Turning Japanese

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This article is about the song. For the "Married... with Children" episode, see List of Married... with Children episodes § Season 10:1995-1996.
"Turning Japanese"
Single by The Vapors
from the album New Clear Days
B-side "Talk Talk"
Released 1980
Length 3:41[2]
Label United Artists
Writer(s) David Fenton
Producer(s) Vic Coppersmith-Heaven
The Vapors singles chronology
"Turning Japanese"
"News at Ten"
Music video
"Turning Japanese" on YouTube

"Turning Japanese" is a song released by English band The Vapors, from their album New Clear Days, and the song for which they are best known. The lyric consists mainly of the singer talking about pictures of his love. It prominently features an Oriental riff played on guitar.


Songwriter David Fenton explains: "Turning Japanese is all the clichés about angst and youth and turning into something you didn't expect to."[3]

The band knew they had a success with "Turning Japanese", so much so that they waited until their second single before releasing it, fearing that if they released it as their first they would become "one-hit wonders". They never matched its success.[4]

The song enjoyed some sales in Japan after its great success in Australia, where it spent two weeks at No. 1 during June 1980.[5]

"Turning Japanese" was believed to euphemistically refer to masturbation — i.e. the act causing the man to squint and therefore resemble a Japanese person's eyes[1] or possibly, referencing the British slang word "Jap's eye" (the urinary meatus) and the act of turning referring to the process of masturbation — but the song's author Fenton denied that claim in an interview on VH1.[citation needed] "It could have been (turning) Portuguese, Lebanese, anything that fitted with that phrase. It has nothing to do with the Japanese...The first time the idea of masturbation came up was when we were touring America. It was written about that 'turning Japanese' was an English phrase for masturbation, which it wasn't."[citation needed]

Guitarist Rob Kemp went on to say, "It's a love song about somebody who had lost his girlfriend and was going slowly crazy, turning Japanese is just all the cliches of our angst... turning into something you never expected to."[citation needed]

Chart performance[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Mason, Stewart. "Turning Japanese – Song Review". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 28 June 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Charts.org.nz – The Vapors – Turning Japanese". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
  3. ^ "Turning Japanese by The Vapors". Songfacts. Retrieved 4 April 2009. 
  4. ^ Davis, Andy. "On the Vapor-trail". Parengstrom.com. Retrieved 23 June 2008. 
  5. ^ a b "Australia No. 1 hits -- 1980's". World Charts. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  6. ^ CHART NUMBER 1248 – Saturday, December 13, 1980 at the Wayback Machine (archived 7 November 2006). CHUM.
  7. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 0274." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  8. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Vapors". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
  9. ^ "Archive Chart: 1980-03-29" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
  10. ^ a b "The Vapors – Awards". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 30 May 2013. 
  11. ^ CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending NOVEMBER 29, 1980 at the Wayback Machine (archived 15 September 2012). Cash Box magazine.
  12. ^ "Songs from the Year 1980". TsorT. Retrieved 27 April 2014. 
  13. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – Top 100 End of Year AMR Charts – 1980s". Australian-charts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 17 October 2016. 
  14. ^ "Top 100 Singles". RPM. Vol. 34 no. 6. 20 December 1980. Retrieved 17 October 2016. 
  15. ^ "UK Singles of the Year" (PDF). Record Mirror. London. 27 December 1980. p. 30. Retrieved 17 October 2016. 
  16. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1999). Pop Annual. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. ISBN 0-89820-142-X. 
Preceded by
"Don't Stand So Close to Me" by The Police
Canadian CHUM number-one single
13 December 1980 (1 week)
Succeeded by
"(Just Like) Starting Over" by John Lennon
Preceded by
"Tired of Toein' the Line" by Rocky Burnette
Australian Kent Music Report number-one single
23 June 1980 – 30 June 1980 (2 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Can't Stop the Music" by Village People