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"One Night in Bangkok" is a song originally sung by the British actor and singer Murray Head (verses) and Swedish singer and songwriter Anders Glenmark(choruses) on the 1984 concept album for the musical Chess. Its music was composed by former ABBA members Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, and its lyrics were written by Tim Rice and Ulvaeus.

The release topped the charts in many countries, including South AfricaWest GermanySwitzerland and Australia. It peaked at no. 3 in both Canada and theUnited States in May 1985,[2] and at no. 12 in Head's native United Kingdom.


 [hide*1 Lyrics and music

Lyrics and music[edit]Edit

The full version of the song begins with an orchestral introduction, titled "Bangkok," of Oriental style. This serves as the introduction to Act 2 in the original musical album, and feeds into the first verse of "One Night in Bangkok" itself with an abrupt change in musical style.

The main song has a pop styling, whose lyrics sarcastically juxtapose the Thai capital city and its nightlife with the game of chess. In the original concept album for the musical, the choruses are sung by Swedish artist Anders Glenmark, whereas the verses are a rap originally performed by Murray Head as the American chess grandmaster, a character known as Frederick "Freddie" Trumper in the staged versions. (In the staged versions, a musical ensembleperforms the choruses.) Whereas the choruses extol Bangkok's reputation and exciting atmosphere, the American's verses denounce the city, including itsred-light district, "muddy old river" and "reclining Buddha." These sarcastic denunciations led to Thailand's Mass Communications Organisation issuing a ban on the song in 1985, saying its lyrics "cause misunderstanding about Thai society and show disrespect towards Buddhism."[3]

In the original London production of Chess, the setting for the song is an interview by Freddie, who is in Bangkok to serve as a TV analyst for a match involving his rival, world champion and Russian defector Anatoly Sergievsky. Freddie states a preference for what he sees as an intellectual purity in chess, in stark contrast to the seedier aspects of Bangkok's night life, e.g., "The queens WE use would not excite you." Trumper's statements suggest a personal lack of interest for the exotic settings typically involved in international chess matches, and that he prefers instead to focus on the game itself. In the original Broadway production of the musical, the song appears not at the start of Act 2 but in the middle of Act 1; in this version, the world championship of Freddie vs. Anatoly takes place in Bangkok.

The lyrics also mention actor Yul Brynner, who famously played the King of Siam in The King and I. ("Siam" was the previous name for Thailand.) The "Tyrolean spa" mentioned early in the song refers toMerano in Italy, the site of Act 1 of the musical. It also mentions three places where the game of chess is popular—namely, Iceland, The Philippines and HastingsUK.

Track listings[edit]Edit

7" single
  1. "One Night in Bangkok" — 3:54
  2. "Merano" by The London Symphony Orchestra & The Ambrosian Singers — 7:08
12" maxi
  1. "One Night in Bangkok" — 5:38
  2. "Merano" by The London Symphony Orchestra & The Ambrosian Singers — 7:08

The song was also re-released on Murray Head's album Watching Ourselves Go By in 1990.


  • Keyboards and synthesizers: Benny Andersson
  • Bass: Rutger Gunnarsson
  • Lead guitar: Lasse Wellander
  • Drums: Per Lindvall
  • Flute: Björn J:son Lindh
  • Backing vocals: Anders Glenmark and Karin Glenmark
  • Arrangement: Benny Andersson and Anders Eljas
  • Conductor: Anders Eljas
  • Engineer: Michael B. Tretow
  • Producer: Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, Tim Rice

Charts and sales[edit]Edit

Weekly charts[edit]Edit

Chart (1984–1985) Peak


Australia (Kent Music Report)[4] 1
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[5] 2
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[6] 1
Belgium (VRT Top 30 Flanders)[7] 1
Canada (CHUM)[8] 4
Canada Adult Contemporary Tracks (RPM)[9] 1
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[10] 3
Europe (Eurochart Hot 100)[11] 1
France (SNEP)[12] 2
Germany (Media Control Charts)[13] 1
Ireland (IRMA)[14] 7
Italy (FIMI)[15] 9
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[16] 2
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[17] 1
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[18] 2
Norway (VG-lista)[19] 3
Poland (LP3)[20] 7
South Africa (Springbok Radio)[21] 1
Spain (AFYVE)[22] 1
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[23] 3
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[24] 1
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[25] 12
US Billboard Hot 100[26] 3
US BillboardHot Black Singles[26] 89
US BillboardHot Dance/Disco[26] 5
US BillboardHot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales[26] 8
US Cash Box[27] 4

Year-end charts[edit]Edit

Chart (1985) Position
Australia (Kent Music Report)[28] 15
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[29] 13
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[30] 12
Canada (RPM Top 100 Singles)[31] 17
France (SNEP)[32] 25
Italy (FIMI)[15] 42
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[33] 33
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[34] 29
South Africa (Springbok Radio)[35] 2
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[36] 8
US Billboard Hot 100[37] 54
US Cash Box[38] 42


Region Certification Sales/shipments
Canada (Music Canada)[39] Platinum 100,000^
France (SNEP)[40] Silver 413,000[41]
Germany (BVMI)[42] Gold 250,000^

  • sales figures based on certification alone ^shipments figures based on certification alone xunspecified figures based on certification alone

Vinylshakerz version[edit]Edit

"One Night in Bangkok"
Single by Vinylshakerz
from the album Very Superior
Released 14 March 2005
Format CD single
Genre Electro houseTech house
Length 3:28
Label Kontor
Producer(s) Vinylshakerz
Vinylshakerz singles chronology
"One Night in Bangkok"


"Tekkno Trash (Pay No Cash)"


In 2005, German group Vinylshakerz covered the song. It was released in March 2005 as the lead single from their debut album, Very Superior. It was a hit across Europe, charting in AustriaBelgiumFinlandGermany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.

Peak positions[edit]Edit

Chart (2005) Peak


Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[43] 41
Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)[44] 8
Belgium (Ultratip Wallonia)[45] 14
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[46] 6
Germany (Media Control Charts)[47] 26
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[48] 53
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[49] 87

Kenny Loggins versionEdit

  • In 1989, Loggins covered in the musical film called Chess.

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