One Night In Bangkok

Album: Chess - Original Movie Soundtrack (1984)
Charted: 12 3
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  • The song tells of the meeting of two great chess players, one Soviet and one American, in Bangkok, which is the capital of Thailand. Chess is a musical production that uses a US-USSR chess rivalry as a metaphor for the Cold War, but this song just contains double-entendres about the game of Chess compared to the Bangkok nightlife. The example often used is "I would invite you, but the queens we use would not excite you."
  • Chess was a musical that premiered in London's West End. This song was written for the 1984 concept album, which was recorded well ahead of the production. The album was very successful considering it was for a musical. The album charted in the Top 10 in the UK, #47 in the US, and #1 in Sweden. Another song from the album, "I Know Him So Well," held the #1 spot in the UK for four weeks in February 1985, being deposed by "You Spin Me Right Round" by Dead or Alive. The Broadway production of Chess was heavily altered and unsuccessful. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Ryan - New York, NY
  • Along with the rest of the songs from Chess, the music was written by Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson of ABBA, and Tim Rice wrote the lyrics. Rice has written for many film and theatrical productions, including the song "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" from The Lion King.
  • A little over 2 minutes into this song, there is a flute solo using a difficult flutter tongue technique similar to that used on many Jethro Tull songs. It was played by a Swedish musician named Bjorn Jason Lindh.
  • Murray Head is an actor who has been in several movies and stage productions. He is barely out of the one-hit-wonder category because of his 1971 version of "Superstar" from the Jesus Christ Superstar production where he played Judas. It his #14 in the US in 1971.
  • Before Murray went to Mill Hill he had been at Hampton Grammar School with Paul Samwell-Smith (ex-Yardbirds & Cat Stevens' producer) In 1975 Paul Samwell Smith made a record of Murray's songs for Islands Records. The album Say It Ain't So became a cult album in France. His father was Seafield Head, a documentary maker, and is Mother was Helen Shingler, an actress who played Mrs. Maigret alongside Rupert Davies as Maigret in the 60's TV series of the same name. His younger brother is Anthony 'Little Britain' Head. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Ed - Cobham, England
  • A dance remix by the German production team Vinylshakerz was released in 2005.
  • Mike Tyson performs this in the 2011 movie The Hangover 2, which of course takes place mostly in Bangkok. Tyson appears as a surprise wedding guest and takes the stage near the end of the movie.

Comments: 14

  • Richard Lambert from UsYou all are obviously deep into the technical side of this. Probably correct in all of the of the relationships and background. Probably spot on in the context you are working it. But have to say from a guy who has done some traveling, one evening I found myself wandering the streets of Bangkok humming the song while singing the words, and the "double-entendres" stand up very clearly on their own, very literally, down to the queens reference. So much so it is real hard to see the relevance or even the presence of the US v Russia rivalry, the Cold War or a Chess competition.
  • Bearcat M. Sandor from Montana UsaWhat is the song playing in the background at about 3:20. It sounds like "How can I see her?", and what's the significance?
  • Andreas Boozon from SwedenThe name of the flute player in "One Night in Bangkok" is actually Björn J:son Lindh. Minor, but not insignificant, difference. :)
  • Perfect Timing from Oakland CaI was very lucky to get to see Chess in London in 1989 when I was 17. And at that point in the production Anthony Head (Rupert Giles from Buffy and Murray’s little brother) had taken over the role, so I got to see it performed by the man who would later be Giles.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn this day in 1985 {April 20th} a music video of Murray Head's "One Night in Bangkok" was aired on Dick Clark's ABC-TV Saturday-afternoon program, 'American Bandstand'...
    At the time the song was at position #9 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart, four weeks earlier it had peaked at #3* {for one week} and it spent twenty weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #1 in Australia, Belgium, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, Sweden, and Switzerland...
    The London native had one other Top 100 record, "Superstar", it peaked at #14 {for 2 weeks} on May 23rd, 1971...
    Murray Seafield St George Head celebrated his 74th birthday last month on March 5th, 2019...
    * And from the 'For What It's Worth' department; the week "One Night in Bangkok" was at #3 on the Top 100, the #2 record was "Crazy For You" by Madonna and at #1 was "Don't You (Forget About Me)" by Simple Minds...
  • Val from East CoastI strongly disagree with Jeff. Most Americans don't know that in Asian countries, temples employ temple-prostitutes. This is a woman who has sex with men to honor (or role-play) a god or goddess through the sex-act. Hence, the lines: "You'll find a god in every golden cloister/and if you're lucky then the god's a she". This has nothing to do with love or relationships, and avoiding temple prostitutes is certainly NOT misogynistic. In fact, men who respect women avoid prostitutes altogether. They are the level-headed ones who are interested in love and relationships. (" You're talking to a tourist/Whose every move's among the purest")

    This song is more about remaining focused on his purpose for being there, and not goofing off in a city full of idolatry, prostitution, and other crime. ("Ya seen one crowded, polluted, stinking town/Tea, girls, warm, sweet/Some are set up in the Somerset Maugham suite".) In this context, the line, "I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine" makes much more sense, and doesn't leave a male who thinks sex is all about love and relationships wondering about the singer's gender-preferences.
  • Jeff from Boston, MaIn the original London production, the singer of this song ("The American") is of questionable sexuality: a misogynist "and probably queer, but clearly someone who is more focused on his sport than on relationships. Hence the line: "I get my kicks above the waistline, Sunshine!" Incidentally, if you listen to the wonderful "Chess in Concert" recording, the Swede singing this clearly doesn't get the American slang, because he sings it more like, "I get my kicks above the waistline. Sunshine!" which is hilarious.
  • Patrick from Bremen, GaI believe "The Company" in this song represents the United Nations, who really took no major part in the stand-off between the U.S. and U.S.S.R., but sat on the sidelines, maybe interjecting some advice or information here and there, but really took no sides.
  • Sara from Silver Spring, MdIt is by Andersson & Ulaveus the dudes from ABBA
    and co-written with Tim Rice. In the musical Chess it is sung by a Bobby Fischer-esque chess
    player who is rather mean but gets a little better towards the end.
  • Darrell from Eugene, United StatesI love this song, but one has to realize what one particular night in Bangkok (or New Guinea, or India, or Java, et al) was like, namely, when the tsunami hit in December of 2004. I would think that the tsunami created all types of carnage and destruction, as well as many looters.
  • Nelson from MelbourneDefinitely a fun track!
  • Tony from Topeka, KsAddendum to Collin's comment: there was a direct-to-video compilation of music videos of songs from "Chess" ("Chess Moves") in 1985, and there were direct-to-video adaptations of it in 1992 and 2003 (source: IMDb). I'll give Patrick from Tallapoosa the fact that "Chess" has yet to reach the level of popularity of, say, "Jesus Christ Superstar", but there was never a theatrical version.
  • Alan from Singapore, SingaporeThis song was also covered by a lady singer named Robey
  • Collin from Portland, OrAs a correction to a previous comment, this song is from the 1986 Concept Album of the stage musical "Chess". There was never a movie version of this musical.
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