"Hong Kong Garden" is the debut single released by British band Siouxsie and the Banshees. It was produced by their manager Nils Stevenson and sound-engineer Steve Lillywhite. Issued in the UK by Polydor Records in 1978, the single quickly hit number seven in the UK Singles Chart.
The song was described by Paul Rambali in the NME as "a bright, vivid narrative, something like snapshots from the window of a speeding Japanese train, power charged by the most original, intoxicating guitar playing heard in a long, long time." The record was single of the week in the NME, Melody Maker and Record Mirror. Melody Maker underlined: "The elements come together with remarkable effects. The song is strident and powerful with tantalising oriental guitar riffs." Record Mirror described the effect the record had as "accessibilty incarnated... I'm playing it every third record. I love every second."
The song was named after the Hong Kong Garden Chinese takeaway in Chislehurst High Street. Siouxsie Sioux is quoted as explaining the lyrics with reference to the racist activities of skinheads visiting the takeaway:
|“||"I'll never forget, there was a Chinese restaurant in Chislehurst called the 'Hong Kong Garden'. Me and my friend were really upset that we used to go there and like, occasionally when the skinheads would turn up it would really turn really ugly. These gits would just go in en masse and just terrorise these Chinese people who were working there. We’d try and say 'Leave them alone', you know. It was a kind of tribute." ||”|
|“||"I remember wishing that I could be like Emma Peel from The Avengers and kick all the skinheads' heads in, because they used to mercilessly torment these people for being foreigners. It made me feel so helpless, hopeless and ill." ||”|
The song was produced by Steve Lillywhite: it would be his first hit record as a producer. He was hired because of his ability to get a certain sound on drums. Lillywite told Banshee percussionist Kenny Morris to not record all the drums at the same time. Morris did the bass drum and the snare drum first. Then he did the cymbals and the tom-toms later. Lillywhite also added echo on the drums : that would give a lot of space to the whole recording.
Several versions exist.
On the first studio version recorded by the BBC in February 1978, the oriental hook was played on a pixiephone, a toy glockenspiel with metallic bars : this one would be later issued on both Voices on the Air: The Peel Sessions and At the BBC.
On the second version recorded for Polydor in June 1978, the instrument used was a xylophone, an instrument with wooden bars. This Polydor' version was released as a stand-alone single and hit number seven in the UK singles chart. When the Banshees' debut album The Scream came out later in the year, "Hong Kong Garden" was not included. It later surfaced on the singles compilation album Once Upon a Time: The Singles. In 2002, the song was remastered to feature on The Best of Siouxsie & the Banshees. It was also later included on the soundtrack for Sofia Coppola's 2006 film Marie Antoinette in a slightly different version with an unreleased orchestral string intro. In 2012, the song was used in a video game title called Sleeping Dogs.
The song was used in HBO TV series Girls, in the episode 9 of the first season.