Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Clandestine Classic III - News At Ten

The third post in an occasional series that is intended to highlight songs that you might not have heard that I think are excellent - clandestine classics, if you will. Maybe they'll be by bands you've never heard of. Maybe they'll be by more familiar artists, but tracks that were squirelled away on b-sides, unpopular albums, radio sessions or music magazine cover-mounted CDs. Time will, undoubtedly, tell.

Today, an excellent but almost universally forgotten single from Guildford's finest, The Vapors. Formed in 1979 and managed by none other than John Weller (yes, Paul's dad) and Jam bassist Bruce Foxton, I am always amazed that The Vapors didn't achieve greater success. Yes, they had a big hit with Turning Japanese (possibly the highest chart position ever for a song about having a J. Arthur) but other than that...? And this amazes me because they were such Jam-alikes at a time when The Jam were just about the biggest band in the country. The Vapors - they should have been huge.

But they weren't. The follow-up single to Turning Japanese was today's clandestine classic, News At Ten. It limped to a lowly number 44 in the charts (though in doing so probably sold enough to go Top Ten these days). All the ingredients were there: textbook New Wave guitars, catchy chorus, perfect lyrics for the disaffected and disenfranchised angry young man about town... yet it just didn't happen. Even the album from whence this was drawn, 1980's thoroughly excellent New Clear Days (really - go and buy it now), only made it to number 44 too, despite containing Turning Japanese. How did that happen? The band released one more album and a clutch of equally unsuccesful singles, and that was that. Singer Dave Fenton went on to be a successful solicitor specialising in music industry law, and The Vapors went on to be remembered for Turning Japanese, and nothing else. Sadly, they are one of those bands whose studio albums are now outnumbered by compilations. Forget those though - just buy New Clear Days.

In the meantime, thanks to YouTube, we can all revel in the clandestine classic that is News At Ten, and think about what might have been.

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