From George Abbot and Godalming College to the Marquee and the Whisky a Go Go – in conversation with Howard Smith

Howard Smith was just back from a family holiday in Suffolk when I called, setting up his children with a Disney classic before chatting about his own golden era.

In his case that involved a comparatively short but incident-packed period with The Vapors, recording two great LPs and half a dozen memorable singles, helping create a new wave legacy still talked about and revered four decades after it came to a premature end.

While his bandmates triumphantly returned in 2016, going on to make another acclaimed album and play many more memorable shows, Howard’s no longer involved. But he had input in a brand new four-disc Cherry Red Records boxset from the band’s commercial heyday, and remains rightly proud of his contribution.

Howard went on to a rewarding career with the Performing Rights Society (PRS), since then running a record shop in his and The Vapors’ hometown, Guildford, standing for the Labour Party in his Surrey constituency, and promoting folk and Americana gigs on his patch. But it’s that late ‘70s/early ‘80s period that people seem to remain most intrigued about.

The two LPs he featured on slowly slipped out of circulation, reaching increasingly large asking prices on the market. But last week’s release of the 76-track Waiting for the Weekend 4CD compilation – featuring the New Clear Days and Magnets albums, plus various live and studio recordings – may help offset that. Was it a proud moment, receiving his copy of that impressive clamshell boxset?

“Of course! And I’m so glad they’ve done something. The CDs have been unavailable for some time, achieving crazy prices on eBay and places like that. So it’s great that people can buy both albums plus a bunch of other stuff now, all for only £25.

“The only problem could be that they’re only pressing around 2,000 copies, maybe enough to saturate the market, but in a while, they’re not going to be available again. I’m hoping they can keep them in print somehow.”

Since our conversation, that’s been addressed, Cherry Red arranging another run, in view of the demand experienced.

I had – tongue-in-cheek, I should add – joked to Howard about the boxset, wondering if we really needed to hear another half-dozen versions of ‘Turning Japanese’. For here’s a band that for all their success still go down in some quarters as ‘one-hit wonders’, having reached No.3 in the UK in early 1980 with that single and never quite breaching that top 40 again, that memorable 45 also reaching No.1 in Australia, and also selling well in Canada, New Zealand and the USA.

“I know! We’re following in the footsteps of Bob Dylan and some of his multi-disc boxsets, where you might get 30 versions of ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ or something!”

Suffice to say, there was so much more to the band, and there are many great tracks to savour on the compilation, the two long players among this writer’s favourites, the boxset also featuring live recordings from December ‘79 at London’s Rainbow Theatre, various singles, B-sides, alternative, rough and demo mixes, including three previously-unreleased tracks, an early interview with frontman David Fenton, and a 24-page booklet with extensive notes and lots of rare photos.

I reckon all that’s missing is the four-track BBC Radio 1 session recorded for legendary DJ John Peel in July ’79. In fact, Cherry Red missed a trick there. That could have made it eight takes on ‘Turning Japanese’ and 80 tracks in all.

To casual observers, it seemed a meteoric rise, the band spotted by The Jam bassist Bruce Foxton playing a Surrey pub gig, leading to John Weller co-managing them and taking them on tour with his son Paul’s band, the Woking outfit then at the height of their powers.

But there was far more to it, continuing global interest in the band eventually leading to a reunion 35 years on – albeit without Howard – and successful dates on both sides of the Atlantic, with third LP, Together, released to rave reviews last year.

Let’s go back to the start though, or at least the second coming, lead singer, main songwriter and newly-qualified solicitor David Fenton having overseen a fruitful regeneration of the band he formed in ’77 after one member headed off to uni and the other two originals also exited.

As David put it, ‘Three Guildford bands split up in 1978 – The Vapors, The Ellery Bops and The Absolute, and I chose the cream of the crop for The Vapors, Mk. II’. So, in came guitarist Ed Bazalgette from the Ellery Bops, then drumming bandmate Howard and bass-playing namesake (no relation) Steve Smith from The Absolute. And they were soon properly on their way.

