so [you can] find the consolation
我離別你 全為太專心愛
I leave you because I'm too focus in love
怕忘掉了世間的色彩
Afraid that I'll forget the colours of the world
離開 是為了回來
Leaving is for coming back

明天就要飛走
Tomorrow I'm flying out
朋友都輕鬆奉上祝福 旅途愉快
My friends casually offer their blessings, bon voyage

Should Have Taken a Picture

Should Have Taken a Picture was also from his Travelogue 1 album. Continuing on the travel theme, the song was about his encounter of a fellow traveller with whom he started travelling together, but had lost contact since. This reminds me of my own travel experience.

In 2017, Chet rearranged the song and released this new version with videos from his own travel, but I still prefer the original version better.

應該拍下照片 Should Have Taken a Picture

music by Chet Lam, lyrics by Chet Lam & Liu Pui-leung

記得玉桂的氣味
Remember the smell of cinnamon
記得秋天的假期
Remember the autumn holiday
卻總想不起我於哪個咖啡室邂逅你
But can't remember at which coffee shop I encountered you
然後再度重遇你
And then I met you again
拿著破地圖一起
Together with a broken map
到訪古堡跟雪地
Visited the castle and the snow

記憶這麼的細膩
The memory was so delicate
卻已分不清距離
But I can no longer tell the distance
也記不起跟你一起逛過幾千百萬哩
Can't remember travelling millions of miles with you
然後帶著行李
Then carried my luggage
留下快樂和驚喜
Leaving behind the happiness and surprises
踏上飛機返故地
Got on the plane and returned home

* 當天真的想不起
Really can't remember that day
或我不想記起
Or I don't want to remember
沒留下證據掛念遠方的你
I left no evidence to miss you from afar

# 應該拍下照片
Should have taken a picture
與過去近一點
To get closer to the past
即使好戲定會完
Although the good show must end
也會與記憶相見
I can still see you in memory
將瑣碎事捕捉
Capturing the trivial matters
放進相機光圈
Put into the camera aperture
讓被定格的幸福
Let the frozen happiness
進駐每格底片
Enter each frame of negatives
有證據有分寸
With evidence and dimension

怪要怪風光優美
Could only blame the beautiful scenery
我已不懂得吸氣
I didn't know how to breathe
握握手說高興邂逅你
Shook hands and said nice to meet you
然後我字條亂放
Then I hastily left behind a note
忙著找一個焦點
Busy finding a focus
然後孤單返故地
And travelled back on my own

Repeat * #

與過去再相見
Seeing the past again
與你再見一面
Seeing you once more
你我卻已經早改變
But you and I have already changed

Repeat # #

與過去再相見
Seeing the past again
記載我的想念
Recording my longing
有證據有分寸
With evidence and dimension

Visa. Time Difference. Air Mileage

Visa. Time Difference. Air Mileage was from his 2009 Mandarin album My Lonely Planet. This song again resonated with me as I grew older and travelled to many places. If you have followed my travelogue blogs, I have visited the places mentioned in this and many other of his songs, and my thoughts are the same as Chet.

簽證.時差.飛行哩數 Visa. Time Difference. Air Mileage

music and lyrics by Chet Lam

簽證一次一次提醒你 世界不是你的家
Visa once again reminds you that the world is not your home
暗地嚮往到處留情 只是個諷刺
Secretly yearning for love everywhere is just an irony
瀟灑其實更像笑話
Being carefree is more like a joke

獨自踱步在陌生城市 仰望褪色的銅像
Walking alone in the strange city, looking up at the faded bronze statue
嘗試擁抱多少不能抓住的剎那
Try to embrace how many moments that you can't grasp
惦記著遠方的時差
Thinking about the time difference in faraway places

From JFK to Heathrow
知道的越來越多 記得的越來越少
The more I know, the less I remember
From Narita to Charles de Gaulle
決定得越來越晚 放棄得越來越早
Committing later and later, giving up sooner and sooner
I don't know where to go
I don't know where to go
Anyway I will never be the same again
天涯海角 無處可逃
At the ends of the earth, there is nowhere to escape

里數無聲無色的累積 日換星移沒痕跡
Silently accumulating air mileages, the sun and stars move without a trace
追得到朝夕 追不回消失的記憶
I can chase the days, but not the lost memories
眨眼之間心在何地
In the blink of an eye, where does my heart belong?

From London to New York
新鮮的越來越多 留戀的越來越少
There are more and more fresh new things; there are less and less things I treasure
From Paris to Tokyo
版圖越來越大 世界越來越小
The map's getting bigger and bigger, the world's getting smaller and smaller
I don't know where to go
I don't know where to go
Anyway I will never be the same again
天涯海角 誰能預料
At the ends of the earth, who can anticipate?

Now come on, come on
Why don’t you sit by my side
You get nowhere to hide
Oh come on, come on
We all get nothing to lose
Really nothing but time
I don't know where it goes
I don't know where it goes
Anyway I will never be the same again
明天醒來 一切不再
Wake up tomorrow, everything's not the same

The Devil Grows with Me

The Devil Grows with Me was a 2007 Mandarin song from his ablum The Private Life of Chet Lam. It described him dreaming of his younger self, and was a raw confession of his childhood anxiety.

