The Vapors are a new wave\power pop band from Guildford, Surrey, England who were known in the United States for being a “one-hit wonder.” The line-up consisted of lead singer-songwriter & rhythm guitarist David Fenton, drummer Howard Smith, lead guitarist Edward Bazalgette (born in London, England) and bass guitarist & vocalist Steve Smith.
The band formed in 1978 when an early version of the band was discovered by Bruce Foxton (from punk rock band The Jam) playing at the Three Lions pub in Farncombe (located in Waverley, Surrey, England) and offered the band a few gigs & agreed to jointly manage them with John Weller (the father of English musician Paul Weller). After that, they were offered a slot supporting The Jam on the “Settling Sons” tour in 1979.
At the end of 1979, the Vapors signed a record deal with the United Artists record label and released their first single “Prisoners” which flopped on the charts.
In 1980, the band released their debut album “New Clear Days” which peaked at #44 on the U.K. Albums chart and #62 on the Billboard 200 chart.
Their second single “Turning Japanese” became a hit, peaking at #3 on the U.K. Singles chart and topping the music charts in Australia & Canada. In the United States, the song peaked at #36 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #34 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Music\Club Play Singles chart.
The song’s lyric content was believed to euphemistically refer to masturbation, but Dave Fenton (who wrote the song) denied that claim in an interview on VH1, but however, he said wished to thank whoever first came up with that interpretation.
The follow-up single “News at Ten” peaked at #44 on the U.K. Singles chart. The last single released from the album “Waiting for the Weekend” failed to chart.
In 1981, the Vapors released their second (and current to date) album “Magnets” which peaked at #109 on the Billboard Hot 100, #39 on the Canadian Albums chart, but missed the U.K. Albums chart.
Sales for the band’s follow-up album were poor and the only single to chart from the album was “Jimmie Jones” (which name-checked cult leader Jim Jones) which peaked at #44 on the U.K. Singles chart and managed to peak at #39 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.
In 1982, the Vapors disbanded. According to Dave Fenton, he alleged in an interview with “Record Collector” magazine that the lack of support from their record label was the reason for the band’s break-up and that their seventh single “Red Flag” was cancelled without any explanation.
After the band broke up, Dave Fenton released a solo single in 1983 called “Fresh Air” on Razor Records, but it’s unknown how successful it was. In the early 1990s, he returned to the legal profession and spent the next 17 years in London as a in-house solicitor for the Musicians’ Union.
Meanwhile, Edward Bazalgette became a TV director, directing TV programs for the BBC such as “Doctor Who” and two BBC documentaries: “Genghis Khan” (in 2005) and “Hannibal: Rome’s Worst Nightmare” (in 2006).
Howard Smith ran an independent record shop called People Records in Guildford, Surrey, England which closed in 2016.
Steve Smith formed a music act called Shoot!Dispute in 1984. Later on, he began working in sound engineering and was even the resident engineer at venues such as The Barfly. He later became a member of music trio The Shakespearos.
In April of 2016, Dave Fenton, Ed Bazelgette & Steve Smith performed at the Half Moon in Putney, London, England and since then, it appears as if the band has reunited, but with Michael Bowes now playing drums instead of Howard Smith.
To follow the Vapors on Facebook, go to:
To see the music video for “Turning Japanese,” go to:
To see a fan-made video for “Prisoners,” go to:
To see a fan-made video for “News at Ten,” go to:
To see a fan-made video for “Waiting For the Weekend,” go to:
To see the music video for “Jimmie Jones,” go to: