Lifting the band bio from the allmusic site:-

Led by vocalist/guitarist Dave Fenton, the Vapors were a short-lived new wave guitar group that is best known for the spiky pop single “Turning Japanese.” Fenton formed the first version of the Vapors in 1978, yet he was the only member to survive that lineup; in 1979, former Ellery Bops members Ed Bazalgette (lead guitar) and Howard Smith (drums) joined the band, and bassist Steve Smith came aboard shortly afterward. One of the band’s first concerts was seen by the Jam’s Bruce Foxton, who asked them to perform on his group’s Setting Sons tour. Before long, the Vapors were managed by Foxton and John Weller, the manager of the Jam, as well as the father of the group’s leader, Paul Weller.

The Vapors signed to United Artists, releasing their first single, “Prisoners,” at the end of 1979; it failed to chart. “Turning Japanese,” the band’s second single, became a major hit, reaching number three on the U.K. charts in March of 1980. New Clear Days, the band’s debut album, was released two months later, which didn’t sell as well as the single. In 1981, the Vapors released the more ambitious Magnets, yet it received lukewarm reviews and poor sales; the group disbanded shortly after its release.

A couple of further facts on Turning Japanese. It hit the heights of #3 at a time when Going Underground was #1, meaning producer Vic Coppersmith-Heaven had two of the top three in the charts in the week of 29 March 1980 (the song sandwiched in-between was the saccharine Together We Are Beautiful by Fern Kenney). Also, and this was something I didn’t know, the single reached the the top 40 in the US, something The Jam never ever managed to achieve. Not bad for a song that is clearly about wanking oneself into a crazed frenzy….

mp3 : The Vapors – Turning Japanese

I quite liked the follow-up single News At Ten, a more ambitious effort that was musically and subject matter in debt to The Jam with the song’s protagonist having left school for a dead end job and finding life at home with the folks to be somewhat stifling. It stalled at #44 in the charts.

mp3 : The Vapors – News At Ten

I thought I’d round off today’s burst of nostalgia with two further offerings – the debut single:-

mp3 : The Vapors – Prisoners

….and their sixth and final single in 1981 that also stalled at #44 in the charts

mp3 : The Vapors – Jimmie Jones

A little postscript lifted from wiki:-

After 34 years of inactivity, on 30 April 2016, Dave Fenton, Ed Bazelgette and Steve Smith took to the stage at the Half Moon in Putney. With a guest drummer standing in for Howard Smith they played Turning Japanese and then left the stage. Rumours of a reunion were rife and on 10 June a short four-date tour in October and November was announced on the band’s new Facebook page. With Howard Smith unable to tour, Michael Bowes stepped in on drums.

Following the success of the shows in Dublin, London, Liverpool and Wolverhampton further dates were announced for 2017, including an appearance at the Rebellion Festival in Blackpool. During the 2016 dates, the band alluded to a forthcoming album, potentially to be released in 2017.



  1. Turning Japanese aside, I thought all of their singles deserved to do better then they did – although perhaps not capable of reaching the heights of the biggest hit itself. I’m also very fond of Spring Collection, the first track on New Clear Days.

  2. Waiting for The Weekend was part of the soundtrack to my heartbroken 14 year old self in 1980.

  3. Turning Japanese is THE definitive one-hit wonder by a UK new wave band in the States. Every single person of our vintage knows this song note for note as it was in constant rotation. I and the Yanks who regularly check in here, notably Echorich and Brian, are always lamenting that major bands of our youth –The Jam, XTC, Echo & the Bunnymen, etc.– got no airplay while The Vapors’ tune is seared into everyone’s brain. Same for Gary Numan’s ‘Cars’ and Modern English’s ‘I Melt With You.’ These 3 songs would have received about 10,000 more spins than, say, Town Called Malice.

  4. If they had just formed as a band in the last 5 years, they might have called themselves the Vapers.

  5. Thank you *so* much for reminding me about Jimmie Jones! I loved that song, and had totally forgotten about it – probably hadn’t heard it for 35 years. A brilliant ball of energy.

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