Phantom Songs: The Vapors – “Turning Japanese”

220px-TurningJapanesePhantom Songs is an ongoing series of musical pieces that you can’t quite put your finger on. You have most definitely heard the song before, but are most likely not able to pinpoint who made it, when it was released, and/or what the song is really about. All of the artist’s history and biography was either stolen from wikipedia or made up entirely.

If you’re the kind of person that knows me, then congratulations, you know that I love me a good bev. Cold bevs, warm bevs, lukewarm bevs, sodie bevs, alchie bevs, bevie bevs, I am of the opinion that all bevs should be mine for the bevving. Today, I’m sipping on an ice cold Pocari Sweat, a bev that I’ve never tried before, but rocks the bev socks off of any American bev in Bevland. Just watch the sweet-ass commerch for this bev:

It’s so simple! Cindy Crawford waves a sword at a pissed off laser panther, then waves it at some flames, then some CGI bunny monster whatever hands her a bev. Duh! Wave a sword! Drink Pocari Sweat! Bev out! Bev in! Bev forbever! If you compare it to American Gatorade ads, which are overly complicated and involve people sweating neon colors for no reason, it’s a no brainer. Pocari Sweat is clearly a superior bev, because it’s Japanese and everything Japanese is better than its chump counterparts.

This is what The Vapors were probably trying to get it when they wrote their hit single, “Turning Japanese”. Recorded in 1979, they knew the song was so good that they decided to wait to release it. They figured that if they release a different hit single first and then drop the bombtrack deluxe supreme, they could avoid being one hit wonders. Well, nobody listened to their first single, so they went ahead and released “Turning Japanese” anyway. It turned out to be just as catchy as it was controversial. Shortly after it became a widespread success, American audiences discovered a dark hidden meaning. According to urban legend, the song is actually an ironically upbeat tale about a man losing his vision. Despite frequent denial from the artists, this is what popular opinion still states. I say we vanquish this rumor, pick apart the lyrics and figure this puzzle out once and for all! Are you with me? Too bad!

I’ve got your picture of me and you
You wrote “I love you” I wrote “me too”
I sit there staring and there’s nothing else to do
Oh it’s in color Your hair is brown
Your eyes are hazel And soft as clouds
I often kiss you when there’s no one else around

He’s definitely feeling sentimental about this picture he has. It seems to be the only thing in life that matters, or even more, his only worldly possession. In the last line, he states that he kisses “her” [the picture] when there’s no one else around. Hmm. Interesting. He’s trying to hide his infatuation. But from whom?

I’ve got your picture, I’ve got your picture
I’d like a million of you all round my cell
I want a doctor to take your picture
So I can look at you from inside as well
You’ve got me turning up and turning down
And turning in and turning ’round

Wait, he wants a million all around his cell? Of course! He’s being imprisoned! And this picture of a white woman is the only thing keeping his sanity. It also doesn’t seem to do a good job at doing that, as he’s also obsessed with photography now. Who else is obsessed with photography? Fuji Film. That’s based out of Japan. There’s also Minolta. Based out of Japan. And Kodak? Gasp! Japanese people sometimes use Kodak film! He’s clearly being imprisoned and brainwashed by the Japanese! Will this photograph woman rescue him?!!?

I’m turning Japanese
I think I’m turning Japanese
I really think so

NOOOOOOO!!!!! He quickly fell under their spell. Maybe the picture of a woman was a device used by the Japanese to open up the re-writeable receptors in his brain [like a CD-RW, also a Japanese product]. They might as well let him loose, toss him a can of Pocari Sweat and tell him to enjoy his new life. But what does being Japanese actually mean? What does the life of a white man turned Japanese entail?

No sex, no drugs, no wine, no women
No fun, no sin, no you, no wonder it’s dark
Everyone around me is a total stranger
Everyone avoids me like a cyclone ranger

Oh god, that sounds terrible! How can anyone live without wine?!? Can you at least spike the Pocari Sweat? He could’ve just simplified it by saying “no fun”, but what can you do, the guy has a right to feel dramatic. He was just molded into the life of moral celibacy. So, I guess that about wraps it up.

That’s why I’m turning Japanese
I think I’m turning Japanese
I really think so

Uh oh. THAT’S WHY?!? Total game changer. Reverse everything I just said. He willfully turned himself Japanese, or paid people to do it for him, because the life of the white man was too boring for him. In the first verse, he’s saying goodbye to his baby. In the second, he does the same, but with his own perverted twist about wanting to see her innards [which is a Japanese fetish, I think]. And then he mourns about how in the not-too-distant future, the whole world has been taken over by heartless fascists that don’t condone any sort of vice. But they weren’t able to take down Japan, where everything was better and cooler there in the first place. Japan is so badass that they got even more street cred as the rest of the world was slaughtered by lame boretards with their boring patrol robots, boring the shit out of people and weaksauce boring explosions and subtle death-giving.

And as for the girl in the picture? We can all assume that some Borebot gave her an aneurysm for accidentally inhaling second hand smoke. It’s a pity that she didn’t want to turn Japanese. But life goes on…I guess…

Join me next time when I critique Billy Squire’s tennis technique!