I asked Howard first if hearing those mixes, not least the rough ones, brought it all back, putting him back in the moment all these years on.

“To be honest, I haven’t played this yet! I haven’t had a chance. But I’m looking forward to it. I must have all this stuff on cassette tape, from back in the day, but I’m looking forward to it.”

I’d caught Howard on the hop, so soon after his holiday. Was it, I asked, largely a happy experience, working in the studio?

“Absolutely. I really enjoyed it, although you have to bear in mind that as a drummer you spend a lot of time setting the studio up, you do the drum tracks then sit around waiting for everyone else to do their stuff. It’s not all high velocity enjoyment, although it’s interesting to hear how things are put together.

“I was thinking about this the other day, the amount of recording studios in London we used in the space of two and a half years or something was incredible. I probably couldn’t recall how many and list them all out now, but pretty much every studio apart from Abbey Road – unfortunately – like RAK and so on.”

I was talking about RAK recently with Kim Wilde, another artist who recently received Cherry Red boxset status, who started her recording career there and has returned since, saying it’s basically unchanged. How about Sarm West, then called Basing Street Studios?

“I remember watching Bryan Ferry playing snooker or pool in there. Then there was Townhouse in Goldhawk Road, and The Roundhouse. It’s quite nice that we used all these studios. It certainly kept it different.”

Were you aware of the history involved at those hallowed studios back then?

“To a certain extent. As much as you can be when you’re 19 or something. When I left school, the careers officer asked what I wanted to do, I told him I wanted to work in music, and he kind of pressed me into writing a letter to all the recording studios in London. This was in the days when people would bother to write and reply, places like Wessex Studios, saying, ‘I’m really sorry we haven’t got any vacancies at the moment, but we’ll keep your letter on file’. I’ve still got around a dozen of those letters.”

Wasn’t it at Wessex where the Sex Pistols recorded Never Mind the Bollocks?

“I think it was. If only they’d have given me a job – I could’ve been the tape op on something like that!”  

Howard was at George Abbot School, a fairly large comprehensive, one that – a few years later – often gave my smaller Guildford secondary school a pasting at football. No disrespect to my careers officer, but I can’t recall such input with what I wanted to do, although perhaps I just wasn’t so focused on where I might be headed.

Talking of recordings, I told Howard how struck I was by the more punky and raw nature of the band on a couple of New Clear Days era alternative versions. And as I missed out first time – I was barely 13 when the band broke up, only catching Steve Smith’s post-Vapors outfit Shoot! Dispute, never seeing the band until they reformed 35 years later – listening to the more rough and ready demos, I get something of the urgency of the early gigs. That also applies to rough mixes of Magnets-era songs like ‘Live at the Marquee’. The producers of each LP – Vic Coppersmith-Heaven on the debut, Dave Tickle on the follow-up – had very different approaches, so it’s interesting to hear how those songs sounded early on.

“Absolutely. I suppose to a certain extent, New Clear Days was songs we’d been playing a year or so before we went into the studio, whereas Magnets was put together in rehearsals and probably hadn’t had a lot of live outings before we recorded them. That was probably the biggest difference between albums. I guess that’s the nature of first and second albums for pretty much every band.”

Living in Guildford at the time probably gave me even less chance of catching them – their home returns pretty much sold out before this young teen could get a ticket. Not as if they were rare visitors.

“Yeah, we were a band who more or less played every other night after we formed. We’d play anywhere, fix up our own gigs, do benefits for the NUJ at Surrey University or Barbed Wire fanzine up at the Wooden Bridge, constantly playing there or The Royal. We had a guy called Deke – Dave Cavanagh, who I still bump into from time to time in Guildford – who had a Transit van, and his brother had a PA system, so we’d get gigs in Chatham, Ipswich or somewhere, pile into the back of this old blue Transit. Although we never quite achieved the efficiency of 10,000 hours playing together like The Beatles, we were constantly playing.”

