"One Night In Bangkok" as written by Tim Rice, Benny Goran Bror Andersson and Bjoern K. Ulvaeus....
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

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


Lyrics submitted by Petaphysika

"One Night in Bangkok" as written by Benny Goran Bror Andersson Tim Rice

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group

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One Night In Bangkok song meanings
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  • +5
    General CommentI think he is mixing chess with what's going on around him....

    "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

    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!"

    He is there for the chess match...

    "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"

    Here he is using metaphor...

    One night in Bangkok and the world's your oyster
    The bars are temples but the pearls ain't free"

    If you win you are the best...

    The bars are temples...but the pearls...the prize in the oysters..the girls..are not..

    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

    The god is a beautiful girl..you'll find one in every bar...and if you are lucky the girl is really a girl...not a he-she...which thailand is notorious for...

    the angel is a girl...that is starting to move to him to pick him up...

    "One town's very like another
    When your head's down over your pieces, brother"

    He doesn't notice the beauty of the city...he is only there for chess

    "[COMPANY:]
    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"

    He should be looking at the city and not be so into the chess match

    "[THE AMERICAN:]
    Whaddya mean? Ya seen one crowded, polluted, stinking town --"

    He is saying...big deal all cities are the same..

    "[COMPANY:]
    Tea, girls, warm, sweet
    Some are set up in the Somerset Maugham suite"

    Instead of playing...why don't you get a girl?

    "[THE AMERICAN:]
    Get Thai'd! You're talking to a tourist
    Whose every move's among the purest
    I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine"

    He is not from there and he his moves are on the chess board and is not interested in the girls..

    "COMPANY:
    One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble"

    Haha...

    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"

    Again...Metaphor here....the straight forward meaning is...in Bangkok the difference between winning and losing...isn't much...and no matter how good you are, you can lose...and the don't underestimate your opponent...

    but...he is also saying in bangkok there isn't much differnce between picking up a hot girl...and a hot girl that is a guy...so you have to be somewhat careful at first until you figure out it is really a girl or not...

    "THE AMERICAN:
    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"

    Again...all he cares about is the game..

    "And thank God I'm only watching the game -- controlling it --"

    he is playing or watching...

    "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"

    Once again...metaphor....it sounds like he is talking about chess...but his mate has to do with chess, not a girl..and the queens he deals with are on the chess board...not drag queens..

    "So you better go back to your bars, your temples, your massage
    parlours --
    "

    Go back to those places, because he is not interested..


    Its a fun song...very different.

    Peace.
    mikeb26on June 24, 2012   Link
  • +4
    General CommentAs Shellydages hinted at, this song, and this play, have a deeper meaning.

    Neither this song nor this play are about chess. They *feature* chess, but they are not *about* chess.

    This song, and this play, is about the Cold War.
    Alastoron July 20, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI feel, as do others, the song is about trying not to succumb to the temptations of Siam(Bangkok). One minute the writer feels the Angel sliding up to them; later he feels the Devil sliding up to him. As a kid, I always thought " muddy old river" or " reclining Buddha" were some kinds of chest moves. I can tell you after spending time in Thailand, the writer is referring to the Chao Praya River and the statue of the reclining Buddha in a temple in the city of Bangkok. Also, the song is filled with euphemisms for sex with transsexuals. The lyric, "You'll find a god in every golden cloister and if you're lucky then the god's a she". Well, the cloister can be meant as a doorway and God can be taken to mean woman. So what he really means is, you can find a girl in every door way and if you're lucky the girl is a girl and not a guy dressed as a girl(ladyboy) as they call them. "A little flesh, a little history" referrers to the tourist that looks for sex in Bangkok but covers it up with history tours of the city. So when he's asked about his vacation, he can show all the wonderful pictures of the ancient temples and buildings. Now you know.
    soibkkon November 02, 2012   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningThe song comes from a musical. The musical is titled "CHESS". It is written by Tim Rice and music is done by Swedens ABBA's Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus. The story involves a romantic triangle between two top players, an American and a Russian, in a world chess championship, and a woman who manages one and falls in love with the other; all in the context of a Cold War struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union, during which both countries wanted to win international chess tournaments for propaganda purposes. Although the protagonists were not intended to represent any specific individuals, the character of the American was loosely based on chess grand master Bobby Fischer, while elements of the story may have been inspired by the chess careers of Russian grand masters Viktor Korchnoi and Anatoly Karpov. One Night in bangkok comes in the second act. The back story of the song in the seond act is: Act 2 A year later, Anatoly is set to defend his championship in Bangkok, Thailand ("Golden Bangkok"). Freddie is already there, chatting up locals and experiencing the Bangkok nightlife ("One Night in Bangkok") because he is now Global TV's special presenter for this year's championship.... The song is a symbolic comparative analogy between the game Chess, relationships between people, the cold war error intelligence agencies of the US and the Soviet Union and about sex.

    [THE AMERICAN (Freddie)]:
    "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

    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!"

    This is about him being there for the game. It's an international tournament, everybody whose anybody in the chess world is there for the tournament. The line: "Show with everything but Yul Brynner" is a joke, since Yul Brynner played the King of Siam in a play called "The King And I".

