The Art-Rock group Asia came together in the spring of 1981. John Wetton's acclaimed prog-Rock band King Crimson had collapsed a few years earlier. Wetton, in the role of lead singer + bassist, wanted to form a new group with guitarist Steve Howe, best known for his work with British prog-Rock superstars, 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 who stormed the charts in 1979 with the timeless classic "Video Killed The Radio Star". Labelled a “supergroup” by critics and the media from the onset, it was a tag they had never asked for.
The first Asia album went into production in June of 1981. The band spent five months writing, arranging and recording nine songs for its self-titled debut that was released early the next year. The disc exploded onto the U.S. Top 200 LPs & Tapes chart in March 1982 staying at #1 for two months and sales exceeding 7 million copies. The first single, "Heat Of The Moment", quickly soared to #1 on The Mainstream Rock chart and hit #4 on the U.S. Official Pop Singles list; "Only Time Will Tell" also climbed into the top 20 of the Pop Singles chart and hit #8 on The Mainstream Rock Tracks. The album spun off another Mainstream Rock top 10 hit with "Sole Survivor" as well as three more album-Rock radio hits: "Wildest Dreams", "Here Comes The Feeling" and "Time Again".
The success, however, was too much, too soon. By the time they assembled to begin their second album, "Alpha", in the winter of 1983, cracks had already begun to appear in the foundation; the band's sophomore release reached the #6 position on The Billboard Top 200 chart and went platinum; it included "Don't Cry", which shot to #1 on The Mainstream Rock Tracks and peaked at #10 on The Billboard Hot 100; another single, the keyboard-laden ballad "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes", managed to scrape into the Top 40. "Alpha" yielded two further Mainstream Rock top 20 hits, including the #5 "The Heat Goes On" and "True Colors".
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 Greg Lake. Lake's
time with the band, however, would be short.
The band was re-constructed in 1984, with Wetton back on board. After a brief period of time working on the next album, Steve Howe departed to pursue new ventures, Mandy Meyer of Krokus replaced him and in 1985 the group released its third album, "Astra". The album didn't rise higher than #67 on The Billboard 200 producing two Mainstream Rock top 30 singles, "Too Late" and "Go", the latter of which climbed to a respectable #7, but compared to the massive success of the first two albums, the members viewed "Astra" as a disappointment. They never toured for this album and soon after Asia fell apart. Although no formal break-up announcement was made, within months the members were all off doing different projects.
1989 saw Asia returning to the live circuit on a European Stadium tour,
by 1990 Wetton, Palmer and Downes were ready to give it another go; they
regrouped with American guitarist Pat Thrall and recorded new material.
The new songs eventually surfaced as extra tracks in a best-of collection
on Geffen, called "Then & Now"; the set reached #114 on
The Billboard 200 and the previously unissued track, "Days Like These",
peaked at #2 on The Mainstream Rock chart.
The reunion lasted nearly two years, including a memorable show that was filmed in Moscow's Red Square. Shortly after the show in Russia, both Wetton and Palmer, opted to concentrate on other things slowly stepping aside from the band.
Geoff Downes decided to carry on with Asia, reforming the band around him. In 1992 he enlisted newcomer John Payne on bass + vocals and ex-Alice Cooper guitarist Al Pitrelli with Steve Howe and Carl Palmer returning for the sessions for Asia's fourth LP, "Aqua". "Who Will Stop the Rain?" was chosen as the single, it didn't chart, neither did the album.
Downes returned to the studios two years later, but without Howe and Palmer. The latter was replaced by drummer Michael Sturgis, so Pitrelli thus became the sole guitarist of the band; the fifth Asia album, "Aria", was released in May 1994. The tour cycle continued with European and Japanese dates, the latter dates saw ex-Simply Red guitarist Aziz Abraham replace Pitrelli, who went on to join Megadeth.
Only one year later, Downes, Payne, Ibraham and Sturgis began work on their next album, ex-Steely Dan guitarist Elliott Randall joined them in a London studio to cut what would become Asia's sixth album, the third with Payne, "Arena".
Utilizing Saga guitarist Ian Crichton, Asia started to work on sessions for the seventh studio album in late 1998 with material heading in a more progressive vein. Persistent rumors of an original line-up reunion put the sessions on hold for a few months. But with the signing of a new record deal in late 1999, serious work began on the "Aura" album. Featuring a plethora of talent in the form of guitarists Ian Crichton, Steve Howe, Elliot Randall and Pat Thrall, Tony Levin on bass and session giants Vinnie Colaiuta, Simon Phillips and Michael Sturgis on drums. Also participating were the new Asia permanent additions Guthrie Govan on guitar and drum legend Chris Slade, previously with Uriah Heep, David Gilmour and AC/DC. "Aura" finally saw the light of day in June 2001.
August 2004 saw the band release their next record, "Silent Nation"; this was the final album with John Payne.
Rising from the ashes in the spring of 2006, 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.
Two years later Geoff Downes, Steve Howe, John Wetton and Carl Palmer returned to their roots and in April 2008 they released "Phoenix" which features the anthemic lead track "Never Again", a song that echoes the sound that made them radio staples. The album peaked at #73 on The Billboard 200.
"Omega", the second album to feature all four original members after the 2006's reunion, followed in April 2010.
In July 2012, thirty years after the band's eponymous debut ascended to the top of U.S. sales chart, Asia released "XXX"; this time the disc was a marginal chart entry with a peak of #134 on The Billboard 200.
Six months later Howe decided to leave the prog-Rock supergroup to focus on other projects; he was replaced by Sam Coulson, a 26-year-old guitar virtuoso.
Asia will release a new album, "Gravitas", on March 24, 2014.