Your Hamburg apprenticeships just happened to have been spent on the edge of town in Stoughton.

“They were! Ha! Some similarities probably, with the squaddies up there as well!”

When Dave brought those songs in, were they pretty much fully formed, or were they band constructs?

“Well, have you seen the setlist for the first gig I played, at Godalming College? You’ll see from that. Ed joined and did some gigs, then Steve and I joined, and we had a week or two to get ready for the first gig. My father ran the launderette in Stoke Road, with two flats above, one of which Ed and I twisted his arm into renting, the other one empty. Dad wasn’t money-minded at all, renting them out was too much hassle. So we persuaded him to let us use the other flat as rehearsal space. That may have been some attraction for Dave saying, ‘Let’s get Howard in the band’! Having a drummer with free rehearsal space …

“Dave was working at the fruit and veg shop in Market Street, and got loads of packaging which we plastered the walls with to sound-proof. But we literally had two weeks to the first gig with me and Steve, and I still remember my drums set-up in the living room of this flat, us all crowded in there with amps and stuff, trying to learn every single song. And that (Godalming College) setlist is basically all the songs we had to learn, songs we inherited from the previous incarnation of the band.

“After that … well, Dave was writing songs regularly, so we were working out those ourselves, with some input into their creation. And of those originals, some songs were dropped. With some of them I’m not sure any of us can actually remember how they go now.”

While I didn’t get to see the band first time around, my brother – seven and a half years older – did several times, while my youngest sister – five and a half years older and not at all into punk and new wave like her brothers – was in her first year at Godalming College and dropped by for that gig. And Howard sent me the setlist after our conversation, adding, ‘I think the only song that hadn’t been performed by the old Vapors was ‘Working for the Weekend’. All the others carried over.’

Of 15 tracks played that day, over two sets, six ended on the first album and four more as B-sides, with one more on the boxset in demo form, ‘Move’, and another kicking off the December ’79 Rainbow live set, ‘Caroline’, although it was named ‘Caroline Coon’ then, namechecking the music journalist and one-time Clash manager. But what became of ‘Down to Zero’, ‘Terminal’ and ‘Corporate Love’?

“I think they were just dropped and forgotten. Dave was literally writing a new song a week at that stage. Maybe he felt that now he had a band behind him that could really do something. He brought ‘Spring Collection’ and ‘Johnny’s in Love Again’ to one rehearsal, two new songs in one day. The weaker songs just got left behind.”

As for Howard and Steve’s lunchtime college debut with the band …

“I don’t really know what we were doing there, to be honest! Someone obviously had a connection or friend there and said we could play in their hall one lunchtime. We just rocked up, set the gear up on stage, and played. It’s mad, really. I can’t imagine that we sold any tickets!”

There are some great photos with the notes in the boxset, including one of the band posing with a Morris Minor.

“That belonged to a guy called Billy Gunner, who sort of became part of the road crew and drove us around. Also, John Weller got us – I think off a mate of a mate – this massive bright yellow Ford Granada estate. We had that for a few months after we signed. John was kind of a wheeler-dealer and probably had a mate who sold him that.”

That puts me in mind of the ‘Working for the Weekend’ video, the four of you in boiler suits, servicing cars for a living. Were any of you proficient in that respect?

“Not at all! I couldn’t drive at that stage. Ed passed his test, and I can’t recall ever seeing Dave drive. We didn’t have a clue. That’s how you went sometimes as boys at school – you were either into cars or music.”

Did you ever see The Vapors, Mk.I?

“Yeah, we never played the same bill, but places like The Wooden Bridge and The Royal were having gigs all the time, and we’d go along to any gigs that were happening, so I saw them a couple of times. I can’t remember if I saw them with Ed, or if it was pre-Ed, but I remember them at The Wooden Bridge at least once.

