October 01, 2003


What are the odds? Yesterday James Morrow drops by to hide his sullen cat from the landlord and sees our fancy new cuboid chess set, which launches him into "One Night in Bangkok" from the musical Chess, except the hybrid Morrow version somehow includes lyrics from The Lovin’ Spoonful’s "Summer in the City":

Bangkok, Oriental city
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty!

And then James Lileks posts this:

“One Night in Bangkok” just came on the internet radio. Perhaps the only song ever devoted entirely to itinerant globe-trotting chess players. (Has one of my favorite lines: “Siam, gonna be the witness / to the ultimate test of cerebral fitness.” Try working that into a conversation.) I know exactly where I was when I heard this song nightly: standing behind the counter at Ralph and Jerry’s Corner Store and Culture Center, waiting for the next customer or the first bullet. Every night, “One Night.” And every night, sometimes twice, another song that presumed were all wanted to know the state of, and location of, the Heat. So Glenn Frey would come on to inform us that the Heat was on, and that the heat was on the street.

I know exactly where I was when the Chess/Heat duopoly ruled the airwaves: sucking down fumes in an aluminium foundry and casting plant west of Melbourne, where the heat was often on or near my feet, due to periodic spillages. Ever worked in a casting plant? I hear these songs and instantly recall the scent of scorched sand. And my co-worker Mondo’s effortless lyrical restylings of the era’s music; a favourite was his one-word alteration to Bruce Springsteen’s "I’m On Fire", which gave the song a frightening deviant perspective:

Hey little boy is your daddy home?

Posted by Tim Blair at October 1, 2003 01:25 PM

Jeez, what a recovery! What drugs have you got man?

Posted by: slatts at October 1, 2003 at 01:47 PM

I'm on a combination of codeine, paracetamol, pseudoephedrine, real ephedrine, heroin, and anthrax.

Seems to be doing the trick. Except for the pesky heart stoppages and cranial bleeding, of course.

Posted by: tim at October 1, 2003 at 01:50 PM

Hmm, I thought it was, "Hey little girl is your Daddy home? or did he leave you home all alone, only you can cool my fire, oh oh oh I'm on fire"

American version?


Posted by: SteveMG at October 1, 2003 at 02:10 PM

Oops, my mistake. You were quoting from an altered version.

Geez, that's creepy.


Posted by: SteveMG at October 1, 2003 at 02:11 PM

Ever heard the Elmer Fudd cover of "Fire"?

Posted by: Habib Bickford at October 1, 2003 at 02:39 PM

An aluminum foundry? Jeez, just what the hell do you have to do around here to get considered working class by Mark Latham?

Posted by: James Morrow at October 1, 2003 at 02:45 PM

If you used that wording the chorus would be "Oh, ho, ho, i'm in jail"

Posted by: Chris Rice at October 1, 2003 at 03:17 PM

Is "Mondo" a nom de plume of Kerry O'Brien, or has he gone on to a career in the priesthood?

Posted by: Habib Bickford at October 1, 2003 at 04:09 PM

Saw Chess at the State Theatre in Sydney on opening night (on freebies, I'm a friend of the orchestrator). Whew. Somewhere in the second half, my wife turned to me and said "If she sings that fucking song again (I Knew Him So Well?), I'm walking out.

Well, she did and she did.

Posted by: Frank at October 1, 2003 at 05:49 PM

"ahn wen wee kiiiss, ooh, fy-wuh"

how does one transcribe elmer?

Posted by: Mr. Bingley at October 2, 2003 at 12:18 AM

"One Night In Bankok" is about itinerant globe-trotting chess players? I thought it was about getting VD. Damn.

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