The Vapors TURNING JAPANESE: Best New Wave Songs

Turning Japanese

Photo: By Alex Tora (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

If there ever was a song that could define the sound of the start of the New Wave era it would be the Vapors “Turning Japanese.” The song was issued in 1980 on the band’s New Clear Days album.The song “Turning Japanese.” reached the No 1 position on the music charts in Canada and Australia. As popular as the song was in the United States, it barely cracked the top 40 charts stalling at the No.36 position. However, the songs was a top 10 hit in the U.K , Ireland, and New Zealand. Chart success aside, it can be easily argued that the song has became ingrained in popular culture because of it’s lyrical content and use of the famous oriental riff in a rock and roll groove.

As with any successful popular song, many people will misinterpret the meaning behind the song’s catch phrase. However, it eventually was described by the band’s guitarist Rod Kemp as being a song simply describing the awful feeling of a broken heart. The pain that becomes so unbearable that actually makes you feel as if you were tuning into something else. Kemp described that the phrase “Turning Japanese,” could have easily had been Turning Lebanese or Turning Portuguese. There was nothing racial about it, it was simply trying to describe the pain of a broken heart. Yet the use of the oriental riff and the term Japaneses is what made the song so famous.

Sometimes you get lucky in the music business and the perfect song and arrangement just falls into place. For the Vapors they hit it big with one of the most original sounding songs of the New Wave era.  The band never had another hit after the success of “Turning Japanese.” They disbanded only a few years later. Yet their song “Turning Japanese,” remains one of the most famous songs of all time and a definite representation of the New Wave Era.

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