Genre All Genres
Country United Kingdom
Years active 29
Asia are an English rock group formed in 1981. The band was labelled a supergroup and included former members of veteran progressive rock bands Yes, King Crimson, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Uriah Heep, U.K., Roxy Music, Wishbone Ash and The Buggles. Since 2007, there have been two distinct groups using the Asia name: a reunion of the band's original line-up performing as Asia, and Asia Featuring John Payne as a continuation of the pre-2006 Asia line-up, initially featuring three of its members.
Asia began with the apparent demise of Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, two of the flagship bands of British progressive rock. After the break-up of King Crimson in 1974, various plans for a super group involving bassist John Wetton had been mooted, including the abortive British Bulldog project with Bill Bruford and Rick Wakeman in 1976. Wakeman left this project at the urging of management, according to Bill Bruford. In 1977, Bruford and Wetton were reunited in UK, augmented by guitarist Allan Holdsworth and keyboardist/violinist Eddie Jobson. Their eponymous debut was released in 1978. By January 1980, UK had folded after one lineup change and three recordings. A new supergroup project was then suggested involving Wetton, Wakeman, drummer Carl Palmer and (then little known) guitarist Trevor Rabin, but Wakeman left this project too shortly before they were due to sign to Geffen and before they had played together. Wetton's Caught in the Crossfire solo album (1980) did not fare very well in England.
In early 1981, Wetton and former Yes guitarist Steve Howe were brought together by A&R man John Kalodner and Geffen Records to start writing material for a new album. By this point, progressive rock bands such as Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer had folded, so many qualified musicians were available for this proposed group. They were eventually joined by drummer Carl Palmer, and finally by Howe's recent Yes cohort, keyboardist Geoff Downes. Two other players auditioned and considered during the band's formation were former The Move and ELO founder Roy Wood and South African guitarist/singer Trevor Rabin, who would go on to be part of a reformed Yes in 1983. Rabin, in a filmed 1984 interview included in the DVD 9012Live, said that his involvement with Asia never went anywhere because "there was no chemistry" among the participants.
The band's first recordings, under the auspices of Geffen record label head David Geffen and Kalodner, were considered disappointing by music critics and fans of traditional progressive rock, who found the music closer to radio-friendly Album-oriented rock. However, Asia clicked with fans of popular arena acts such as Journey, Boston and Styx. Indeed, Kalodner had once introduced Wetton to Journey's short-lived frontman Robert Fleischman, who had penned such Journey classics "Anytime" and "Wheel in the Sky," with a view to Fleischman becoming Asia's lead-singer. Fleischman was already known to bandmember Carl Palmer. However, as they worked on material together, Fleischman was impressed by Wetton's singing and felt the voice best suited to the new material was Wetton's own. Leaving Asia amicably, Fleischman returned to America eventually to work on several projects with ex-KISS guitarist Vinnie Vincent.