Asia (often stylized as ASIA) is a British progressive rock band. The band was formed in 1981 as a supergroup of four members from different progressive rock bands, namely John Wetton (former bassist/vocalist of such bands as King Crimson, Family, Roxy Music, Uriah Heep, UK and Wishbone Ash), Steve Howe (guitarist of Yes), Geoff Downes (keyboardist of Yes and The Buggles) and drummer Carl Palmer (of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, and Atomic Rooster). With their longtime #1 debut album Asia in 1982, Asia ranks as one of the most popular progressive rock bands in history.
The band has gone through many line-up changes throughout its history, but in 2006, the original line-up reunited. As a result of this, a second band called Asia Featuring John Payne exists as a continuation of John Payne's career as Asia's frontman from 1991 until Wetton's return in 2006. In 2013, Howe retired from the band to continue with Yes and pursue other projects, and was replaced by guitarist Sam Coulson, completing the current lineup.
Asia began in early 1981 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 U.K., augmented by guitarist Allan Holdsworth and keyboardist/violinist Eddie Jobson. Their self-titled debut was released in 1978. But by January 1980, U.K. 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) South African guitarist/singer 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 late December 1980, 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. They were eventually joined in early 1981 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 the aforementioned 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, with a view to Fleischman becoming Asia's lead-singer. 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. He left Asia amicably.
Rolling Stone gave Asia an indifferent review, while still acknowledging the band's musicianship was a cut above the usual AOR expectations.
The band was labelled a supergroup and included former members of veteran progressive rock bands Yes, King Crimson, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Uriah Heep, U.K., Roxy Music, Wishbone Ash and The Buggles.
Although Asia has not recaptured the success from the early Eighties in its later years, the band's legacy endures, and occasionally Asia references are found in the media. Some of these references are not altogether flattering. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "Overdrawn at the Memory Bank" features Professor Bobo (played by Kevin W. Murphy) singing part of verse two from "Heat of the Moment". In addition, the doorbell of the Satellite of Love plays the intro to "Only Time Will Tell."
In an episode of the animated TV series South Park, Eric Cartman and the United States Congress sing "Heat of the Moment" a cappella.
In the Supernatural episode "Mystery Spot", Sam Winchester is reliving a day over and over again. Every time he wakes up to relive the day, the song playing on the radio that wakes him up is "Heat of the Moment". Dean tells him to admit that he loves the song. He says he'll kill himself if he ever hears it again, and Dean proceeds to dance around and lip sync to it.
Asia's hits and some deep tracks from the debut can be heard today on various classic rock stations around the world and on Satellite radio like XM's channels 46 and 8. In 2005, DJ Manian's dance remix of "Heat Of The Moment" was released to nightclubs.
"Heat of the Moment" is also featured in the film The Matador in the scene in which Pierce Brosnan's character must commit an assassination at a horse race. Since horse races are run in "heats," this usage could be considered a musical pun.
In reference to Korean scientists successfully cloning an Afghan hound, Comedy Central's the Colbert Report held a special Bring 'em Back or Leave 'em Dead: Asian Edition offering the studio audience the chance to decide which deceased Asians should be brought back to life. After clamouring to bring back military strategist Sun Tzu and China's first emperor Qin Shi Huang, the studio audience decided to leave the 80's super group Asia dead.
THX certified videos play a distinctive audio logo called Deep Note, which was recorded in 1983. Apart from a slight difference in key, it is identical to the synthesized crescendo played during the intro to Countdown to Zero on the 1985 album Astra.
A cover of the song "Heat of the Moment" is playable in the Playstation 2 game Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s.
In the film The 40 Year-Old Virgin, main character Andy Stitzer is mocked for having a framed Asia poster in his apartment. Also, Heat of the Moment is played during the scene in which Andy chases Trish's car after she leaves his home.
In the Mexican Soap Opera Alcanzar una Estrella (1991) starring singers Ricky Martin and Sasha the intros of all four new songs from the album Then and Now were used at the closing of each scene before a commercial break.
The song "Lay Down Your Arms" was used by the animated film Freddie the Frog (1992) starring Ben Kingsley, Jenny Agutter and Brian Blessed. On 5/21/2007 AOl.com claimed that this film is the lowest grossing animated movie of all time. ($1.19 million).