Several times already I have been surprised to learn what the #1 selling album was for a particular year. Once again, with all of the breaking trends in new music, I have to say I did not expect “Asia”, by the UK supergroup Asia, to be at the top of the list for 1982, but here they are. I do recall a lot of air-play for this album, but for reasons I will explain further below, I didn’t think this would be THE album of the year. Formed from the remnants of multiple British progressive rock bands, we have lead singer and bassist John Wetton from King Crimson, guitarist Steve Howe and keyboard player Geoff Downes from Yes, and drummer from Carl Palmer from Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Make no mistake, there is a lot of musical talent in this group, and yet despite their obvious commercial success, I was never enamored with this band or this record. I always found it to be bland and lacking any edge whatsoever, and unfortunately, 39 years and a couple of fresh listens has not changed my mind. Said in the politest way possible, this is perhaps the whitest rock music I have ever heard.
The album opens with the three singles from the record, in descending order of release and success. First, we have “Heat of the Moment”, next comes “Only Time Will Tell”, and then we have “Sole Survivor”. Most of you will recognize some or all of these songs. I mean, they are fine as they are, and they are easy to listen to, but the production of all of the songs on this album completely buries the guitar and bass as if they barely even existed, grasping for air under several layers of ‘80s synthesizers. And with a great drummer like Carl Palmer, this might as well have been any unknown session drummer playing the basic beat, also buried in the mix. I think I also recognize the last track, “Here Comes the Feeling”, but I’m not really sure, and that’s OK. Of the tunes I don’t recall at all, I probably enjoyed “One Step Closer” the most, as it had an interesting chorus and vocal arrangement, but the rest are completely forgettable.
The other remnants of Yes reformed around the same time to record the album “90125” and one follow-up album. Equally successful with the hit “Owner of a Lonely Heart”, I found this group and production to be much more appealing, and I actually went to see this version of Yes in the late ‘80s with my friends Mike, Darren, and I believe we dragged Jim to the show as well. Their albums were produced by former Yes bass player Trevor Horn, and here is where this finally gets interesting.
What is the common link, you ask? In another musical fact I had no idea until today, Trevor Horn from Yes, and Geoff Downes, from Yes and Asia, were in another band in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. The name? Of course, the one and only Buggles, who gave us the infamous “Video Killed the Radio Star”, the first video ever to air on MTV. I never could have imagined that quirky new-wave one-hit wonder rose from the ashes of one of the most progressive and highly orchestrated bands of the 1970s, Yes, and that one of them would then find their way into… Asia. So, with that, my work here is done today. You’re welcome…