魔鬼與我同生 The Devil Grows with Me

music and lyrics by Chet Lam

昨夜我又夢見你
Last night I dreamt of you again
小小身軀埋在被窩裡
Your little body buried in the bed
生怕吸血鬼或什麼怪物來襲
Fearing vampires or some monsters attacking
凌晨一時還不敢睡去
Scared to fall asleep at 1am
小小腦袋常盤旋著什麼
What was that little mind thinking?
天花板的回音告訴你
The echo from the ceiling told you
你是個壞孩子
You were a bad kid
你是個壞孩子
You were a bad kid

昨夜我又夢見你
Last night I dreamt of you again
跟其它孩子混在一起
Mixing with other kids
在燦爛的陽光下
Under the bright sun
把一群一群螞蟻燒死
Burning swamps of ants to death
充滿歡笑的公園裡
In the park full of laughters
為偷來的糖果沾沾自喜
Secretly feeling happy about the stolen candies
在老師的面前
In front of the teacher
玩著純潔的把戲
Playing the innocent game

每天晚上你都在夢裡逃亡
Every night you fled to your dreams
夢的盡頭是個什麼地方
Where was it at the end of the dream?
不想提起的事
Things you didn't want to mention
不敢揭破的謊
Lies dared not to be exposed
你的臉孔那麼清晰
Your face looked so clear
我卻不想認出你
But I didn't want to recognise you

昨夜我又夢見你
Last night I dreamt of you again
小小身軀埋在校服裡
Your little body buried in the school uniform
為什麼你不想在操場裡
Why didn't you want to be in the playground
跟其它孩子一起流汗
To sweat with other kids?
是否因為不夠寬闊的肩膀
Was it because your shoulders were not wide enough?
是否不敢正視自己的慾望
Or were you afraid to face your own desire?
他身上的陽光
The sunshine on his body
你心裡的彷徨
The anxiety in your heart

昨夜我又夢見你
Last night I dreamt of you again
獨自在陽台上偷偷哭泣
Crying alone in the balcony
不相信去年的快樂已把你拋棄
Couldn't believe last year's happiness had abandoned you
不敢想明年會是什麼樣子
Couldn't imagine what next year would be like
而你終於知道
And finally you knew
你永遠不會成為天使
You would never become an angel
你只是個孩子
You were only a kid
你只是個孩子
You were only a kid

每天晚上我也在夢裡逃亡
Every night I also flee to my dreams
夢的盡頭是個什麼地方
Where is it at the end of the dream?
不想提起的事
Things I don't want to mention
不敢揭破的謊
Lies dare not to be exposed
你的臉孔那麼清晰
Your face looks so clear
我卻不想認出你
But I don't want to recognise you

Other songs

There are many other songs that I would highly recommend, and here are the links to some of these:

In addition, he has numerous songs on travelling, and here are some of his finest:

  • CL411 - Chet was born on 11th April, so CL411 was his own flight to the world: Los Angeles, Anchorage, Montreal, Toronto...I'll take my chances from San Francisco.
  • 遊子意 Heart of a Traveller - in every choice, there're regrets; in every regret, there're chances.
  • Vancouver Skyline - one of the most liveable cities in the world where many Hong Kongers migrated or want to emigrate to. This song was about those who tried unsuccessfully to stay and had to leave the city.
  • 都柏林 Dublin - a home away from home for Chet nowadays.
  • 紅沙漠 The Red Desert - while travelling on The Ghan, the epic train journey from Adelaide to Darwin, Chet met Sharon, a Scottish widow whose husband passed away 40 years ago. She promised to see the world for her husband before they met in heaven again.
  • 向著陽光 Facing the Sun - Chet travelling in New Zealand. A song full of positive energy.
  • Thanks L.A., It's Been Great - a farewell to Los Angeles and a long-term relationship.
  • 出走 Runaway - Chet hit the roads again.

Finally, Chet also covered a lot of songs from other people. For example, you can check out his interesting album Camping, in which he covered songs from ABBA, Madonna to Pet Shop Boys etc.

I used to like Chet Lam a lot in the past, and Pillow Songs and Travelogue 1 are two of my most loved CDs. But as you may have noticed, most of my favourite songs from him were more than 10 years ago. In fact, I don't enjoy his latest music much, which is a pity.

Unlike other outspoken artists, Chet maintains his ambiguous stance towards politics and social issues. His younger sister Eman recently embroiled herself in great controversy by releasing a patriotic song on July 1st this year, the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong returning to Chinese rule. Unfortunately Chet also copped criticisms towards him online as a result. To be honest, I struggled on whether to write a blog about Chet Lam. But as I went through all his music again for this blog, I found myself still very fond of his music, and his songs and lyrics will always have an impact on me.

My collection of Chet's CDs, DVDs and books. Unfortunately I don't have a CD/DVD player at home anymore.
+1
Level 64
Aug 19, 2022
My parents probably would like this music
+1
Level 66
Aug 19, 2022
I'm probably similar age to your parents lol