Supergroup Asia will be rockin’ the house at Havana on Sept. 26 as one of the stellar acts in this fall’s New Hope music club lineup. What makes the concert noteworthy is that this incarnation appears original and authentic, with all four members rock n’ roll heavyweights and founding members. Heck, Carl Palmer’s worth the ticket price alone.
Asia’s debut album burst onto the airwaves in March, 1982 with several top 10 singles and sales exceeding seven million copies. Labeled a “supergroup” — and featuring bassist/vocalist John Wetton, drummer Carl Palmer, keyboardist Geoff Downes, and guitarist Steve Howe — it was the logical successor to members’ previous stints with 70s bands Yes, ELP, King Crimson, and The Buggles.
John Wetton’s acclaimed progressive rock band UK had collapsed a few years earlier. With the help of manager Brian Lane, he wanted to form a new group with guitarist Steve Howe, best known for his work with Yes. Drummer Carl Palmer came into the fold next, having just completed a decade of platinum releases and sold out tours with Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Keyboardist Geoff Downes, who replaced Rick Wakeman in Yes for the Drama album, had previously been half of the pop duo The Buggles. They lead the charts in 1979 with the awesome “Video Killed The Radio Star”.
“The band sort of came together naturally,” says Carl Palmer. “It wasn’t something which was forced. We all wanted to play together.”
The first Asia album went into production in June of 1981 with producer Mike Stone at Marcus Studios and Virgin Townhouse in London. Stone, who had worked on hits for Journey and Queen, also knew the band had an amazing musical ability. The band spent five months writing, arranging, and recording nine songs for its debut that included such classics as “Heat Of The Moment”, “Only Time Will Tell”, and “Sole Survivor”.
Asia became one of the most played acts on MTV in 1982. Since most people were intrigued with the new concept, viewership often reached several hours a day. “You’re looking at a parallel success here,” says Wetton. “MTV and Asia were successful at the same time…of course, MTV was instrumental in Asia’s success, but then, Asia was also instrumental in MTV’s success.”
The success, however, was too much, too soon. By the time they assembled to begin their second album in the winter of 1983, cracks had already begun to appear in the foundation. Creative tensions and egos – not to mention the pressure of having to top the best selling album of the previous year – made the second album’s recording sessions far less enjoyable than the first.
The second album, Alpha, did ship platinum and contained the hits “Don’t Cry” and “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes”, but personal conflicts on the tour began pulling the band apart. In October, an announcement was made of a huge MTV and Westwood One Radio Network simulcast of the band’s sold out December show at Tokyo’s Budokan arena. Instead of a sense of euphoria within the band, John Wetton departed Asia in a move that stunned the rock world. He was replaced at the last moment for the Asia In Asia broadcast and Japanese dates by Palmer’s ex-ELP band mate, Greg Lake. Lake’s time with the band, however, would be short.
The stars aligned once again in early 2006. In April, all four original members of Asia confirmed that they would be reuniting for a world tour to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the band’s creation and debut album.
“This is the REAL ASIA,” says guitarist Steve Howe. “There have been other versions of the band, but this original line-up is the one that the public truly embraced. Since we only toured for a couple of years, it will be nice, finally, to play for audiences all over the world, many of whom never had a chance to see the group in concert.”
Asia will play Havana New Hope for one performance, and one performance only, on Friday, Sept. 26. General Admission Advance tickets are $75.00; Doors/Will Call at 6 p.m., show at 8 p.m.