37 Years Ago: Asia Fused Prog Rock with Pop in Their Debut Album

March 19, 2019

When former members from Yes, King Crimson, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer gathered together to form their new band, Asia, they found themselves releasing one of the biggest debut albums of the '80s on March 18th, 1982.

It all began in the mid-70s when bassist/vocalist John Wetton of King Crimson was in the market for a new band. First he joined up with Bill Bruford to start the progressive rock band U.K., which ended up having a very short life expectancy. He was also considering former Emerson, Lake and Palmer drummer Carl Palmer, former Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman, and guitarist Trevor Rabin for other possible bands.

That's when A&R executive John Kalodner sparked interest with Geffen records to be Wetton's matchmaker for his new band. After hearing of the ditched recordings with Palmer, Rabin and Wakeman, Kaldoner brought former Yes guitarist Steve Howe into the mix. From there, Howe recommended former Yes/Buggles keyboardist Geoff Downes to audition.

By summer 1981, the new lineup began experimenting with songs Howe & Wetton first wrote when they began writing together like "Here Comes the Feeling," "One Step Closer," and "Without You." It was also some of those Howe/Wetton songs like "Heat Of The Moment" and "Only Time Will Tell" that would become massive hits on Asia's debut album,

Willing to mix both loud rock with Top 40 radio/MTV pop-style songwriting, Asia was successfully able to merge rock, pop and prog into their signature sound.

By the time their debut album Asia dropped, it took over the Billboard chart and sold over four million copies in the U.S., as well as "Heat Of The Moment" and "Only Time Will Tell" breaking into the Top 20.

However, even though Asia was a mashup of former members of successful bands, they were not exempt from the typical in-fighting that often tears groups apart. After Asia became a commercial success, the band were rushed back into the studio to ride their wave of popularity to put out a second album almost immediately. After Alpha could not outshine the impact of their first album, the creative and person relationships between Downes, Howe, Palmer and Wetton worsened to the point where all four members would not reunite to record again for 25 years.

It wasn't until 2006 when Asia reunited to embark on a tour fans had been hoping for. Looking back, Wetton realized that Asia's immediate commercial success threw the band's chemistry off to the point where they would not had been able to grow and mature.