The Vapours: Turning Japanese (1980)

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The Vapours: Turning Japanese (1980)

Ever wondered why the English New Wave band The Vapours were just a one-hit wonder with Turning Japanese? They don't. They know exactly why.

A little background though: they were from Guildford and the mainman was singer/songwriter Dave Fenton who had a day job as a solicitor. Playing as the Vapours, the four-piece were spotted by Bruce Foxton of the Jam who was impressed.

The Vapours were given a couple of support slots with the Jam and then the Jam's manager John Weller took them on. They were duly signed to the Liberty label (for the album New Clear Days) and after the unsuccessful single Prisoners they unleashed their finest and briefest moment, a song which took its title from an expression for masturbating: Turning Japanese.

The single did well in the States especially, their second album Magnets of '81 produced by David Tickle who had worked with Split Enz did well also on release in March '81 . . . and that was it. Within a few months they had split.

Why?

Fenton said that when they were working on a new single the record company guy said he loved it -- but then cancelled the sessions. So Fenton figured, "Sod this" and went back to the day job. Apparently he's a music industry lawyer these days.

There is another and more intriguing version however: that Paul Weller was miffed that Turning Japanese spent more time in the UK top 20 than the Jam's Going Underground so told his dad to drop the Vapours from his roster. Which he did.

Either way, with no management and no honesty from the record company, the Vapours simply disappeared -- but they did leave behind a cracking pop single in Turning Japanese.

Almost as good as the Knack's My Sharona!

(Thanks to the website ModPopPunk Archives here for keeping this music and these stories out there.) 

For more oddities, one-offs or songs with a backstory see From the Vaults

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