Song Of The Week: “One Night In Bangkok” by Murray Head

murray head one nightWho decides to write a musical about chess? How exactly did that pitch meeting proceed?

“Hey, guys. I know how we can tap into some of that bodacious Andrew Lloyd Webber coin. Let me lay it on you. A political musical, right? About two dudes trying to live out their dream of world domination — using only their minds. It’s got light and dark. It’s got glitz and glamour. The stars and stripes versus the sickle and the hammer.

I want to say one word to you, gentlemen. Just one word.


Dead silence.

*thinking quickly

“Oh, and, um, we’ll set it in Bangkok.”


And who’s got the rooks massive enough to suggest–and then actually stage–such a musical? Why, Tim Rice, of course — the lyricist who penned enduring hits from Evita, Beauty & The Beast, and The Lion King, among dozens of others. For the music, Rice brought in Benny and Bjorn — the writers behind pop juggernaut ABBA — two guys so wired to the popular pulse they could have written a song cycle about Swedish botanist Eva Ekblad and her cultivation of the potato in the mid-18th century and still cracked the Top 40.

murray headChess proved moderately successful in the UK, but died a quick death in the US, despite its ability to boast of having a Top 10 song. Crossing over from Broadway (or the West End) onto the pop charts only happens a couple of times per decade but one man did it twice. Murray Head sang on the original album of the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar (lyrics by Tim Rice) and climbed into the Top 20 with the titular “Superstar” in 1971. In 1985, he found even more success when the totally awesome “One Night In Bangkok” hit the heights of charts worldwide.

So open up your pawn structure and move your knights into the light. Slide your bishops onto the floor and let your queen shake it til she just can’t shake it no more. Then find the king and oscillate. Check and mate.

Fun fact totally unrelated to music: Murray Head is the older brother of Anthony Head, best known as Giles on Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

2 thoughts on “Song Of The Week: “One Night In Bangkok” by Murray Head

  1. Pingback: Poetics Serendipity | Margo Roby: Wordgathering

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