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‘One Night In Bangkok’. The song, 35 years later


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‘One Night In Bangkok’. The song, 35 years later

By Tim Newton

 

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PHOTO: Doi Kuro, Bangkok 1980

 

When ‘One Night In Bangkok’ was released in 1984 it was an unlikely hit- the opening song from a (at the time) little-known stage pop-opera called ‘Chess’. The song made Number 1 in South Africa, West Germany, Switzerland and Australia, and Number 3 in Canada and the United States. It has remained a staple of Classic Hit radio ever since. Have a listen below…

 

The musical was the first outing for the two ‘Bs’ in ABBA – Benny Andersson and Bjoern Ulvaeus. Their pop grooves had made ABBA one of the most famous music groups in the world between 1973 and 1982 with a string of hits including 20 singles in the Billboard Top 100 from eight albums, etc, etc.

 

The lyrics of the song were penned by Tim Rice (Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Joseph and his amazing technicolour dreamcoat, Aladdin, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast).

 

In the opening song of ‘Chess’, the American chess champion Freddie Trumper gets ready for a chess game with his Russian counterpart. He ridicules Bangkok’s ‘pleasures’ and tourist attractions – the Chao Phraya River (“muddy old river”), Wat Pho (“reclining Buddha”), and the red-light distractions. The choruses are more complimentary.

 

At the time the sarcasm of the song didn’t go down well with the Thai Mass Communications Organisation (now the NBTC) issuing a ban on the song in 1985, saying its lyrics “cause misunderstanding about Thai society and show disrespect towards Buddhism”, a line still trotted out about inappropriate Instagrammers and their selfies in front of Thai temples.

 

Thirty-five years later the song still paints a picture of a contrasting ‘oriental’ city alive with lights (including red lights), colour, pungent smells, culture and history.

 

We’re not sure if the ban was ever lifted but I hear the song played on Thai stations from time to time. At the time, when Bangkok was less on the tourist map than now, the song was a lone reference point for westerners.

 

How does it stand up thirty-five years after becoming a world-wide hit? Comment on our Facebook Page.

 

One Night In Bangkok

Bangkok, Oriental setting
And the city don’t know that the city is getting
The creme de la creme of the chess world
In a show with everything but Yul Brynner (referring to the actor’s starring role as the King of Siam in ‘The King and I’)

 

Time flies, doesn’t seem a minute
Since the Tirolean spa had the chess boys in it
All change don’t you know that when you
Play at this level there’s no ordinary venue
It’s Iceland or the Philippines or Hastings or,
Or this place!

 

One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster
The bars are temples but the pearls ain’t free
You’ll find a god in every golden cloister
And if you’re lucky then the god’s a she
I can feel an angel sliding up to me

 

One town’s very like another
When your head’s down over your pieces, brother
It’s a drag, it’s a bore, it’s really such a pity
To be looking at the board, not looking at the city
Whaddya mean?
Ya seen one crowded, polluted, stinking town
Tea, girls, warm, sweet
Some are set up in the Somerset Maugham suite
Get thai’d, you’re talking to a tourist
Whose every move’s among the purest
I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine

 

One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can’t be too careful with your company
I can feel the devil walking next to me

 

Siam’s gonna be the witness
To the ultimate test of cerebral fitness
This grips me more than would a
Muddy old river or reclining Buddha
And thank God I’m only watching the game… controlling it

 

I don’t see you guys rating
The kind of mate I’m contemplating
I’d let you watch, I would invite you
But the queens we use would not excite you
So you better go back to your bars, your temples
Your massage parlours

 

One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster
The bars are temples but the pearls ain’t free
You’ll find a god in every golden cloister
A little flesh, a little history
I can feel an angel sliding up to me

 

One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can’t be too careful with your company
I can feel the devil walking next to me

 

Songwriters: Tim Rice / Benny Goran Bror Andersson / Bjoern K. Ulvaeus

 

 

Source: https://thethaiger.com/uncategorized/one-night-in-bangkok-the-song-45-years-later-2

 

 

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-- © Copyright The Thaiger 2019-08-20
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If ever there was a set of lyrics that described  Bangkok and Thailand exactly as it is, it is this song.   

 

After it first came out- the powers to be banned it, which made it even more popular and was played constantly on every street corner.  

 

Whenever I hear it- I am instantly taken back to some night or some incident that puts a smile on my face and a wish that time travel really existed.

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I didn't think it was that great a song but it was catchy. Took me back to 1984, a busy period of my life, and, of course, Thailand and the Middle East rolling in big bucks and teen dreams made real.

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36 minutes ago, Thaidream said:

After it first came out- the powers to be banned it, which made it even more popular and was played constantly on every street corner.  

Is it still banned??!

Came out right as I was finishing uni, and had the great luck of getting a gig in Bangkok. My Girlfriend of that time DID NOT appreciate it. Heh  :thumbsup:

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8 hours ago, Samui Bodoh said:

It just seems more appropriate with hot dancing girls...

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Outstanding! And much obliged Squire :clap2:

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9 hours ago, Samui Bodoh said:

It just seems more appropriate with hot dancing girls...

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

I think the word you were looking for is 'inappropriate'. Not much to do with chess. Unless one of the girls had a Czech mate.

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5 hours ago, Michaelk2014 said:

1985 was my first trip to Bangkok and that song was playing in all the bars, it made my trip very memorable, every time I heard the song when I came home, i was able to relive the fantastic time I had in Bangkok.

The ubiquitous song when I first came to Thailand in 1998 was Loso's 'Son Sarm'. My GH manageress, realising I liked it, bought the cassette of it for me. Twenty one years down the line we're still married.

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53 minutes ago, Stupooey said:

The ubiquitous song when I first came to Thailand in 1998 was Loso's 'Son Sarm'. My GH manageress, realising I liked it, bought the cassette of it for me. Twenty one years down the line we're still married.

the song i remember most is the dood dood dood dood toh tamm (she's sucking)

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1985 de ja vu, the happies time of my life. went back to America to convince my wife to move to Bangkok with me, my daughter was 11 they stay here 3 months then  went back to America. l had a great business, I was very busy and never look back. BTW those high heeled  boots in the video were/are incredible lights and a money making business at the time; paradise really.

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