Supergroups were a thing in England in the late sixties and seventies, especially those involved in progressive rock in England. Groups would form, record an album or two, then break-up as their members went on to form new supergroups. 1981 saw the birth of the group Asia. That group was built on the bones of several other supergroups that never even recorded anything.
The lineup that finally recorded the group’s first album was:
- John Wetton from King Crimson on lead vocals and bass guitar
- Geoff Downes from Yes on keyboards
- Steve Howe from Yes on guitar
- Carl Palmer from Emerson, Lake, and Palmer on drums and percussion
The first single from their self-titled album was Heat Of The Moment, which topped the Mainstream Rock charts and reached #4 on the Hot 100. The amount of airplay the single got on MTV probably helped a great deal.
The second single from the album was Only Time Will Tell in 1982. That record did not do as well as their first single as it peaked at #17 on the Hot 100. Perhaps the strange performance video that cut pictures up into pieces on separate television screens hurt sales.
The second album had a huge hit with Don’t Cry, a top ten single that also reached number one on the Mainstream Rock chart in 1983. Sales of the album did not meet expectation, and John was replaced in the group. Greg Lake briefly replaced John, but he and Steve Howe left the group a few months later.
Trying to follow the various collections of musicians that made up an Asia group at one time or another is exhausting. At one point there was a touring group that was separate from the recording group, with both groups using the name “Asia.”
The group had a dozen singles that did well on the Mainstream Rock charts, but only four reached the top forty on the Hot 100. Their last successful single came in 1990 when Days Like These reached #2 on the Mainstream Rock chart and barely reached #64 on the Hot 100.
The group that recorded the first album reunited to record and tour again from 2006 to 2012, after which the line-up changes kept coming. A total of 16 different musicians were members of the group at one time or another, not counting musicians who also played on one of the group’s albums.
Music critics were not kind to Asia, mostly critical of how the albums abandoned progressive rock and ventured more into commercial fare. Perhaps the most original thing about the group was their striking album covers. The covers were designed by Roger Dean (who had previously done work for Yes).
Asia is still active with Geoff and Carl continuing to tour with additional members filling their roster.