By John Curley
The Vapors, the early 1980s New Wave band that reunited five years ago, have put together a terrific film that is part interviews and part live performance. Titled We Lived Off Worlds That No One Heard – Live From The Factory, the 82-minute film is anchored by a 12-song performance that was shot at The Factory in Worthing, England on July 21st of his year. The remainder of the film features interviews with the band members, band associates, other artists and fans.
Early in the film, a quote from The Vapors’ lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist and songwriter Dave Fenton is shown that reads: “In 1979 everything that could possibly have gone wrong for us in fact went right. From finding a record company and management to then having a hit song within a few weeks of the beginning of 1980.”
The hit song that Fenton was referring to is “Turning Japanese,” the band’s New Wave anthem that got quite a bit of airplay on both sides of the Atlantic. A live performance of the song is included in the film.
Interviewees include producer Steve Levine, the longtime British radio DJ Mike Read, Michael Giblin, who played lead guitar with The Vapors on the Lost 80’s tour of the USA in 2019, The Jam’s Bruce Foxton, who discovered the band and went on to co-manage them and Foxton’s current musical partner in the band From The Jam, Russell Hastings. Pete Townshend, Dave Cairns of Secret Affair, Buddy Ascot of The Chords and Chris Wilson from The Flamin’ Groovies also appear in the film to wish The Vapors a happy 40th anniversary.
Original band members Dave Fenton, bassist Steve Smith and drummer Howard Smith all speak at length in the film as do current drummer Michael Bowes and Fenton’s son Dan Fenton, who often plays lead guitar with the band when original member Ed Bazalgette is not available. Bazalgette is now a TV director in the UK, which limits the time that he can spend with the band. Oddly, Bazalgette is not interviewed in the film. Steve Smith and Howard Smith both make interesting comments about the early days of the band and the tours back then, and Howard Smith recalls with great fondness when he met Blondie’s Clem Burke backstage at The Whiskey a Go Go in Los Angeles during a Vapors tour of the USA.
Dave Fenton states in an interview segment that being in the band at present is more fun than it was in the late 1970s and early 1980s since the band has been together longer in this second incarnation and that they no longer have to deal with interference from the record company.
The current band displayed its chops in the concert segment of the film in which they performed songs from all three of the band’s albums – 1980’s New Clear Days, 1981’s Magnets and 2020’s comeback album Together. Dan Fenton deputized for Ed Bazalgette on lead guitar in the live portion of the film.
Following an introduction to the stage by Mike Read, the live portion of the film kicked off with a rousing version of “Living In Bunkers.” The band gave a tight performance, highlighted by some demonstrative lead guitar work by Dan Fenton. That was followed by the power pop of the title track from last year’s album Together. It featured solid work by the rhythm section of Steve Smith and Michael Bowes with a good vocal by Dave Fenton and great lead guitar from Dan Fenton. “King L,” The Vapors’ tribute to Leonard Cohen, was up next, and it was given a terrific performance.
Smith introduced “Prisoners,” saying that it was the band’s first single, and he added that after the last year and a half of life during the pandemic, we had all felt like prisoners. The hook-laden performance of the song that followed was terrific, surely one of the highlights of the show. “In Babylon” featured some nice guitar interplay by the Fentons. “Crazy” and “Girl From The Factory,” both from the Together album, received solid performances.
The sharp power pop of “Jimmie Jones,” which is about the 1970’s cult leader Jim Jones, cuts like a razor with its stinging guitar work by Dan Fenton and an all-hands-on-deck performance by the band. The rocking song “Daylight Titans” featured a terrific instrumental call-and-response bit between Bowes and Dan Fenton. “Live At The Marquee” had some nice guitar work by both Fentons at its core.
Dave and Dan Fenton faced each other to play the guitar intro to The Vapors’ signature tune, “Turning Japanese,” and the band delivered a buzzing version of the song. The live set was rounded out by “Letter From Hiro.” It starts out softly but then turns into explosive power pop. It was another highlight of the show and featured some terrific bass playing by Smith.
The Vapors have provided the ordering information for this pay-per-view event: Tickets are available for the first showing this Saturday, September 11th at and again on Saturday, October 9th at 8:00 p.m. BST (3:00 p.m. Eastern). Send a payment of £10.00 via PayPal family and friends option along with your preferred date and your email address to Vaporsmerch@gmail.com The band will then send you your own personal and exclusive log in and link.
The four-CD box set from The Vapors, Waiting For The Weekend: The United Artists & Liberty Records Recordings, is now available from Cherry Red Records. It features the New Clear Days and Magnets albums in full as well as bonus tracks, alternate takes, B-sides and live songs.