Led by vocalist/guitarist Dave Fenton, The Vapors were a short-lived new wave guitar group that is best remembered for the pop single Turning Japanese.
Fenton formed the first version of The Vapors in 1978 (after years of strumming acoustic guitar in folk clubs), yet he was the only member to survive that line-up.
In 1979, former Ellery Bops members Ed Bazalgette (lead guitar) and Howard Smith (drums) joined the band and (unrelated) bassist Steve Smith came aboard shortly afterwards.
One of the band’s first gigs was seen by Bruce Foxton (bass player in The Jam) 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 and father of that group’s leader, Paul Weller.
The Vapors signed to United Artists and released their first single, Prisoners, at the end of 1979 but it failed to chart. Turning Japanese, the band’s second single, became a major hit, reaching #3 on the UK charts in March of 1980.
New Clear Days, the band’s debut album, was released two months later but did not sell as well as the single. Despite sounding at times like Jam copyists, stand-out tracks included Spring Collection, Waiting For The Weekend and News At Ten.
In 1981, The Vapors released the more ambitious LP, Magnets, which explored the darker side of life, discussing the Kennedy assassination (Magnets), police harassment (Civic Hall) and even cult leader/mass murderer Jim Jones (Jimmy Jones, the failed single).
Musically the band was more sophisticated, taking the occasional misstep in the arrangements by adding an annoying synthesizer in songs like Spiders. The album was virtually ignored by both critics and the buying public, and the group disbanded shortly after its release.