“This is the thing, when (Howard Smith’s 21st century replacement) Michael Bowes joined the band, he could listen to CDs. When I joined, I had no clue what those songs were. It wasn’t like playing ’Route 66’ and just a case of the tempo and all the rest of it. I’d play along, songs like ‘Turning Japanese’, and they’d say, ‘No, stop here and do a hi-hat thing,’ and I’d say, ‘Ah, okay’!”

It amazes me now that the first version of The Vapors practised at my home village hall in Shalford, where I’d go to Christmas fairs and social functions, my family close friends with the woman doing the bookings. And this in a small village where The Stranglers happened to practise in the scout hut at the end of my road.

“Funny, isn’t it. I don’t know if it was just particular to that time. Pre-Vapors, me and Ed were doing the same thing, playing these village halls – there probably isn’t a village hall, club or youth centre we hadn’t played at least once!”

Was that with the Ellery Bops?

“That’s right, and we were 16. I don’t know how we had the front to do it, to be honest!”

Do you recall what covers you were doing back then?

“Ah, my memory … erm, we did things like Chuck Berry, ‘Stepping Stone’ by The Monkees, R&B covered by other so-called punk bands …”

Howard’s bandmate and namesake (no relation) Steve Smith told me that seeing The Clash at Guildford Civic Hall on 1977’s ‘White Riot’ tour – the year Howard left school – was his year zero. The next day he jettisoned everything, cut his hair, and started again. How about Howard?

“Yeah, me and Ed went to that (gig) and were already buying Clash singles, and that was the first date of the tour. I remember standing there, thinking, ‘This is incredible!’. Me and Ed in our first phase of the Ellery Bops had really long hippie-like hair.

“Hard to believe it now, but Ed had this incredible mane of long, luxurious hair! I tried to grow my hair so it was the longest at George Abbot, but Ed beat me, hands down – it was already half-way down his back! Before The Clash gig we’d already cut our hair fairly short, but after that started doing our version of ‘Police and Thieves’, stuff like that.”

Do you recall seeing Dave there the night the Ellery Bops played The Royal and he felt he’d found at least a guitarist for Mk. II of his band? He must have been a pretty noticeable character.

“He was, but no – the thing about those gigs was that you could sell them out. They’d be absolutely rammed. It’s the difference between pubs then and pubs now, generally.

“I remember I had a date with a girl from Larch Avenue at what is now The Keep, probably courtesy of my friendship with Ed, and she said, ‘I’ll meet you at The Two Brewers’. I was probably 15 or 16. I remember getting there, plucking up the courage to meet her, then you had to push your way in, with the chance of pushing someone out at the other end! I just didn’t have the courage in the end. I just walked away!

“Our version of The Vapors would sell out The Wooden Bridge, and for a local band that were playing their own material on a midweek night, that was pretty something.”

Were you happy playing the pub circuit, or were you ambitious to take that next big step?

“Oh yeah, absolutely. I was quite happy to burn all my bridges at school. I left before I finished my A-levels. Ed was much more conscientious. He finished his and was thinking about going to college. As far as I was concerned, I didn’t want anything to do with that. I just wanted to be in a band.

“I left school to get a job in a supermarket or something like that for a few months, just to get some money coming in. We rented the flat off my Dad, I carried on working, doing retail jobs, and the Ellery Bops carried on in various incarnations. I can’t remember, but Ed said I decided to break up the band, because we just weren’t getting anywhere. But soon after, Ed had that opportunity to join The Vapors when their guitarist got chucked out, and I was thinking, ‘What am I going to do now?’. Then, suddenly they needed a bass player and a drummer …”

While Dave worked for a fruit and veg shop and Steve was in the loading bay at Debenhams, where were you?

“We were keeping Guildford retail going, weren’t we! I had a short stint at Woolworth’s in the High Street, in the electrical department, and back then if you had a job for four or five months and paid your tax, when you left you’d get all that back, so you could go a couple of months without having to work, doing your band stuff.

