Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
UK AOR supergroup formed Jan. '81 by Steve Howe (b 8 April '47, London), guitar; Carl Palmer (b 20 March '50, Birmingham), drums; John Wetton (b 12 July '49, Derby), bass, vocals; Geoff Downes, keyboards: all refugees from the UK progressive boom of the '70s. Palmer, ex-Emerson, Lake and Palmer, had been unable to sustain a career with own band PM '79-80, so linked with former Yes-men Howe and Downes and the much-travelled Wetton (who started in Mogul Thrash '69 before passing through Family, King Crimson, Roxy Music, Uriah Heep before going solo). Critics derided the new quartet as irrelevant even before eponymous '82 debut LP was heard, but tailored-for-radio sound with lush harmonies backing Wetton's smoky vocals found wide acceptance in the USA; the album spent nine weeks at no. 1 there including two top 20 singles ('Heat Of The Moment', 'Only Time Will Tell'). But with an MTV-assisted influx of younger, more vital UK bands, the second LP Alpha (recorded in Canada) peaked late '83 at no. 6 and a promo tour was cancelled halfway through due to poor ticket sales. In the UK, however, where Asia had made no. 11, the second LP did much better. Wetton was replaced by Greg Lake (see Emerson etc) with whom the band made an attempt on the MTV audience with a live Dec. '83 broadcast to 20 million in Japan and USA titled Asia in Asia; then Wetton, who'd replaced Lake in an early incarnation of King Crimson, rejoined Asia, replacing him again. Though Asia's conservatism is the antithesis of what rock is fondly supposed to be about, few begrudge them cashing in on the AOR phenomenon that their earlier collective work helped to create, but they lacked confidence: they rejected a 'family tree' commissioned for a tour booklet because it revealed their ages. Astra '85 was the end of their stardom.