“One Night In Bangkok” by Murray Head

This song was actually written for a musical entitled “Chess”. And in this track, singer/actor Murray Head takes on the role of one of the main characters in the musical, who is a chess grandmaster from America. Thus “One Night in Bangkok” is based on said character’s visit to the titular city.  And for the most part, he is not enjoying his stay, as in he is totally uninterested in the city’s tourist attractions or nightlife, since he is preoccupied with a chess match.

Some people have interpreted this track as making fun of Bangkok. And indeed there are certain junctures, such as references to the prevalence of homosexuality, which read as if they are mocking the city. But overall the sentiment relayed does not appear to be one where Head is simply hating on Bangkok, even though he definitely acknowledges the toughness of the place.  Rather, as alluded to earlier, his true reason for being there is to play chess. And the aforementioned game is really all that is on his mind, with him even congratulating the city for “be(ing) a witness to the ultimate test of cerebral fitness”.

Lyrics of "One Night in Bangkok"

Facts about “One Night in Bangkok”

  • This song was banned by the Thailand Mass Communications Organisation. And why did they do that? They felt the song painted a negative picture of the country’s capital (Bangkok) as well as disrespected Buddha.
  • “One Night in Bangkok” was written and produced by the triumvirate of Tim Rice, Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson. FYI, the latter two were once members of the music supergroup ABBA.
  • It was featured on Benny Andersson’s 1984 album “Chess” and was published by RCA Records in October of 1984.

Chart Performance

This track charted internationally, peaking at number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 12 on the UK Singles Chart. Furthermore, it topped the charts in many countries, including Germany, Australia, Canada and Switzerland.

Covers/Remixes of “One Night In Bangkok

One of the most notable covers of this song was performed by singer Robey (which peaked at number 77 on the Billboard Hot 100). A dance remix was also made by the German group Vinylshakerz (which charted in various European countries). 

Legendary boxing champion Mike Tyson also gave lent his rendition of this song in the 2011 movie The Hangover Part II. Interestingly enough, Tyson’s version actually made it onto the movie’s soundtrack.

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