“Then there was a Halfords-like shop in the upper High Street called Drivers Warehouse. I quite liked working there, the only guy in the shop, opening up in the morning, selling stuff, cashing up, then going home, carrying on there until I quit on joining The Vapors.”

Fast forward a bit, and do you recall much about the night Bruce Foxton spotted you at the Three Lions – aka Scratchers – in nearby Farncombe, deciding here was a band going places?

“I can’t remember that either! I’m not even sure if that was an earlier version of the band or our band. You’d have to check with one of the others.”

Were you a Jam fan?

“Not massively, not as much as I was a fan of The Clash or the Buzzcocks, bands like that, but a girlfriend got me a copy of All Mod Cons for my birthday, asking Ed, ‘What can I give Howard?’. I’d been buying their singles before then. I think I’d also seen them at Guildford Civic. They were one of a dozen bands I really liked. When it came to us joining them on the Setting Sons tour though, seeing them play, there was probably not a better band I’ve ever seen. It was really stunning.”

How about those big London dates, like those at the Marquee, the Nashville, and the Rainbow? Do you see them as the high points now?

“I suppose so, although I’ve never really thought about which gigs I enjoyed the most. They were all so different. Apples and oranges really. We did some really early gigs at the Moonlight Club in West Hampstead. We had a residency there, and there were literally just a few people there. We’d go up in the van, get stuck in traffic on West End Lane, but it really progressed from there.

“I guess the most exciting ones were when we initially did the Marquee and started selling out there. That was pretty special, this landmark venue. After that, there was the Setting Sons tour, that was a real challenge. Before that it would be a gig every few nights in front of a hundred or something. Then suddenly we’re 19 years old and the support band for The Jam, two and a half-thousand seaters night after night after night.

“We’d never experienced anything like that before. I was getting blisters on my hands. It was pretty intense. And I think there’s always pressure on a drummer. The others could play a few chords, stop playing for a minute and no one would notice, but a drummer can’t stop playing! If the drummer stops, everyone has to stop!”

Interesting you say that. Before this boxset arrived, I was familiar with cult B-side and regular 100mph show-stopper ‘Here Comes the Judge’, recorded at the Rainbow. But here we get the full set, and I’d have been knackered in your place after playing opening song, ‘Caroline’.

“That’s one of the reasons I wasn’t interested in any reunion. I was a kid then. No disrespect to the new line-up, but it’s a lot slower now. You just can’t maintain that pace. The difference between the pace then and now … I do sometimes wonder – maybe it was me! I was just going full pelt. Sometimes, Dave would look at me, as if to say, ‘Come on, let’s get this going faster’, and I’d be like, ‘Come on, let’s go!’. It was really hell for leather!”

When the opportunity arose to get the band back together, was it just a case of it not being the right time for you?

“Yeah, that’s right. I was running the record shop in Guildford, had been there since 2009, my son Stanley was on his way, and the lease was up. It was making some money and I really enjoyed it – a great way to be involved in music – and I initially said yes to a new lease, but then chatted to (wife) Debbie about it and the prospect of working six days a week there, being unable to take time off.

“I’d just got it extended to the end of 2015. Then, pretty much the same time, I got a text message, I think, from Dave’s wife about a reunion, and thought, ‘No, I don’t think so’. A whole exchange of emails followed. I think Ed felt the same way then had a change of heart, but I just couldn’t commit to it.

“It was a similar story at an earlier stage. I didn’t want to do it that time. That was in the ’90s. We had a meeting at The Railway, funnily enough where The Moonlight Club was in West Hampstead, where I was living at the time. That was when the Captain Mod guys licensed our songs and either them or someone connected to them asked if we wanted to do a live album. And I decided no.” 

I detect from our conversation that while Howard doesn’t regret his decision then or the next time, he perhaps felt guilty about that first knock-back ruling out a reunion for the others, not least Steve, who was definitely up for it. And while Howard was closest to Ed – their friendship the longest-running – he has great respect and affection for David and Steve too.

