"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
Parlors

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 jubjubgurl

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

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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One Night in Bangkok song meanings
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  • +1
    Song MeaningI mostly agree with the above, but I think a few parts were thrown off by the line breaks in the lyrics (maybe its been a while since he heard the song). Because many parts that are separate lines in the lyrics are still the same sentence one sentence in the song. For example,
    "Get Thai'd! You're talking to a tourist
    Whose every move's among the purest"

    is actually sung as: "Get Thai'd! You're talking to a tourist whose every move's among the purest"
    So he is describing this individual tourist (himself), not tourists in general. Anyway, here are my changes from AlbionHeroQueen's:

    "All change -- don't you know that when you play at this level there's no ordinary venue' means that things change frequently, because they are high leveled chess players, so nothing can be ordinary."

    It means that when you are a top chess player you play in exciting locales, not ordinary places like Idaho or Kansas (for example), but instead places like "Iceland -- or the Philippines -- or Hastings -- or --or this place [Bangkok]!" Manila-Philippines, Reykjavík-Iceland, and Hastings-UK, all had international grandmasters-level chess tournaments (and Hastings is home to the Hastings International Chess Congress). And obviously Bangkok is holding one in this musical.

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

    This is saying that tourists are usually the ones who find entertainment in the innocent things in the city, such as operas or fine dining.'

    No it's not. The sex industry of Bangkok was built on tourism (Bangkok is supposed to be the capital of sex tourism). As I mentioned above, in the song "You're talking to a tourist..." is all one sentence. He is differentiating himself from the tourists with darker motives, he is not differentiating tourists in general from those with darker motives.

    "The American is saying that he doesn't swing on the darker sides of Bangkok."
    Exactly

    "'I can feel the devil walking next to me' probably means that even a friend can betray you in that city."
    Since he is a tourist there for a chess tournament, I think he is talking about the locals or other tourists; I doubt he made any friends there. I think this chorus in general means basically that you have to be humble and careful, not cocky or arrogant, when you are in a strange city. Get drunk or seduced by the wrong person and you could get left penniless or worse. I think "the devil" is referring to what previously seemed to be "an angel" in the first chorus.

    I pretty much agree with the rest. Also, I see you mentioned Yul Brenner in "the King and I" later in the interpretation.
    allblackson March 17, 2011   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationI love this song. Especially the beginning, where it sounds like an orchestra warming up. I'm a huge fan of classical, too. Now, that said, moving on. Interpretation.

    "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"

    Okay, this is pretty simple. Bangkok citizens don't realize what they're 'getting,' which might be the 'creme de la creme,' or best, of the chess world. The show, being daily life in Bangkok, seems like it has everything. Yul Brynner was a Russian-born American actor.

    "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"

    'Time flies -- doesn't seem a minute' meaning that it's easy to lose track of time. The 'Tirolean spa' might be a typo for 'Tyrolean sauna,' or the Tyrol spa in Austria (which doesn't make sense, but...) 'All change -- don't you know that when you play at this level there's no ordinary venue' means that things change frequently, because they are high leveled chess players, so nothing can be ordinary.

    "It's Iceland -- or the Philippines -- or Hastings -- or --
    or this place!"

    I assume that those places named are where they've been. Maybe not.


    "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"

    If you can spend a night in Bangkok, then you can take on the rest of the world. 'The bars are temples but the pearls ain't free' meaning that people visit bars like some visit their houses of worship. 'Pearls' means, obviously, prostitutes (which aren't free.) A cloister is an open space that is surrounded by a rectangle, such as a garden, but are usually found in monastaries. So, refering back to the metaphor that bars are temples... It's saying that there's always prostitutes available, but not always a girl. 'I can feel an angel sliding up to me' is supporting this. Angel being, obviously, a prostitute who is looking for her John.

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

    This means that if you don't pay attention to your surroundings, then cities start to get similar to the last.

    "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"

    Meaning that it'd be a pity for the American to play chess all the time instead of getting out into the city.

    "Whaddya mean? Ya seen one crowded, polluted, stinking town --"

    The American's making the assumption that all big cities are exactly the same, that if you've seen one you've seen them all.

    "Tea, girls, warm, sweet
    Some are set up in the Somerset Maugham suite"

    This is saying that the four things listed above are 'staying in the Somerset Maugham suite.' Somerset Maugham was a bit of a racey author for his time. So, that means that 'tea, girls, warm, and sweet' are on the saucy side.

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

    This is saying that tourists are usually the ones who find entertainment in the innocent things in the city, such as operas or fine dining. The American is saying that he doesn't swing on the darker sides of Bangkok.

    "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"

    Means that even the toughest of men will have a hard time in Bangkok, and that you need to be careful around the people you are with. 'I can feel the devil walking next to me' probably means that even a friend can betray you in that city.

    "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"

    Yul Brynner played the King of Siam in 'The King and I.' Crebral fitness, meaning chess is a game of skill. Chess interests the American more than religion.

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

    Not too sure about the meaning, here, but I want to think that the American means that he's thankful that he's not in the rush of Bangkok? I don't know.

    "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"

    I love the usage of double meanings, here. The company contemplates mates and queens, but the kind as in prostitution. The American contemplates mates and queens in chess.

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

    Meaning that the American wants the company to leave, and go back to their precious bars and massages.

    "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"

    A little flesh, a little history means that you can partake in prostitution and even the history of Bangkok, maybe.

    "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"

    Not much between despair and ecstasy means that one wrong move, and what you thought would be pleasure actually turns out to be pain.

    Well, that's my long, long, long interpretation of this song. Thanks for reading.
    AlbionHeroQueenon February 18, 2011   Link

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