This sweeping romantic number about two lovers planning a rendezvous features orchestrations from Van Dyke Parks
and was written by Goffin and songwriting partner Billy Harvey, who was originally supposed to sing on the tune until Rufus Wainwright was brought on board. Goffin told Songfacts
how the song came together:
"That song started off with a bouncy beat on a Wurlitzer electric keyboard. The chords were almost random. I liked the title 'Chinatown' and we were riffing on the lyric from there, but then it was lunchtime and we were hungry and only a few miles away from Chinatown [in LA] so we drove there for Chinese food. After we went back to the song and all the images poured out.
On another day we thought we'd try to play the song slower and with all the chord changes it had a dark meditative landscape with just piano, guitar and vocals. It was never in our minds that it would turn into the sweeping orchestral romance that Van Dyke Parks brought to it. Van Dyke loved the song and took it those heights.
I told him I loved what he'd done with Rufus Wainwright and then we asked Rufus if he would duet on it with me. Billy is a big Rufus fan and he kids me about getting replaced by him. You know, it's a brag to get a song you wrote sung by Rufus, even if he did kick you off the duet."