    "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"

    Here he is using metaphor. The metaphor is about sex and prostitution and the hookers. He states, the bars are temples, showing you what the metaphor is. The line: "And if you're lucky then the god's a she" Is about taking a chance, sometimes the "Girls" you see are actually men made up to look like women, they call them Lady Boys. Lady boys are gay man who go and get breast implants and then try to make them appear to be women, dressing and trying to act like women, but still have a penis between their legs.

    "One night in Bangkok and the world's your oyster
    The bars are temples but the pearls ain't free"

    Double meaning symbolism. It has symbolic mean about the game chess, as well as sexual symbolism. If you win you are the best. The chess symbolic meaning is that if your the top of the game, everybody caters to you and your treated like royalty, the sexual meaning comes with "The bars are temples, but the pearls aren't free". He he is telling you instead of using references about bars, he is going to make religious references as symbolic meanings to things.

    The bars are temples...but the pearls...the prize in the oysters..the girls..are not..

    "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"

    The God is a beautiful girl..you'll find one in every bar...and if you are lucky the girl is really a girl...not a he-she...which Thailand is notorious for...

    the angel is a girl...that is starting to move to him to pick him up...

    "One town's very like another
    When your head's down over your pieces, brother"

    He doesn't notice the beauty of the city...he is only there for chess

    "[COMPANY:]
    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"

    He should be looking at the city and not be so into the chess match

    [THE AMERICAN (Freddie)]:
    "Whaddya mean? Ya seen one crowded, polluted, stinking town --"

    He is saying...big deal all cities are the same..

    "[COMPANY:]
    Tea, girls, warm, sweet
    Some are set up in the Somerset Maugham suite"

    Instead of playing...why don't you get a girl?

    [THE AMERICAN (Freddie)]:
    "Get Thai'd! You're talking to a tourist
    Whose every move's among the purest
    I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine"

    He is not from there for the sex or the girls, he is there for the chess game and his moves are on the chess board and is not interested in making moves on the girls..

    "COMPANY:
    One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble"

    This was originally a dummy lyric line that was actually left in the song. The meaning that a hard man can be humble, has both the sexual symbolism, the symbol of a chess champion being knocked off his thrown, and how a person whose grown emotionally cold can be emotionally affected....

    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"

    Again...Metaphor here....the straight forward meaning is...in Bangkok the difference between winning and losing...isn't much...and no matter how good you are, you can lose...and the don't underestimate your opponent...

    but...he is also saying in Bangkok there isn't much difference between picking up a hot girl...and a hot girl that is a guy...so you have to be somewhat careful at first until you figure out it is really a girl or not...

    THE AMERICAN (Freddie):
    "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"

    Again...all he cares about is the game. The references about the muddy old river and the reclining Buddha are references about actual places in Bangkok, there is a park there that is right there by a river that is very muddy, and the park has a huge statue of Buddha in a reclining position. It is also a park where they play chess, there are about 30 sit down boards and 12 huge boards where actual people are the pieces on the board.

    "And thank God I'm only watching the game -- controlling it --"

    He is watching. He is there as the Arbitor, the games referee. Freddie, (who sings this) is the ex-champion, he got lost the world championship the previous year when he resigned from the tournament and quit the game, thus making his opponent "The Russian"

    "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"

    Once again...metaphor....it sounds like he is talking about chess...but his mate has to do with chess, not a girl..and the queens he deals with are on the chess board...not drag queens..

    "So you better go back to your bars, your temples, your massage
    parlours --
    "

    Go back to those places, because he is not interested..

    youtube.com/…
    youtube.com/…
    chessboyon November 16, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt seems a lot of people are missing the "The world's your oyster" pun. The Thai word for oyster is "hoy", which is also the Thai slang for female genitalia.

    Think "all of that hoy is available to you".
    juhujuhon January 13, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI was at one time part of a traveling chess team that became Oregon High School Champions. My team-mate was Carl Wieman who won the Nobel Prize in Physics about 18 years ago. Chess players must learn to blot out distract-ions so to concentrate and focus. I remember when the team went to the cham-pionship, the other players never left the hotel but to go to and from the tourna-ment. I took a walk in the strange city, like Freddie does in Bangkok. Years later, I would go to crummy hotels in many of America's inner cities, and would take a walk looking for a fast food place or supermarket, and like Freddie would be completely oblivious to the offers of prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers. "I get my kicks above the waistline" means cerebral satisfaction, as compared with genital. I for one am male frigid, I lack brain opium receptors necessary for sex drive or drug addiction and I suspect that many other chess players are also.
    sharphujoon November 04, 2015   Link
  • -1
    General CommentThis song is part of the musical 'Chess' and the only song I know of Murray head anyway
    Petaphysikaon August 07, 2002   Link
  • -1
    General CommentThe singing style is sort of interesting.
    Esenthielon April 11, 2003   Link
  • -1
    General CommentThe character who narrates this song is the Chess champion from the play who is going to Bangkok, Thailand for a tournament.
    Bangkok is well-known for being a city a haven for sex tourists, because it has so many prostitutes and brothels, etc. The guy in the song is essientially just saying "woah, I'm just here for the chess!"
    J.J.on December 31, 2004   Link
  • -1
    General CommentI think this song is effing great. I never knew it was from a play. He's like so uptight and pure, and then the chorus is like trying to tempt him at every turn. It's like they're saying "you can try to resist, but we'll get you one way or another because there is temptation everywhere." Always been one of my favorite songs just cuz it's so fun.
    boxermom1004on July 11, 2005   Link

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