Asia may have come together as an album-oriented supergroup, but in the halcyon days of 1982-83, they were the kings of the American singles chart as well. As their introductory hit ‘Heat Of The Moment’ climbed the Billboard Hot 100, the album chart for 15 May 1982 showed their self-titled debut set rising to No. 1.
Asia entered the US chart in early April for the quartet of John Wetton, Carl Palmer, Steve Howe and Geoff Downes, and rose 2-1 in its seventh week to replace Vangelis’ Chariots Of Fire soundtrack. It went on to spend nine non-consecutive weeks at No. 1 and soared to US sales alone in excess of four million.
Asia had a rougher ride in their native UK, where music critics who were rather more excited by the new romantic movement and the early days of synth-pop didn’t exactly identify with them. But the album made No. 11 there, and even if the band were not the coolest media proposition, their ticket sales told a different tale: at the end of their international tour that year, they played two Wembley Arena shows.
But there was no argument that America that took the band enthusiastically to its hearts. ‘Heat Of The Moment,’ featuring Wetton’s lead vocals, rose to No. 4 at the end of June, and soon afterwards Asia started another Hot 100 ascent with ‘Only Time Will Tell.’ The band played live extensively from the spring into the autumn, and by the summer of 1983 would be back with another US million-seller, Alpha.
Wetton sadly lost his fight with cancer in January 2017, and was succeeded in the band line-up by Billy Sherwood. Wetton’s last album with Asia came with Gravitas, their 13th studio set, in 2014. Sherwood then performed the same somewhat thankless duties, taking the place of a heavyweight original, when Yes bassist Chris Squire was on hiatus due to ill health, and then passed away in 2015.