The Vapors were an English new wave and power pop band, that existed between 1979 and 1982. They had a hit with the song "Turning Japanese" in 1980, which reached No. 3 in the UK Singles Chart, and No. 36 in the US Billboard Hot 100.
Based in Guildford, Surrey, their members were David Fenton (songwriter, guitarist and vocalist), Howard Smith (drummer), Edward Bazalgette (lead guitarist) and Steve Smith (bass guitarist and vocals). (The band's two Smiths were unrelated.) The group's name was originally spelled "Vapours," but they removed the U to seem like an American band.
They were discovered and managed by John Weller (father of Paul Weller) and by The Jam's bassist Bruce Foxton. The song for which they are mainly remembered, "Turning Japanese", was produced by The Jam's producer Vic Coppersmith-Heaven and hit the Top Three in the UK at the same time that "Going Underground" was at number one. It was also a top ten hit in Canada, New Zealand and Australia, and (just barely) a top 40 in the US, something The Jam never managed.
The song "Turning Japanese" was believed to euphemistically refer to masturbation, although Fenton (the song's author) denied that claim in an interview on VH1. He did, however, say he wished to thank whoever first came up with that interpretation, as he felt that the salacious rumour about what the song "really" meant may have been what made it a hit.
The band released two albums: New Clear Days (the pun on "nuclear" being intentional) and Magnets. The first was more clearly in the "traditional" new wave style of music, while touching on social issues such as the nuclear threat as well as love themes. The second album was more lyrically varied, with themes including alienation and many dark lyrics about apparently psychotic characters, including the opening track, "Jimmie Jones", about cult leader Jim Jones. Sales of the second album were poor and the band broke up soon after its release in 1982. Fenton alleged in a later interview with Record Collector magazine that lack of record label support was the chief reason; apparently their intended seventh single 'Red Flag' was cancelled without explanation. Follow-up singles "News at Ten", and the aforementioned "Jimmie Jones", both coincidentally reached number 44 in the UK Singles Chart. Record producer Harry Cowell was for a while the band's drum tech.
After the band:
A solicitor who specialises in music law, frontman Fenton has apparently retired from his days as a music creator and performer to concentrate on legal aspects of the music industry.
Edward Bazalgette has since become a television director, credits including a 2005 BBC documentary about Genghis Khan and two episodes of Doctor Who in 2015.
Howard Smith now runs an independent record shop, People Records in Guildford, the band's home town.