Anthony Lees - an obituary

Posted by Chris Abbott on

We were informed that Anthony passed away as a result of an traffic incident in August 2016. This is very sad news indeed, and a great loss. We thought we'd pay tribute by asking Retro Gamer's Andrew Fisher for a fitting obituary.


Music was always an important part of Anthony's life. He learned how to play the clarinet when he was young and later played the alto sax and bassoon, and he would work with a choir for many years - conducting existing works and writing new music for them to perform. It was in the mid-1980s that he switched to a new instrument, the Commodore 64 computer. He wrote his own music player routine and entered a competition to compose music for a game known as Mindsmear. This would actually turn out to be an April Fool's gag by ZZAP! 64 magazine as the game did not exist, but Anthony's winning music drew the attention of System 3 owner Mark Cale. Anthony was chosen to work alongside established composer Ben Daglish to create the twelve tunes needed for System 3's epic new game, The Last Ninja. Splitting the work between them, Anthony composed six memorable pieces. His personal favourite was the jungle sounds of The Wilderness loader tune, drawing inspiration from Apocalypse Now. The spooky and unusual sounds of The Dungeon music really suited that section of the game, adding to the atmosphere.

Anthony would write new music for the planned sequel Last Ninja 2, but it was rejected for not fitting the style of the game. He joined up with developers Tarann and created the music and sound effects for Incredible Shrinking Sphere, including another memorable tune that played out on the title screen. He would go on to write music for budget games on the Firebird label, and tried to move on to the 16-bit Amiga and Atari ST computers - but much of his work would go unpublished.

As his music career was starting to take off, Anthony's father passed away and it affected him deeply. He changed course and joined the ranks of the Civil Service, with music becoming a hobby rather than his day job. But his Commodore 64 music lives on - thanks to many remixes and covers for people to enjoy. Some of his Last Ninja tunes were performed live by rock band Fastloaders in their recent gigs. Being part of a massive bestseller such as The Last Ninja was a high point in Anthony's life, touching thousands of people and creating lasting memories.

- Andrew Fisher

Which Last Ninja subtunes were Anthony's?

   NAME: The Wilderness (loader)
 AUTHOR: Anthony Lees
   NAME: Palace Gardens (loader)
 AUTHOR: Anthony Lees
COMMENT: "I did six tunes for LN, the first of which was the one involving the
         creepy jungle music (....which was and still is my favourite) - the
         inspiration is hard to nail down, but it was probably the film
         'Apocalypse Now' - very dense, troubled and scary moods were evoked."
         (Comment from Anthony Lees)
   NAME: The Palace (loader)
 AUTHOR: Anthony Lees
   NAME: The Inner Sanctum (loader)
 AUTHOR: Anthony Lees
COMMENT: Interesting comment in this binary: "DONE BY ANTHONY LEES FOR SYSTEM 3
         ON 5/4/87...EAT YER HEART OUT GALWAY!".
   NAME: The Dungeons
 AUTHOR: Anthony Lees
   NAME: The Palace
 AUTHOR: Anthony Lees


  • Just want to pay my respects. Best soundtrack ever made. RIP

    Ron Vorstermans on

  • I just found out about Ben Daglish. Shortly after I find out about Anthony Lees.

    Sad day. But the legendary Last Ninja soundtrack these gents have left us with, is one for the ages.

    I listened to the whole soundtrack this evening. I guess it’s just my way of paying respects.

    It would be great if somebody could unearth Anthony’s rejected Last Ninja 2 soundtrack.

    Jay on

  • His tunes remain in the memories—indeed, even now replayed—by thousands all over the world. Thank you Mr Lees.

    Nathan Laing on

  • Does anyone know what year the great Anthony was born?
    May he rest in peace.

    Bob Engstrand on

  • Listened to Max Hall’s 2nd “CHIP SID” broadcast on Radio Free Matlock last night,I was shocked to hear of the “recent” death of Anthony Lees,yet he had died in 2016?

    Very sad indeed for the scene,I wasn’t aware that Anythony had passed at that time.


    Michael Ferguson on

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