“There’s so much to say about Steve. Above all else, he’s an incredibly talented musician. He used to book bands at the Wooden Bridge, way back, he’s a sound engineer, he can play drums and piano as well as bass and guitar. We were incredibly lucky to have him in the band.” 

I butt in before he can get on to the frontman, telling him it took me longer to come round to where they were going with Magnets, but howI love that too these days, even if its darker approach took a while to hook me, having loved the more new wave thrill of New Clear Days so much. But hearing that bassline from Steve and Howard locking in on ‘Johnny’s in Love (Again)’ on the boxset’s demo version, Ed adding his guitar over the top, there’s further proof that they were an amazing band. It wasn’t just about David’s great songwriting.  

“Yeah, I think to an extent you can say we were to a certain extent limited in our skills then. But when we played together, we were all on the same page and all knew what we were aiming for and could achieve it. I’m not a technical drummer in any sense, but I can understand the dynamics of a song and accentuating the bits that need it. Then, Steve’s an amazing bass player, Ed was the perfect guitarist for the band, and nothing needs to be said about Dave’s songwriting.”

I realise you’ve not seen Dave’s son Dan play (guitar) with the band, but he’s great too, and (drummer) Michael Bowes is a perfect fit. He certainly has that proficiency and amazing energy.

“The only time I’ve seen them was at the Always the Sun festival in Guildford, run by the Boileroom people. We had tickets for that. Not the best circumstances – it was chucking it down with rain – but yeah, the good thing about Michael is that he’s brought that energy to the band, which is key to the sound and the songs.”

What happened after the band? Were you soon involved in your Performing Rights Society role?

“Yeah, a journalist came along from Record Mirror, Daniela Soave, who followed us for a few gigs on a tour and made ‘Turning Japanese’ single of the week. I thought she was lovely, we started chatting, and within a few months I moved up to London, and we shared a bedsit in Hampstead.

“Then after the last gig we played, in San Francisco, I came back early, Ed followed a couple of days later, and was my best man when we married, the fourth of July ‘81. The band broke up within a few months of that last tour, I did a few jobs and was working with my brother-in-law in London, then applied for a job at the PRS in October 1982, starting on pretty much the lowest rung of the ladder, working through to senior management.”

Howard stayed with the PRS around 20 years, at that stage deciding to sell his flat in London, moving back to Guildford and opening his shop, by that time seeing Debbie, remarrying in 2011, son Stanley following in 2015 and daughter Audrey in 2017. Was his PRS role the beginning of his interest in socialist politics, or was that always important to him?

“It’s always been there. My Dad wasn’t big on politics but very much on the left, politically, and for so long I felt ‘these guys are terrible’, then thought, ‘But what am I doing to help?’, deciding to get involved.”

Consequently, six years ago he joined his constituency Labour Party, ‘a small group of really lovely people struggling to get the Labour vote increased in Guildford’. He’s since stood at borough, county and constituency elections, at the 2017 General Election polling the highest number of votes for the party in Guildford since the year The Vapors broke out of their hometown, 1979, his current role as ‘part of the team supporting most recent candidate Anne Rouse’.

Howard’s love of music still shines through, these days through promotion of live concerts locally, despite recent events ruling out any shows for the past 18 months, planning ahead for prestigious shows in his hometown next year. And his highlights on that front included a memorable night in late October 2015 when he put on The Unthanks at Guildford’s Holy Trinity Church.

“That was the day my son was born! While the gig was being set up at the church, I was at the Royal Surrey (County Hospital) with Debbie, and Stanley arrived at around two o’clock, so I managed to get along at six. Thankfully I got a couple of mates in, texting them from the coffee shop asking if they could get down, get the keys, get to Sainsburys for some food for the rider, sort things out. There was an announcement from the stage that night, saying, ‘We were a bit short on the rider, but we’re going to have to forgive our promoter, his wife’s just had a baby,’ then a big round of applause.”

Now, four decades after his Vapors stint – a fairly short period but one in which they achieved so much, not least a top-three hit, some great singles, two brilliant albums, a No.1 in Australia, tours there and America, and many memorable UK shows, including that support stint with The Jam – is he proud of it all, looking back? With a little more luck, it could have been much more, not least commercially, but for the likes of me, they achieved so much.

“Yeah, there’s talk about Top of the Pops being off air at a key stage, us missing out on another hit and all that, but it doesn’t matter. We had this perfect short career, pop stars for a couple of years, then off to do other things.

“I think Dave was upset with the way the record company treated us, him in particular. We had a bit of a journey -we signed to United Artists, that became Liberty United, got bought by EMI, our stuff transferred to Manchester Square, a lot of staff let go there. It was all a bit disjointed and bad timing. I think Dave phoned Ed, said, ‘That’s it, I’m leaving’, Ed phoned me, and I just thought, ‘Oh well, things haven’t been perfect for a while’. But I’m really proud of it, we made some great music, and it’s amazing how this thing we did for two and a half years or so when we were 19 up to 21 can follow you around for the rest of your life.

“I think my biggest achievement was with the PRS. In a lot of ways that’s what I’m most proud of. But really, no one’s so interested in that or even being a Labour Party candidate for Guildford. The thing most people are interested in was that I was on Top of the Pops doing ‘Turning Japanese’. And something happens every week where it’s included on a TV programme or something …”

Usually including footage of you casually strolling across the floor to grab a dropped drumstick.

“Yes! Ha! There’s always something! And it’s really lovely.”

For so many musicians I speak to, recording a single and a session for John Peel would have been enough. And Top of the Pops was so iconic for any of us who grew up in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Then there were all those live shows.

“Yeah, totally, including two gigs we did one night at the Whisky a Go-Go, Los Angeles. We were there, ‘Thinking, ‘Fuck! This is amazing. The Doors used to play here! This is one of the most amazing venues!’. Actually, it was a bit of a shithole, but … I remember doing the soundcheck and this guy saying we need to be on at 7.30 and 9.30. And we were like, ‘What?’.

“He told us we had two shows. You’re kidding! We play like 500 miles an hour! But at the end of the second show, Clem Burke and Kim Fowley came in the dressing room and said, ‘Hi guys, good gig!’. Just 18 months earlier I was in my bedroom with the first Blondie album, playing along to Clem Burke’s drumming, then here I am, him coming backstage to see us! There were so many little things like that, and I wouldn’t have missed all that for the world.”

The Vapors boxset quickly sold out. However, Cherry Red are arranging a re-press, with details here. Meanwhile, the band return to the road soon for a rescheduled set of dates, supported by The 79ers, comprising The Chords’ Brett ‘Buddy’ Ascott and Kip Herring, Simon Stebbing (The Purple Hearts) and Ian Jones (Long Tall Shorty). For details, try here.

For this website’s feature/interview with David Fenton from last summer, head here. For another from October 2019, head here, and for another marking the band’s return from September 2016, head here. There are also Vapors-related WriteWyattUK feature/interviews elsewhere with Ed Bazalgette (November 2016) and Steve Smith (May 2018).

And to keep up to date with what Howard Smith has lined up, concert-wise, as part of his People Music promotions, follow this link.


About writewyattuk

A freelance writer and family man being swept along on a wave of advanced technology, but somehow clinging on to reality. It's only a matter of time ... A highly-motivated scribbler with a background in journalism, business and life itself. Away from the features, interviews and reviews you see here, I tackle novels, short stories, copywriting, ghost-writing, plus TV, radio and film scripts for adults and children. I'm also available for assignments and write/research for magazines, newspapers, press releases and webpages on a vast range of subjects. You can also follow me on Facebook via and on Twitter via @writewyattuk. Legally speaking, all content of this blog (unless otherwise stated) is the intellectual property of Malcolm Wyatt and may only be reproduced with permission.
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